July 28

Author Platform: What is it & how do you build one?

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“What is an author platform?” This is a question I get asked all the time along with, “What should my platform look like?” “Do I really need an author platform?” “Is my author platform going to help me sell books and how is it going to do that?”

In this post, I'm going to answall of these questions. I'm going to explain what an author platform is, what yours should look like, and how you can start building it from scratch.

What is an author platform?

Your platform is your access to readers. It is any and all of the ways that you are going to sell books. No two platforms look the same and what works for one author may not work for you.

So, your platform could be your long list of contacts. It could be your huge social media following. It could be your email list, or it could be your fame or your position as an expert or authority on a particular topic.

Author platform examples

For example, a pop star may not have a huge mailing list, but they are a household name. So, they can get booked on TV shows and radio shows the next time they want to promote a new album.

A leading academic, on the other hand, may not be a household name, but they are well-known in their field. So, within their academic circle, they may have an awful lot of contacts. They have a lot of credibility and authority. People respect them and know them to be the expert on a particular topic. And all those contacts are going to help them when they want to promote their book. So while they may not have a huge following of their own, they have connections to people who can help them get in front of potential readers.

Or maybe you have seen social media stars with huge followings on social media that land traditional publishing deals. They secure those deals because the publisher knows that they are going to be able to sell a lot of books. They have already built a loyal following and proved themselves to be popular. The publisher takes a chance on them because they know they have the ability to sell a lot of books through the power of social media.

How to build an author platform

As you can see with the above examples, the three platforms are very different. They don't all have a huge email list. Not all of them have a huge social media following. They don't all have a large number of influential contacts. But they all have at least one of these things. And it's one of these things that is going to form the bulk of their platform. It's going to be what helps them sell books.

So, what about you? If you are starting from zero, how are you going to build your platform and what should your platform look like?

Identify your value

The first thing you want to do is get clear on your value. What is your expertise? What is your unique offer to readers? Get super clear on that so that you know your value and what it is that you bring to the table.

If you're a non-fiction author and a leading authority on a particular subject, who can help back that up? Who can support you with that claim? Are there people that have a big following and know that you are an expert in your field? Can they help put you in front of people that will want to hear what you have to say?

If you're a fiction author, what is your strength with your writing? Do you write amazing characters? Do you write incredible dialogue? What is it that you bring to the table in the fiction world? And are you connected to any other authors who are going to be able to back you up and support you with that?

Knowing your credentials or your value by itself will not help build your platform. But, if you're clear on your value and you know somebody that can help vouch for it, if they have a loyal following, that can form part of your platform. They can position you in front of readers and that will help kickstart your platform growth.

Grow Your Author Platform

Discover the roadmap for growing your author platform

Examine your contacts

The next thing you want to do is look very closely at your list of contacts. Who do you know that is somebody? Who do you know that knows somebody that is somebody? Does anyone you know have a connection to somebody who can help you sell more books?

Maybe they work for a local newspaper. Perhaps they are a freelance writer for a magazine. Maybe they have a large mailing list or a social media following of their own. Think about everybody you know, everybody you're connected to, and who they are connected to.

If you don't know who people are connected to, and quite often we have no idea, then put something out on your personal social media. Say, “Does anybody know anyone that works for a newspaper or a radio show?”, for example. It is amazing how many people we can be connected to, and we often don't realize the value of our own connections. If you ask around, you might find that you're only a couple of connections away from someone very influential who can help you sell more books.

Who would you like to be connected to?

And regardless of your personal connections, you also want to make a list of people that you would like to be connected to. Who do you think would be the best person to promote your book? Now, you can think pie in the sky here and say, “Oh yes, I want Oprah to promote my book.” Obviously, that would be wonderful but bring it back a little bit. If you are a non-fiction author and writing about a particular topic, who is the big name in that space? Who would you like to vouch for you? Who would you like to give you a praise quote or a blurb for your book? And who would you like to get an editorial review from? Which newspaper or magazine or radio show or podcast or blog would you like to be featured in?

So, make a list of those ideal contacts and then you can start to make a plan backwards from that of how you might be able to reach out to them. Think about the ways that you can connect with them and how they can help you reach more readers.

Build a community

Finally, you want to focus on building a community of people who love what you do and will support your future book launches. An email list is preferable because you will own it and you'll be able to reach out to those email subscribers whenever you want to. And they're more likely to see and open your emails than they are to see any social posts of yours. If you get them following your Facebook page, for example, they may not see everything you post. Whereas if you can get straight into their inbox, they're more likely to see that email and engage with it.

But how you get people onto your email list is up to you. There are so many different ways. You may use paid advertising. Perhaps you do a lot of organic social media posting to let people know about your reader magnet and get them onto your mailing list that way. You may do guest posting or podcast interviews to leverage other people's audiences and invite them to join your mailing list from there. There are so many ways to get people onto your email list and it is well worth doing. And once you have that mailing list, it can form the basis of your author platform.

What should your author platform look like?

So, an author platform is not about having a certain number of social media followers. It's not about being on a specific social media platform, or all the platforms. It's not about having a certain-sized email list. And it's certainly not about having a blog or a podcast of your own.

Your author platform could include any or all these elements. But what you need to remember is it is the way that you reach readers. It's the way that you let them get to know, like, and trust you. And it's the way that you're going to reach readers to sell books.

For some authors, it may be a case of having a well-optimized Amazon listing. They publish frequently and consistently, and that forms the bulk of their author platform. Amazon is the way that readers find them and perhaps they have a lot of positive reviews, so they don't do much else. For another author, it may be a lot of publicity and PR. For somebody else, it could be all about the mailing list.

No two platforms look the same

So, remember that no two authors' platforms are likely to look exactly the same. When it comes to choosing marketing tools and tactics and how you grow your author platform, do what works for you and what feels good. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to growing your author platform. So, do what works for you and always ask yourself, “Do I feel good about this?” And, “Is it helping to position me in front of my target readers?” “Is this going to help me sell more books?”

If you want some more guidance on how to kickstart growing your author platform, download my free 7-step guide to growing your author platform.


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