How To Define Your Author Platform
By Diana Vilic
The first hangup most new authors have is defining what their platform is. In all fairness, it's kinda a funny term. Are we talking about our social media platforms? Our influence? Maybe the people who we know, who may know people? And what if you don't actually know anyone?
What publishers are really asking with this dreaded age old question is "Who is going to buy the first thousand copies of your book?" Remember, to you, your book is your baby. To a publisher, it's a business, and they want to know that you're a good investment.
What's a Platform?
An author's platform refers to the writer's ability to market their work, using their overall visibility to reach a target audience of potential readers. In plain english it's the number of people you can convert into fans and purchases.
A platform is anyone that you're visible to. Platforms that interest publishers include
- Mailing lists
- Social media followersConnections you've built in your industry
- Regular blog traffic
- Events you've spoken at/attended
- Brands you've been an influencer for
- Digital downloads/lessons/masterclasses
- Distribution outlets
- Connections formed through Agents
- Any Public Relations you've been a part of
- Anyone who gave you an early endorsement
- MIndustry experience you've accumulated (relevant to publishing or your book topic)
Why Do Publishers Like a Platform?
As mentioned above, you are a publishers investment, they want to be sure they get a high ROI on you as an Author in addition to your work. Meaning, while a publisher may like the one book you've pitched, while they're in Editorial Meetings, they'll actually be reviewing your overall value to their organization, potential development with your talent, your Works In Progress, and any additional things that you can offer them.
A publisher rarely wants you for just one book, they want to grow you into a multi-faceted Author.
By having a strong platform, you're signaling to publishers that you have what it takes to grow your audience, you'll be willing to do the work, you already put effort into your brand, and they can build easily on top of what you already have.
Think of it this way, publishers are connected to the best distributors in the world. They can place your book in every major bookstore. But if you cannot deliver sales, even if your book is the best one in the entire world, you are not a good investment for them to make.
Who Are You Selling Your Book To?
This question should be in the back of your mind throughout every stage of the book process (even after release)
— and the right answer isn't "everyone".
In terms of a platform, which tools to use is directly correlated with who are you selling to. For example, if you're writing poetry, your audience may not be found on TikTok where it's congested with other types of media. And even though the Instagram algorithm isn't in anyone's favor, you should put some of your eggs in that basket. Instagram is major for quotes — in fact some of the biggest Poets right now were discovered on Instagram. Another platform if you're a poet would be Clubhouse, where you could hold a poetry slam and connect with other Poets.
If you decided to write a book in the Self-Help community, Facebook may not be your ideal place to spend all your marketing budget. In fact, going to conferences and attending classes would be one of the best ways to meet people who are interested in your content. Other ways may be through wellness forums, Reddit's growing community of Wellness Influencers, and Tumblr. You could also write for blogs and publications within your space. Doing this would help build your credibility and introduce you to an audience.
Where To Store Your Platform Data
Most Agents will ask to see your platform data, some Agents will even add it to their current database to be leveraged when your proposal goes out to Publishers. There are many different places that you can store your platform info such as a CRM (for example, Hubspot), an excel spreadsheet or a contacts list connected to your email.
Diana's Tip: For every newsletter provider, you should be able to export your collected data. With social media, Agents typically only need a follower count and a list of any important followers who may be relevant in your industry or who can be used as influencers.
Author Platform Myths
Myth 1: You Need A Large Platform
Publishers have the resources necessary to grow an Author and typically create comprehensive marketing plans for their Authors to follow anyways. But it's a GIANT publisher benefit if an Author has drive, passion, and is in a growth mindset.
Myth 2: You Need To Do Everything
If you can somehow juggle public speaking, events, social media, and creating regular free content, while working on manuscripts, you're a publishers dream. But every publisher knows that isn't likely. When looking at new authors, publishers want to see someone who is social media savvy and knows how to build a community
— even a small one. When a publisher, introduces you into the world, your following will naturally come in. After all, Publishers themselves have giant cult followings, especially the top 5. What a publisher is really looking at is an Author who has the necessary soft skills to maintain their following and cultivate a fan base.