Frequent references to “platform” in politics, beauty pageants, beds, and shoes can confuse the author struggling to understand how that concept applies to book publishing.
In politics and beauty pageants, your platform is a message or goal – “We have got to get more people working!” or “Stop bullying in schools.”
With beds and shoes, it’s about height.
But for authors, “platform” is the word the publishing industry uses to describe your built-in sales network. Who is waiting to buy your book as soon as it’s available? What’s your fan base or following? A publisher might ask, “How many books are we guaranteed to sell because of the author’s platform?”
Is “author platform” a Catch 22?
Sometimes the need for a platform feels like a Catch 22 – you’re expected to enjoy a certain level of celebrity status in your niche to get a traditional book contract, and yet, getting that status can be difficult without a book as a credential.
Not too long ago, an agent told me that she loved my unique nonfiction book idea, but wouldn’t be able to get a publisher for it until I had done several high-profile national media interviews on the topic. Could I get on “The Today Show” based on just my topic knowledge and a handful of successful workshop presentations? Of course not – I needed “author of . . .” after my name to snag that contract-generating exposure.
The social media explosion makes it easier to work around that “you need a few big national media hits” obstacle, though. If you’ve got enough blog or YouTube channel subscribers, Twitter followers, and Facebook-fan-page-likers, your platform might be big enough without a steady stream of national media interviews.
How are you going to build your platform so that people are ready to buy your book when it’s published? Think of it like a stool – the more legs you have under the seat, the safer you feel when sitting on it. Tomorrow, I’ll share a list of 12 platform-building elements to consider.
(Editor’s note: This post was updated in June 2018.)
Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!