Three Keys to Building a Successful ‘Author Platform’

Whether you hope to get picked up by a mainstream publisher or plan to self-publish your next book, a strong promotional platform is the secret ingredient to success that many first-time authors can use to their advantage to win book contracts and sell books.

With marketing budgets growing ever smaller at publishing houses big and small, acquisitions editors today are tasked with not just locating well-written manuscripts on compelling contemporary topics but with identifying those book authors who are prepared to sell their own book and have the personal and professional network to move copies.

The promotional platform—also known as the author platform—is the collection of relevant resources that an author can leverage to promote his or her book. These resources can range from a weekly newspaper column to regular blog posts and active Twitter followers. An author’s platform might also include a track record of speaking engagements to the book’s potential target audience or a “gig” as host to a successful LinkedIn discussion group.

Every author’s platform will consist of a unique constellation of promotional “goodies” that relate to that author’s particular strengths and regular roles, but all effective author platforms will have the following characteristics:

  • relevance
  • sustainability
  • scalability

Relevance

Let’s say you facilitate an online pet-loss bereavement group. That portion of your network won’t mean diddly to a publisher if your book has nothing to do with dogs. On the other hand, this regular contact with animal lovers looks great on the resume of Joe Dwyer, author of Shelby’s Grace: From Abused Pup to Angel of Mercy, the story of a rescued pit bull who now works as a therapy dog, bringing peace and comfort to others.

As you aim to build your promotional platform, steer your efforts toward those audiences that are most likely to buy your book.

Sustainability

Is there reason to believe that the elements of your promotional platform in place today will also be alive and kicking a year from now when your book goes to print? While a well-designed blog set up a week ago is probably better than no blog at all, publishers want to see that your promotional platform has some depth to it. Do you have a demonstrated track record? Do you possess the wherewithal to continue your promotional efforts long into the future? Have you been engaging with potential consumers long enough to garner true loyalty toward you and your message?

If you think you’d like to publish a book in the future, consider building your promotional platform now.

Scalability

The best author platforms are those that can be scaled upward and outward to win an ever-increasing number of followers. All of the online media lend themselves well to this possibility. One blog entry, LinkedIn update, or Tweet can have a hundred viewers or a thousand—for the exact same amount of time and effort on the author’s part. So if an author has a content-rich blog platform, the publisher knows it can expand the author’s readership exponentially with a well-constructed marketing plan. The same is true for a self-published author, who has total control over marketing. The right SEO strategy, some well-placed Facebook ads, and a viral YouTube video all have the potential to launch a scalable author platform to the next level.

Write a book and build an author platform? Either of these tasks alone can be daunting. But don’t despair. Depending on your goals, you can in fact focus on one first and then the other. Hope to get a mainstream publisher? Focus first on building your author platform and writing a killer book proposal to shop your idea to a house. Prefer instead to keep more of your profits or get your book to market faster by self-publishing? You’ll have the luxury of writing your book first and then building your promotional platform after, knowing that selling books is a long-term proposition.

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