The Importance of an Author Platform

If you want to publish a book, you had better arrive at the party with a strong author platform. While the arena of book marketing and publicity encompasses a host of different activities and possibilities, the top priority is leveraging an author’s platform. That’s how you raise awareness, build interest, and drive sales. Valerie Peterson’s blog post, “Learn Why Publishers Want Authors With Platforms,” boils author platform down to its essentials: “an established media forum through which an author connects to his or her audience.”

I recently spoke with an exasperated author about marketing. She had searched for a publisher who could meet her expectations for promoting her book. No such luck. The problem is that in-house marketing and publicity departments are shrinking. Despite the countless marketing and publicity companies out there, finding competent effective marketing and publicity for a book isn’t easy. No matter how you publish your book—with a traditional publisher, as a self-publisher, or in partnership with a hybrid publisher—you face this challenge. Marketing and publicity are the weak link in the publishing chain. And if they start with no author platform, the link is even weaker.

Guess what? However distasteful it may be to hear, authors are part of that weak link. They realize this when they come up against the cold hard fact of publishing that they need to drive their own marketing and publicity. These are not things that others do while you jet set around the country for TV and radio interviews and book signings. Traditional publishers tell authors this soon after signing a book contract, if not before. They will allocate a certain percentage of the title’s budget to marketing and publicity, generally a paltry sum. But they expect you to promote your own book. And your author platform is the starting point.

Author platforms can entail all sorts of media. Peterson lists these common components of author platforms:

  • Popular blogs
  • Author newsletters
  • Speaking engagements
  • Television show host
  • Radio show host
  • Podcast
  • Web series
  • Social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn accounts with followers in the tens or hundreds of thousands
  • Traditional media—Write a regular newspaper column, or contribute regular op-ed pieces to magazines or newspapers
  • Positions of responsibility—Serve on the board of corporations, hold an elected position in a professional organization, appointed to advisory groups for philanthropic organizations

If you are already doing one or more of these things, you are currently building your author platform. Good for you. If you aren’t, or are only doing one or two haphazardly, then before you publish your book, you better invest some time, and perhaps also money, in building your platform. Otherwise, whatever marketing and publicity firm you hire will need to start from scratch and build your platform for you and that could cost you a significant amount of money.

Before you complain that you can’t find a good firm to do marketing and publicity to promote your book, take a good look in the mirror. Are you laying the foundation for a successful marketing and publicity campaign by building your author platform? Answer honestly. If the answer is yes, your book will have a shot, because you are already greasing the marketing and publicity wheels. If the answer is no, then you may want to allow for time to do that before you publish your book. If you don’t know how, are unfamiliar with the technology, don’t have connections to get on a radio or TV show, or can’t come up with creative ideas of how to get some of the alternatives off the ground, maybe you should look for a marketing firm to help you build your author platform first. Then when you publish your book, they can promote your book based on the very platform they helped you build.

Why is an author platform important? Because without one your book is dead in the water before you even publish it. Changing that starts with you.

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