Author Platform is a scary and mysterious term for many writers. Let’s unpack it.
Michael Hyatt, author of Platform, says platform "is the stage you use to connect with readers. It’s how you get noticed in a noisy world."
Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies says author platform is “code for how you are going to sell your book.”
Platform is finding the people who connect with what you write, building real relationships with them by being, as Tim Grahl says, “relentlessly helpful,” and then offering them a product—your book—to purchase when it’s ready.
Notice, I didn’t say ANYTHING about having thousands of social media followers. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about “platform.” Platform does NOT equal social media or number of followers. Social media is useful in building your platform - but it’s only one of many tools.
Which makes a lot of sense. Because if you aren’t clear about your message, even if you find your readers, what will you say once you are in front of them?
Getting clarity on your main point can be tricky. Let’s use my memoir as an example. Even though I knew the facts of my story -- I had lived it after all -- it wasn’t until much later that I really understood that my story was about learning to listen and trust my inner voice at midlife. The message I want to share with the world? There’s a voice deep inside each of us calling us to be more fully ourselves. The question is: will we listen to it?
Or as my book coaching colleague Michelle Melton Cox says, know who your crew is. Who are you trying to help? Who will connect with your message?
Back to my memoir example, My “people,” my ideal readers, are women at midlife whose deep desire is to really live their next chapter, but they don't know what that means for them or how to get there.
Once you know who your crew is, you need to go to THEM, not wait for them to come to you!. Start where you are already connected in real life and online.
Seek out opportunities to speak to your crew about your message-- conferences, networking events, podcasts. Write articles, blog posts, essays and pitch them to publications where your crew hangs out -- the dream is having a piece of content “go viral,” getting the attention of readers .. .and maybe an agent or editor.
My readers are older Gen X and late baby boomer women. My real-life connections are through college and law school alumni networks, local and national networking groups, the various communities I have been part of in my adult life—church groups, social justice organizations, friends. Online, this age group still mostly hangs out on Facebook. I’ve joined multiple Facebook groups geared toward women at midlife. I engage in conversations in these groups, and try to be “relentlessly helpful.” I’ve been a guest on several podcasts, sharing my story. I share relevant content, like blog posts I’ve written or blog posts from others on the same topic.
You can do the same thing on other social media platforms. For entrepreneurs and coaches, LinkedIn is often the place. Join LinkedIn groups, engage in conversations, be relentlessly helpful.
Continue to be a giver, not a taker, by offering value to your ideal reader and invite them into your world. This invitation could take many forms - for example, inviting your reader to join a private Facebook group you’ve created around the subject matter of your message where you continue to provide value and nurture them. But those of you who do online marketing probably know where I am going with this: Invite your reader into your world by inviting them to join your email list. Tim Grahl says that the #1 goal of your platform strategy should be to build your email list and most experts agree.
Once you’ve invited your reader into your world where you continue to nurture them, you are ready for the final step: Invite your reader to take action. When your book is ready, invite your readers to buy it! Through your email list. Through social media. By the time you get to Step 5, you not only should have a crew ready to buy your book, but ideally a crew of “superfans,” ambassadors, who will encourage others to buy my book too.
Platform building is not a quick check-off-your-list kind of task: it’s about building connections over time. So the sooner you start, the better.
And what do you do if you are starting from ground zero?
First of all, you probably aren’t. You already have connections in the real world and online. Take stock of where you are already connected and build on those connections. Don’t try to post on every social media platform. Pick the one where your crew is already hanging out, and engage there. If you don’t have an author website, build a simple one or add an author page to your existing website so you can start collecting email addresses and house your content. Just start somewhere and consistently take action.
And, in the spirit of inviting people into your world, I’d love to invite you into mine! Every week I send out a short newsletter with stories and tips for book lovers and writers. Sign up here.