What is an “Author Platform” and Why Do You Need One Now?

istock_000006428830xsmallThe phrase “author platform” has started to become more of a catchphrase in the publishing and book world, so I thought I would explain it if anyone is confused.

What is an author platform?

The author platform is how you are currently reaching an audience of book-buying people, or how you plan to do so. It is your influence, your ability to sell to your market. It is your multi-faceted book marketing machine!

Here are some examples:

  • Are you already famous? Maybe just in your niche but are you already a household name because of something? If yes, you have a platform and will likely get a book deal. Think Paris Hilton or George W. Bush – they don’t need to know how to write to get published! I suspect this category does not include anyone reading this blog!
  • Do you already have a speaking platform? Can you get audiences of several thousand to pay to come and see you?
  • Do you already have an existing business with clients and customers who will buy your book?
  • Do you have a popular blog or website that reaches thousands of people? Think Gary Vaynerchuk and Christian Lander’s “Stuff White People Like”.
  • How big is your email list of people who subscribe to your newsletters or ezines?
  • Do you have a huge podcasting audience who are raving fans and want to buy your books? Think Scott Sigler and JC Hutchins.
  • Can you develop a massive following using web 2.0 technologies? Think Tim Ferriss who used the leverage of bloggers to promote “The Four Hour Work Week” into a huge hit.
  • Do you have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook or mySpace? Can you convert those into book buying fans?
  • Have you already had a self-publishing hit book that you have successfully marketed yourself? Think Lisa Genova’s ‘Still Alice’ and Christopher Paolini ‘Eragon’.

If you don’t have any of these right now, never fear. Most of these people took time to build their platforms.
We all start somewhere! If you start a blog today, or a podcast

Why do you need an author platform?

If you want to get a publishing deal, you need a platform to prove your books will sell. Many agents/publishers will not even consider you if you don’t have a platform already. If you don’t believe me, check out this post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner who says “you really need to show that you are willing and able to put the time and effort into marketing yourself and building a readership online“.

If you are a self-published author, you need a platform to sell your books.
If you haven’t written a book yet, you need to start building your platform so you have one when your book is ready.

Book-selling is a business for publisher and author alike. We all need to eat! Some of us would like to eat really excellent food at superb seafood restaurants, and not just mince and beans. So selling books is important to us all. There are thousands of books published every month. There are millions of blogs online. What makes you stand ahead of the pack? Why will people buy your book?

How can you build your author platform?

So many ways! They all take some time and effort. There is no magic bullet. You will get there, but only if you get started! Start with the free Author 2.0 Blueprint which will give you lots of ideas!

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  1. says

    Great article. I’ve recently been taken on by a literary agency and was a little surprised by how much they seemed to be impressed by my ‘other projects’. And by that I mean things like blogging, the spoken word night I ran and just the fact that I was actively involved in the writing community.

    I think all these things contribute towards having a platform, and as the world (and the publishing industry) wakes up to the possibilities of social media, anyone who’s prepared to be active, to help other writers even, becomes a more attractive package (if you pardon the phrasing).

  2. admin says

    Hi Iain, That is great to know! I think you are right in saying that the world is “waking up” to the platform idea, and authors who can make the most of it now will end up ahead when it is commonplace. Thanks for your comment! Joanna

  3. says

    I thought about how I would need to do some self promoting but was wondering how I could find the time to add to what I already have going on. Reading this post made me think about my existing audience. I do YouTube videos and have over 1,200 subscribers of people watching videos of my family. I recently was interviewed for a TV show in the US because of one of my videos. You mentioning converting existing platforms, followers…etc got me thinking. It is very possible that I can get a few of my YouTube subscribers to come over to a second channel if I devoted it to book updates. The website I have for my videos, I can add a section of writing (which I did this morning). Feeling excited now! :)

  4. says

    Isn’t this information age a grandiose time to be a writer?

    I’ve downloaded your “author 2.0″, and am headed in the right ( write) direction. The tidbits that I have discovered in preparing the launch of my first novel, “Big Horn Catchmequick”: be patient, persevere and write more.

    Thank you for helping me to find my way,

  5. says

    Very helpful, interesting information. And well written, to boot. I’m a recovering Traditionally Published Non-Bestselling Horror Novelist bent on slashing through the digital jungle and forging my own brand. Not quite sure what that would be, but I’m working on it. It must be something that smells good, is easy to dance to, and doesn’t cost too much.

  6. says

    Hi Joanna,
    After reading your post, I find it no surprise that I am just finishing Michael Hyatt’s book “Platform.” I believe in it and have known it for a long time. Speaking with some other aspiring authors, who are new to the web altogether, platform seems like to much work. Many “newbies” especially need to realize that there is a process to success and it is inevitable. As Robert Kiyosaki put it, “It is the process that makes you rich not money.”

    I am at a point where all the ingredients are on the table. It is just putting it all together inside the bowl! Thanks again for your links you sent me and all this great info, as well as the 2.0 Blueprint!

    • says

      Platform is a great book and Michael Hyatt has done extremely well – but he put in 5 years of work before he made it big with his blog – which is encouraging to us all :) I’m just hitting 3.5 years … so it’s definitely the process.

  7. Francois Houle says

    Hi Joanna:
    Love the info you provide and you’ve answered many personal emails from me. You may recall I’m in the process of having my novel edited and am looking to start a blog/author site. My question is why didn’t you combine the 2 together (you have a separate author website) as this is what I’m considering doing but maybe I’m missing something and shouldn’t. My thoughts were to have the main page be my author site with the blog being a sub page (hope I’m explaining it right). Appreciate your advice.

    • says

      Hi Francois,
      I started this blog 4 years ago when I had a non-fiction book and over the years I have changed direction. The Creative Penn Limited is now a company and I provide professional speaking services, and also sell multimedia products from this site – so it is marketed to authors and writers – NOT people who love the type of fiction I now write.
      So I created another brand at JFPenn.com where I can blog about death, religion, psychology and other things that my fiction fans might enjoy.
      So you have to decide – who is the audience of my blog – and what would they enjoy. If there are two audiences, then perhaps you need 2 brands, like I have. But you’re right, many authors just have one.

  8. Ayaoba says

    I’m really overwhelmed by what I came across on your website. I won’t be able to work for a long time and it gets me thinking of what to do with my time. Like you said, it can be overwhelming with the amount off books out there and getting noticed looks like a big start. I will download your software and go through it and decide on my brand and direction

    Thank you so much for the info


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