What is Platform?

Platform is a concept that is relatively new to publishing. But it’s burrowed into the business in a big way. Especially for nonfiction authors.

If you are seeking a publisher or an agent for your book, they’ll ask about your platform. And, if you are self-publishing, it’s going to be key to your marketing plan.

It’s also something you want to work on before publishing your book. If you wait until your book is published, then you’re starting from a dead stop, with no momentum. Keep in mind, as with any marketing, it’s about relationship building, not one and done.

So what is platform? It depends on who you ask. New York publishing expert, Jane Friedman, is clear and simple. Platform is “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” It refers to your network—the places and people through which and to which you will market your book. Publishers love celebrity “authors” such as Oprah, David Beckham, or Jimmy Fallon because they all have mega-platform.

“But I’m not a celebrity,” you say. “What about me?”

It’s only a matter of scale. Building platform is about forming and bolstering your business and personal relationships. You need to manage your networks in a way that will help you promote and sell your book. Look to your existing networks to see where you can ramp up your visibility. You want to be more visible, not just anywhere, but to the audience, the readers, who will be most interested in your book. So, if you’re a child psychologist writing a book about bird watching you may need to make some new friends.

Consider what you already doing. Where does your work appear now? Or perhaps, where do you appear now? For instance, do you have a website? Do you write a blog? Do you host a podcast? What social media do you use?

Most of us have at least one social media channel. If you don’t, consider starting at least one. You’re here to build relationships, it’s not just push messaging. You can’t build any relationship if all you ever post is “Buy my book!” Certainly, you want to mention your upcoming book, you might even engage your audience about what they want to see in that book or which book cover they prefer. But, you also need to react, comment, respond, post or link to posts that are relevant to your book and your audience. Follow and engage with people you think will benefit from your book—your target audience.

In marketing, media such as website, blog, newsletter, or podcast are owned media (Owned, Earned, Paid media) where, for the most part, you have control. If you have a business website, you may decide your book will be on its front page or you might have a separate webpage for your book. Nota bene, as soon as you have decided on your book title, reserve the URL! You don’t want your book title to get hijacked. Even if you don’t build a separate site for the book, you can simply link the URL to your existing site. And, importantly, build your email list so when your book is published, you can invite all to your launch!

Consider writing reviews and guest blogging. These can give you greater reach if your owned media has a small audience.

With Covid-19, digital marketing is even more important than ever. But, platform doesn’t only refer to digital. Your platform also includes, for instance, professional associations, service clubs, volunteer boards, social clubs or groups, your congregation, your alma mater.

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