Upon reading or hearing the word ‘platform’, most people will immediately think of a railway station or the raised area upon which a speaker stands. It is the latter concept that holds most relevance for this discussion.
Though this is primarily aimed toward new, inexperienced, authors those already upon their author career path may find some of the content useful either, by way of reminders, or by the highlighting of some concept they had not considered previously.
Important: Though similar principles may be applied to the format and formation of a platform EACH WILL, in essence, BE UNIQUE TO THE INDIVIDUAL AUTHOR. It would make the whole idea nonsensical if they are not. In addition author platform should not be confused with author brand.
An author platform principally comprises elements and avenues relevant to the author’s accessibility. It is where they:
- formulate relationships with readers;
- share their individual story/message;
- state what makes them unique and different;
- declare their strengths and values;
- build trust;
- draw their ‘community’ (readers; fans; friends; etc.) together;
- publish news relative to themselves and their books;
- help readers find them.
Building a platform takes time. There is no quick and easy substitute.
Here are some of the more obvious components and building blocks of an author platform:
- Website/Blog. (Having a website with an integrated blog is the easiest, in terms of time, to control though there is no reason not to have a blog separate to the primary website.)
- Social Media: Profiles and Pages. (Bearing in mind the idea is to build relationships etc. it is essential to have a profile. Pages are an additional option that may meet specific aims. If unfamiliar with social media it is probably best to commence with a profile and then see if a page or equivalent would be worthwhile or relevant.)
- Membership of relevant and appropriate organisations and groups. (Ideally places where books and authoring topics may be discussed. Do not have to be restricted to genre but should at least relate to something the author has a shown an interest in e.g. their hobby.)
- Newsletter. (There are some issues authors need to be aware of. See Newsletters for details.)
- E-mail list. (This may be built by a variety of methods. Further information may be discovered by means of an internet search.)
- Guest blogging. (This is where an author is invited, or has requested and been accepted, to share a post or article in someone else’s blog.)
- Book signings. (Not as popular as they used to be but, if held, are excellent opportunities for building reader relationships.)
- Speaking engagements. (Unless an internationally recognised author, these usually occur within the author’s immediate locality. The majority of independent (indie) authors do not benefit from such opportunities.)
- Branding. (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH AUTHOR PLATFORM. See subsequent article What is Author Brand for an explanation.)
- Anywhere the author is able to gain public exposure and/or provide/share information about themselves as well as interact with their audience (readers; fans; followers; etc.).
Naturally the above is not an exhaustive list. Neither do all the options mentioned have to be taken up. The intention is simply to provide some ideas for authors to get started. Undoubtedly, others will be able to provide additional options and ideas and are welcome to do so by means of a comment to this post.
To be effective, it is best if authors build their platform in stages. This will enable them to concentrate upon the design and give them time to learn the ins and outs of each option as well as determine whether the component/site is for them. They should not feel under pressure to be everywhere immediately or in fact ever. The secret is to discover where they achieve the most effective communication with readers, fans, etc.
Keeping in mind an author’s platform forms the basis of their public persona it is appropriate to consider the matter of consistency. In measure the following may be considered part of branding nevertheless, it will help to consider some of the overall principles.
In order to successfully build an awareness authors need to ensure they present an identifiable persona across all outlets:
- Same profile photograph or image. (Some authors prefer to maintain anonymity (for privacy or other valid reasons) and therefore utilise an image rather than an actual photograph.)
- Similar taglines. (Short descriptions of the author and their aims/purpose.)
- Consistent voice. (Share and present information in a similar style across all related outlets.)
- Compatible story/message everywhere. (Author’s background and what they want readers etc. to understand, hear and do.)
Of course, and yet again, the above is by no means an exhaustive list but it will help concentrate author’s minds upon some of the requirements for establishing an effective platform.
Marketing Promotion Publicity
It is important authors do not confuse the maintenance of a platform with the activities of marketing, promotion or publicity. Naturally, the platform may support these activities but should in no manner be viewed as a substitute. The platform is simply where: author’s share who they are; build connections; and help readers discover them. After that they need to take the reader; client; customer on a journey to purchasing their product (book).
Once the elements and components required for a platform are understood, the building of one, provided it is taken in stages, is straightforward enough.
One thing for sure: All authors really should develop their own ‘unique’ platform. Everyone is an individual with their own strengths and values and with something special to offer. How will readers know about these unless they are provided with easy access to the information?
Remember: Branding, though it forms one element of a platform is in actual fact a separate matter.