Do I Have an Author Platform? Do I Need One?

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Author platform is sometimes confused with how much a writer engages on social media. While social media might well play a role in platform, it’s about much more than how many Twitter followers you have or Facebook messages you post.

Platform means you have a position of authority in your field that will help you sell books. Let’s take a deeper dive into what this is…and is not.

Platform is Important for Non-Fiction Writers

Generally speaking, to publish in non-fiction, it’s likely you’re going to need a platform first. Take a look at the best seller lists. There’s a reason you see celebrities or other “famous people” in the top ten. They are going to sell books because people have heard of them and want to hear what they have to say.

What if I have a book on gardening? Or cooking? Or something non-political or controversial? You ask.

Chances are, you’re still going to need a platform. That doesn’t mean you need to be reality TV famous, but you have to be more than a gardening enthusiast. You need to do more than have the best rose bushes or tomatoes on your street. You need to have established in some way that you are an “expert” in this field and have something to say about it that others will want to read.

Well…I’ve got a blog with at least three hundred followers, and I post no less than once a month. You say.

That’s nice, but probably not nice enough to land you a big deal. If you’re blog had 50,000 followers—or a million, in our viral universe, that would help. Have you ever written for Country Garden or for Southern Living? If so, you’re on your way. Do as many articles as possible for national publications. Build a name. Speak at the National Horticulture Society or other industry conventions. Maybe you can get a guest spot on the Today show as a gardening expert. If you can do these things, you’re on your way to having a platform.

Platform is Not as Important for Fiction Writers

The most important thing to do as a fiction writer is to write a work of fiction people want to read.

It’s worth repeating that your best chance of becoming a successful writer is to work on craft, edit like crazy, refine your work, and send the highest quality fiction you can create into the universe. You don’t have to be a celebrity. You do need to tell a compelling story.

Don’t get me wrong: if you have 50,000 Twitter followers, that probably won’t hurt—so long as you’re on message. For instance, if your 50k come from a BDSM-themed social media account, don’t expect that to help you find success in the Middle Grade world. But in general, a few pithy Tweets a week isn’t going to make or break you.

I’m Not a Celebrity, Does that Mean I’ll Never Sell Non-Fiction?

Absolutely not! Topics like memoir don’t necessarily require a platform so long as you have a highly compelling narrative.

Start small. For instance, university presses are much more interested in research and true expertise in a subject. It won’t make your year financially, but publishing with a small press will help you build that platform. You can also work on your blog, submit articles for national publication, attend conferences, and network. Don’t forget social media either. Plenty of people have gotten notoriety from building up a fan base on any one of the major platforms.

Most of all, accept that building an author platform takes time. You don’t have to be uber famous, but you do need to reach people who would want to buy your book. No one on the best seller list got there overnight. It takes persistence to build a name, but now’s a good time to work on constructing yours.


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About Author

Mary is a young adult writer and archaeologist. By day she teaches at a local college, and by night she writes about the adventures of adolescence.

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