Once upon a time, authors were able to write books and get them published, so long as they were a decent writer.
That’s no longer the case.
Now, both self-published and traditionally-published writers must establish an author platform to either get published or to have success while publishing in today’s modern world.
Jane Friedman defines author platform as “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”
In her article, A Definition of Author Platform, she elaborates on the origin of author platform:
Platform is a concept that first arose in connection with nonfiction authors. Sometime during the 1990s, agents and publishers began rejecting nonfiction book proposals and nonfiction manuscripts when the author lacked a “platform.” At the time—before the advent of the Internet or social media—publishers wanted the author to be in the public eye in some way (usually through mainstream media appearances) with the ability to spread the word easily to sell books.
In summary, author platform has a sole purpose: to establish future readers for your books.
In today’s world, that means developing an online presence. You want to make a home for yourself on the Internet and be easy to find.
Whether you’re published or yet-to-be published, all writers need an author website. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy at first and there are plenty of free website-building resources out there, so don’t go hiring a web designer to create something for you just yet. But you do need to have a place where people can go to learn about you and your books and contact you.
In the beginning, if you’re not sure what to put on your website, make an about page, a favorite books or authors page, and a blog. The latter is technically optional, but I highly recommend posting weekly blogs on your website. This helps to improve your website’s SEO and give people a reason to come back to your website.
Ideally, when people type your name into a web browser, your website or social media platforms should be the first things to appear.
That segues perfectly into our next topic: social media.
With so many social media platforms—YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, SnapChat, etc.—it can be hard to figure out where to start or what platforms are the most important for writers. To that I’ll say: determine who your audience is and what social media platforms they use. Then, create a public account and start building your brand.
You as the author are your brand.
Decide up-front what you’ll be talking about. Whatever it is, be consistent and make yourself a resource to the industry. What that means will be up to each individual author.
Some writers will make their author platform around writing advice or the craft of writing, while others might post book reviews, make a YouTube channel documenting their experiences on writing, or host periodic online chats where writers can connect.
Whatever it may be, give your potential readers reasons to come back to your platform and be consistent. Publish content regularly and when you say you will. By doing so, people will come back to your platform at that time, as you’ve built an expectation for them.
If you’re unpublished, building your author platform now is one more tool in your toolkit when you query (should you pursue traditional publishing). It shows you’re invested in your career by demonstrating you’re proactively building your future readership.
Meg LaTorre is a writer of adult science fiction and fantasy, YouTuber, developmental book editor, writing coach, creator of the free query critique platform, Query Hack, and former literary agent with a background in magazine publishing, medical/technical writing, and journalism. On Meg’s YouTube channel, iWriterly, she geeks out on all things books—from the concept to the bookshelves (and everything in between). Meg also launched Query Hack, a query critique platform where writers can submit their manuscript queries or Twitter pitches for free feedback. She has written for publications such as Writer’s Digest and Savvy Authors on topics related to writing and publishing, participated as an editor in Twitter contests, including #RevPit (Revise and Resubmit) and Pitch to Publication, is a Resident Writing Coach at Writers Helping Writers, and can be found teaching online classes throughout the year. To learn more about Meg, follow her on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, sign up for her monthly newsletter, and subscribe to her YouTube channel, iWriterly.