There are a few definitions of platform. Starting with the first thing: your platform is your audience. As a writer, who are the people interested in you, and what you write? How do you reach and grow this audience? And why should you?
Put it simply, your platform consists of the people who care about your work, and what you have to offer them. They are the people most likely to show an interest in what you say. They are the people who will hopefully, buy your book. They include:
1. Your family and friends
2. Your fans
3. Your readers
4. People of similar interests
5. Everyone else
So Why Do You Need a Platform?
Because if you’re going to become a professional writer, you’ll need to convince other people that your book has a target audience. And more importantly, that you know who your audience is, and how best to reach them yourself. If you submit your manuscript to a publisher or an agent, they are likely to go online and do a search for your name. What will they find? The bigger the presence you can create for yourself, the more impressed the publisher or editor will likely be with you.
Should You Have a Platform Before You Publish?
The simple answer is YES. A platform takes time to build and grow. You would need time to learn new skills, time to convince new people that you’re worth their time, time to develop your voice and strategy for attracting your audience to you. The sooner you start building your platform, the better. You’ll also need one in order to show potential editors, agents and publishers that you’re serious about your career as a professional author.
So What Should I Do?
1) Start with a Website and a Blog
Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to build a website. You don’t need complicated technical know-how to design a simple website that meets your needs as an author. Pay attention to other author websites you like and see what makes them work. Then, get your own url, and use WordPress to set-up and host your site. WordPress makes it easy to update, customise and arrange your website and blog, just how you want it. If you’re stuck with anything, you can find loads of tutorials and advice online.
When you’re ready, start posting content onto your blog. Think about what will attract your fans, and what topics interest you. If you’re writing fiction, you can share samples of your work, snippets from your works-in-progress, short stories, the things that inspire you, etc. Commit to a schedule whether it’s once a week or once a month. Keep to it and hopefully, your audience will grow with time. And make sure people can subscribe to receive your blog posts by email.
2) Use Social Media
If you’ve already got accounts on social networking sites, use them to your advantage. Most of them already allow you to share links from your blog to your friends. Facebook has fan pages that are separate from your personal profile. Tweeter allows you to build lists of people, based on their interests. Choose which site and process appeals to you most, and start building your audience. Then you can add others later, but be careful not to spread yourself too thin. Social media can be time-consuming, so don’t feel that you must have a presence on ALL sites.
Start with these steps, and you’ll soon be on your way to building your author platform and mastering engagement with your audience.
For more on Author Platform, read this fantastic article by Jane Friedman