What is an Author Platform?

If you Google “What is an author platform?” you’ll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn’t a simple question. But I’m still going to try and answer it.

What is an Author Platform

In a nutshell, a platform is the sum total of ways you, the author, can sell your book.

But…what does that mean? What is an author platform? That answer doesn’t tell me anything!

Hah! I know. And people in general assume a platform is how many social media followers you have, and maybe at one point that was it, but since you can buy followers you can still have loads of followers and not sell any books. So that can’t be the only thing that makes up your platform.

I mean, it will make some of it.

But here’s a few other things that make up a well-rounded platform.

What is an author platform?

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

It kind of makes sense, right? When you pitch an agent or publisher they need to know you can motivate your existing readers, reach new readers and build strong relationships with your readers.

A common follow-up question to what is an author platform is: does this apply to all authors?

Hah! Kind of?

From my research I’ve learned while almost all non-fiction authors need a platform, not all fiction authors do.

Although it’s overwhelming to think about building a thriving team of superfans when it’s hard enough to getting words on the page the more I think about it the more I understand why it’s necessary. Publishing a book isn’t the hard part (although, like, that’s not simple)—selling your book is.

Think about it this way: let’s say you’re putting together a workshop and you’re partnering with a local venue as the host. Well, is it 100% up to the venue to sell the thing out? No, of course not. Sure they can help by spreading the word to their customers but it’s up to you to bring in your friends and fans. The ability to draw people in shows the strength of your platform. So make it strong.

One other thing to think about when asking what is an author platform is to consider everything you do as a contribution to your platform. In-person connections are often stronger than online ones so don’t take those for granted. Think about the associations you’re a member of, the clubs you participate in and the hobbies you have. If you think those could be channels to sell books then make sure they’re strong connections. Contribute to them and make yourself a valuable member.

Wondering how to grow your platform? Here are a few ideas from Writer’s Digest.

  • Find out what your target audience is reading and publish articles or blogs in those outlets
  • Publish a body of work on your topic in a blog, newsletter, podcast, video blog, etc. to grow organic followers and fans over time and help you build authority in your niche
  • Attending events (or speaking at these events if possible) where you can expand your network
  • Find meaningful ways to connect with your target audience—put on events, run challenges, have promotions, etc.
  • Partner with people in your niche (either peers or influencers) to grow your reach and pick up new fans

If you Google "What is an author platform?" you'll see many, <em>many</em> sort-of answers. Because this isn't a simple question. But I'm still going to try and answer it.

Other posts about platform building and non-fiction writing