There are tons of articles out there with tips to help authors build their platform.
There are almost as many articles explaining why fiction authors don’t need a platform to get an agent or publisher.
Most of this advice is completely accurate. So should fiction authors just cross “platforming” off their to-do lists?
As a marketing pro and a fiction author, articles declaring there’s no need to build a platform make me facepalm. Articles expounding on this point are built on the premise that your platform is intended to get you a publisher.
But that’s not what a platform is for.
Forget publishers. An author’s platform is for connecting with readers.
It’s a crowded world out there
Most books, traditionally or self-published, never sell any more than 2,000 copies in their lifetime. Not a month. Not a year. We’re talking entire shelf life.
How’s that possible? It’s a crowded world out there for a book. About 750,000 new books are released every year, according to Tim Grahl’s research.
So sure, an agent and maybe even a publisher might pick up your book without a platform, but what about when your book is squeezed onto the massive shelf along with all those others out there in the online abyss?
Your fans are the key
The average American adult reads 12 books every year. Compile all those different people and all those different book choices, and that’s a lot of opportunities for your book to get read.
Every time a reader looks for their next book is an opportunity for you to be discovered.
But different readers are looking for different types of stories. Not all of those readers will want to read your book.
But others will adore it. There are readers out there right now, just waiting to love your book.
So how do you find those readers? The answer to this fundamental author question is platforming.
Benefits beyond readership
As I began platforming online, I paid more attention to the online writing community because it was right there in my Twitter feed.
I made invaluable friendships with other writers and bloggers, which have helped me learn and develop as author. It’s also given me awesome opportunities as I launch my first book.
The result: Long before I had any books to promote, platforming was already well worth the effort.
I also became part of a community of enthusiastic sci-fi and fantasy readers. Again, this happened naturally over time, simply because as a fantasy writer, I was sharing content that interested me and that I thought would be of interest to others in this community. And it’s really a blast to have those people there to geek out with when something exciting happens, like a new season of Daredevil drops on Netflix.
See how it works? Platforming is a win-win. But this isn’t even where the benefits of platforming end.
Setting yourself up for long-tail success
Your author ambitions don’t stop with one book deal, right?
Most writers consider a book release a stepping stone, rather than an end goal. You want to keep growing your audience so your next book sells even better, and so on.
This audience growth over time is called the long tail. A platform is key for this.
First, it helps you maintain long-term relationships with the readers who love you most: The ones most likely to want to buy your next book because they loved your first book so darn much.
This list inevitably grows over time as more people read your work and find you online, allowing each new book to be more successful. Each book launch, in turn, helps you gain more exposure, which helps more people find you. It’s a lovely cycle.
Secondly, the sales success this cycle leads to helps you maintain agent and publisher relationships.
Sales are your responsibility as much as your publisher’s. If your book flops, you’re not likely to get a second chance.
Platforming can be pleasant
With so much to gain from platforming, why would authors avoid it so adamantly? There’s a stigma to platforming it doesn’t deserve, though I understand where it comes from.
Promoting your writing can make your feel icky, or even like you’ve sold out. But platforming isn’t about making sales pitches all day. It’s about making connections — sharing what you love with the people who love what you create.
Another barrier is the idea that platforming takes a huge amount of time. But it doesn’t have to.
If your time is limited, start with just one or two social media networks. Even if you post just a few times a week — an effort that should take just minutes — you’ll see more growth than if you do nothing. Free tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can help.
And sometimes, writers get frustrated with the slow nature of the audience-cultivation process.
I know, I’ve been there myself. It’s rough to see your followers inch up from 0, 10, 30 … but hey, we all start there. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself and have some fun with it.
But please writers, I’m begging you, do something.
Consider it an investment in your writing career. Your future self will thank you.
What advantages have you found to developing an author platform? Or, if you’ve procrastinated on this task, tell us why!