This past weekend, someone wrote to say, “You have often talked about ‘platform’ on this blog. How do you define a platform? And what do you suggest I do in order to build a platform for myself as an author?”
An author’s platform is the collection of opportunities a writer has with potential readers. So, in many ways, a platform is simply a number. Think of it this way…
Does he have a TV show? If so, how many viewers does he have? That’s a number. Is she on the radio? If so, how many listeners does she have? That’s a number. Does he write a column for a newspaper or magazine? If so, what’s the readership? That’s a number. Does she blog? If so, how many people read her each month? That’s a number. Every opportunity an author has is reducible to a number.
Does he have a busy speaking schedule? If so, how many people does he speak to over the course of a year? How often? How big are the venues? Do his speeches get recorded and sold to listeners? If so, how many copies sell in a year? Is she a recognized expert in a particular area? Do people recognize her name? Does he have a popular website? Is she a regular writer for an e-zine? Does he often get contacted by the media? Do people recognize her name?
Some numbers are easy to add up. Others are considerably harder — but it’s usually not that difficult to come up with the number of people a writer can reach through his or her current opportunities. Let’s call each one a “touchpoint” — an opportunity for the writer to touch a reader in some way that is already established. Perhaps they listen to her on the radio, or read her blog, or go to hear her speak at conferences… for each person they reach, the writer has the chance to touch that potential reader with words.
You add up all those touchpoints, and you’ve got the author’s platform. It’s a number. In many ways, it is the author’s visibility, and it reflect the author’s ability to attract readers to a book. In simple terms, that’s a platform. The number of people you can legitimately claim to touch with your words. And, of course, a publisher is going to be interested in you making a case for as large a number as possible.
As for how how to build a better platform, that means generating a bigger number… and it’s going to be unique for each author. I suggest you ask yourself what you can be known for, and how you can expand your points of contact with other people. For some, that means establishing a speaking schedule. For others, it means writing articles and getting them posted on blogs and e-zines. For still others, it means becoming the go-to person when the media needs an expert on a particular topic. Your platform will be different from everyone else’s. Does that help?