Why You Need an Author Platform – and How to Get One

    On the author platform

    Very simply, a platform is the thing you have to stand on to get heard. It’s your stage. But unlike a stage in the theater, today’s platform is built of people. Contacts. Connections. Followers.

    – Michael Hyatt, Platform: How to Get Noticed in a Noisy World

    If you have a message to share – like “My new book is out!” – how many people can you reach?

    Perhaps you’ve got a few dozen friends and family members on Facebook, or a bunch of followers on Twitter. You might even have a few blog readers. But you want to be reaching hundreds or thousands of people, not just a handful.

    As an author, you need to invest time and energy into building your platform: establishing connections with hopefully, lots of potential readers.

    Why You Need an Author Platform

    Whatever your writing aims and ambitions, you’re going to need a platform.

    Traditional publication: Publishers are increasingly expecting authors to show evidence that they can market the book – on a blog, to a mailing list, or through social media.

    Self-publication: If you want to go it alone, producing your own e-book or print-on-demand book, then you’re not going to sell any copies without a platform.

    Self-employment: If you run your own writing-related business, you need clients to buy your services and/or products. Building a platform means you’ll be able to help people know, like and trust you.

    I talk to lots of writers who feel disappointed that great writing simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, they think that 20 years ago, it would have been. The truth, though, is that publishers have always favored authors with the ability to promote and market their own work.

    And on the positive side, if you know your writing is good but perhaps not great, a strong author platform can lift you above the competition and give you a much better chance of success.

    Three Key Ways to Build Your Platform

    In the past, platform-building happened in the physical world. It involved speaking at events, sending out postcards, networking with fellow writers and so on. All of which is time-consuming, not to mention nerve-wracking for many shy writers.

    Since you’re reading this on a blog – or in your feed reader or inbox – you’re probably aware that things have moved on! The online world is a wonderful place to build a platform cheaply and efficiently.

    Here are three key ways you can do just that:

    Method #1: With a Blog

    If you haven’t yet established an online presence, the best way to begin is with a blog. This gives you a “home base” on the web that you can fill with whatever content you want.

    I recommend starting with WordPress.com. You can set up a blog completely for free here, or you can buy a unique domain name: a good idea if you have a few dollars to spare each year, as it means your blog’s address can be yourname.com rather than yourname.wordpress.com.

    What should you blog about? That’s up to you, but most bloggers find it easiest to build an audience when they stick to a specific subject. Yours might be:

    • Writing and writing advice – this can work well if you’re looking for writing/editing work.
    • Almost any topic (gardening / technology / parenting) – this is great for non-fiction writers specializing in a particular area.
    • Fiction-centered – if you’ve written a novel, your blog could tie in with the fictional world, perhaps offering short stories or excerpts from the book.

    Learn more:

    Is it Too Late to Start Blogging? (Christopher Foster)

    Method #2: With an Email List

    An email list is a great next step after a blog. While you can allow readers to subscribe to your blog by email, you may well want to create a separate email newsletter through a service like Aweber or MailChimp. (MailChimp is free at the basic level.)

    Your newsletter could be:

    • Short tips and advice for your clients and potential clients – plus an occasional special offer, or announcement of a new service.
    • A regular short article related to your blog topic – you could also include links to some of your best recent blog posts.
    • A monthly update about your next novel-in-progress – along with a gentle reminder to buy the current one (or to tell a friend).

    The huge advantage of an email list is that it gives you direct access to your audience. For most people, email is a comfortable and familiar technology, and they’ll probably see every email from you – whereas they might only visit your blog occasionally.

    Learn more:

    How to Make Your Free eBook a Magnet for New Readers: 5 Crucial Tips (Tess Marshal)

    Method #3: With Social Media

    Social media is a great way to reach new people and grow your platform. It shouldn’t be your only platform-building focus, though. You’re limited by the constraints of different sites (e.g. a tweet can only be 140 characters) and often, only a fairly small proportion of your audience will see any given tweet or Facebook update.

    There are dozens of different social media sites, but some of the most popular ones are:

    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • Google+
    • Pinterest

    Invest your energy in one or two social networks, rather than trying to be present on half-a-dozen: think about where your ideal customer or ideal reader is likely to be. For me, Facebook is a great place to keep readers up-to-date, and Twitter is a great place to build relationships with fellow writers and bloggers.

    (If you write for high-powered executives or major organizations, for instance, you might find that these people use LinkedIn but aren’t present on the more informal networks.)

    Learn more:

    How to Build the Writing Platform of Your Dreams Using Social Media (Nick Thacker)

    What Next?

    If you already have a blog, email list, Twitter account etc., then look for ways to build on that. What could you do this week, and this month, to reach out to more people?

    If you don’t have any online presence yet, get ready to set up a blog. Think about what topic or approach you want to take (you could look at other writers’ blogs to see what they do) – and then make a start!


    About the Author:

    Ali Luke is a writer and blogger, and author of Publishing E-Books For Dummies. She runs a community/teaching site, Writers’ Huddle, which is open for new members until 12th October. Write to Done readers, head on over to this special page and enter the password writetodone.



    About the author

      Ali Luke

      Ali Luke’s free mini-ebooks Time to Write and The Two-Year Novel are for any writer who wants to fit in some extra writing (and enjoy it more)! You can download them here when you sign up to her weekly email newsletter – which includes writing tips, discounts, and more.

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    • Doug says:

      This article is great – for 2002. This information has been rehashed on so many sites it’s not funny. Everyone knows you need a blog, a list, and be active on social networks. Any information on how to do it EFFECTIVELY? Now that would be something useful.

    • Priska says:

      Thank you Ali for a great article. I will be putting a lot of time into the three key ways in building a platform.
      There are many benefits along the way.

    • Your article: Why You Need an Author Platform – and How to Get One was a great one. It opened my eyes to how I could expose my works to the outside world. I am unpublished author with three books in offing. So, I will make use of your advice after I have published the books. Many thanks to you and God bless you.

      My blog is empty because it is under construction as my web designer has not finished his job. Look out for it for news about my country Nigeria because I have written many articles about the happenings here in Nigeria.

      Thank you.

      Victor Anya.

    • Good advice. I especially echo the email and social media side of the platform because blogs won’t automatically attract an audience by themselves. They have to be promoted and shared.

      Still, they all work hand in hand.

    • I am reading Platform at the moment, it was recommended to me when I attended The Writer’s Workshop, a Hay House Australia event. I am really enjoin your posts. Thank you.

    • Jevon says:

      What a great article. Not really being into the online presence thing, I reluctantly started my blog couple months ago after reading similar articles that advised how important it was for new authors like myself. I also use facebook as a way of getting people to be aware of my blog’s existence. But I never considered an email list. And that would tackle the exact problem I’m having of readers only checking occasionally. Thanks Ali, I’ll try this. I just hope they don’t consider my emails to be spam.

    • Thank you, Ali, for contributing this guest post on this fabulous blog: I really enjoyed reading it.

      It is great to read your work and, as usual, you are bang on target.

      As you are aware, I have been a fan of your blog and newsletter for the longest time, but have not had the chance to read your books yet or become a member of your writer’s groups or training programs.

      As for me, I have been leaving comments on websites and blogs: I have also parlayed my skills as an occasional guest blogger, but somehow I have not managed to start my own blog.

      In the meantime, I have subscribed to several blogs and websites and newsletters and have had quite a fun time reading the works of people who are interesting and experts in their chosen metier like you are.

      Have a good one, Ali, and wish you all the best in your creative writing and career. Cheers.

    • glomack says:

      Super article for a budding writer in this e-world. Many thanks!

    • PJ Reece says:

      Ali… thanks for this. I’ve been blogging and guest blogging for three years without paying attention to an email list. I’ve just been having fun. But something’s in the works for which I will need that “list”. I better get started.

    • Liz McGee says:

      Hi Ali,

      Great tips, but also an important point.

      I personally love email for building my platform, especially with the Google changes affecting so many site rankings. People on my email list are extremely targeted, so I find that putting my efforts there can be so much more rewarding. The challenge there however, is looking for ways to build on that, like you mentioned. That’s where good planning comes in. I often get too focused on building my list and less on working with what I already have. It can be a challenge for me to find a good balance.


    • Thanks for this, Ali. You expanded the points of your article with excellent links and more information. I particularly liked Christopher Foster’s IS IT TOO LATE TO START BLOGGING? I have been on BOOMER HIGHWAY for over two years now and the benefits are amazing: you enjoy writing, you enjoy the ability to publish and doors are opened so that you share with interesting people. That IS the perfect platform for moving ahead and publishing your ebook. [email protected] Boomer Highway.

    • Greetings Ali

      Thank you for your most excellent feature. Another tremendously helpful article from Write To Done. I’m really impressed.

      Best Regards, Valerie

      ! !

    • Hi
      I went over to the special page, and couldn’t find anywhere to enter the password. What am I missing?

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