14 Platform Building Tips for Authors

Fri, Jun 25, 2010

Book Marketing, Influence, Marketing

14 Platform Building Tips for Authors

This is part 2 in the “So You Want to Become a Bestselling Author? Here’s How…” series. Read part 1 here.

If you are an aspiring author looking to get published or even a published author looking to launch a bestseller, there’s no doubt you have heard “You must create or expand your platform.” Platform is the buzz word in publishing today. While the content of your book still matters greatly, agents and publishers are much more eager to find someone with a great book + a platform versus someone with a great book but no way to sell it. Publishers primarily publish and get books into distribution channels but it’s more so up to you these days to market and sell it. That’s why the platform is so important.

A little further down in this post I’ll give you 14 specific tips you can start doing right now to build or expand your platform. These tips are geared more so for someone just starting out with little or no existing platform, however many of the tips can help even seasoned authors grow. Before we get into that though, let’s first jump right into a key point…

The One BIG Thing You Need to Do

There’s one BIG thing you need to do in order to build a platform that leads to influence, sales, and success. That one thing is to realize that building a platform is not usually done by one BIG thing. Rather, it’s many things done well over time. Far too many get stuck buying into an overnight success mentality, looking for that silver bullet to bestseller status. Honestly, it rarely happens that way unless you are extremely fortunate or have deep enough pockets to hire professionals who can accelerate the process for you. Most overnight successes are 5-10 years in the making anyways; you just don’t get to see all the sweat that went in along the way. You see the fruit, not the root.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some sure fire ways to create or grow a platform, it just means that you need to keep a good sense of reality so that you can stay the course, work hard and be persistent as you pursue your goals.

So, what is a platform anyways?

Recently I was at an event with a number of people. We were there to hear from a particular speaker. As he came out to welcome everyone he appeared on a raised stage in the front of the room. That stage made him a few feet taller than the rest of us which made it easy for us to see him as he began to speak. Traditionally you might think the stage was his platform but in reality the stage was just a tool to help him rise above the crowd.

His real platform was the people in the room who came to see him, his audience. It’s those people who listen who he has influence over. It’s his community, following, or TRIBE.

You can have a stage but if no one is there listening then you have no platform.

Let me break that down a bit. Simply opening a Twitter account, setting up a Facebook page and/or starting a blog is not a platform. Those are tools to help you connect and create a platform but alone they are worth little. To build a platform you must learn to engage and leverage these tools, among others, to connect and gain influence with an audience.

Where do you begin?

Let’s address a fundamental, something that your success as an author and just about anything else will ultimately reside on.

If you see a number pop up on your caller ID that you don’t recognize, you might be less inclined to answer the phone but if you recognize the number as a friend then you’ll pick it up. Right?

The point? Relationships Matter.

One of the most powerful ways to build your platform is through relationships, those you have already and those you’re going to develop.

Reach out and connect to those who have influence in areas you wish to gain influence. Watch and learn, ask for advice. See if there are ways you can engage them and their communities (commenting on their blogs, responding on Twitter, etc). Be real. Build trust and earn your place by adding value to the relationship. You must make many deposits before you ever consider making a withdraw. If you’re in it just to try and get someone to do something for you, you’ll fail. Be of value and you’ll likely receive value in return.

In addition to relationships…

Here are 14 things you can do to start building your platform now:

  • Have a Destination in Mind. You can’t get somewhere if you don’t know where you want to go. Take the time to write out what your goals are, who your audience is (or who you hope them to be) and draft up some of your own ideas on how you think you can get to where you want to go. Think it through. Get creative and try things. One of the best ways to learn is to do.
  • Have a Website. This should be self explanatory but if you don’t have one, get one. Just make sure your website looks professional and your URL (web address) is easy to say and recall. The layout of your site should be clean, simple and easy for someone to get to the main thing you want them to get to.
  • Start a Newsletter, Blog or Both. Make sure the subscribe box is visible at the top of your website on ALL pages. You need some way to create community. A way to convert visitors into subscribers who then become fans as you build a relationship with them. This is imperative. Just look what Chris Brogan has to say about the power of his email list to move people to taking action (10x more than social media, etc). Make sure you keep some level of frequency too or people may forget about you. I personally prefer newsletters since they allow you to have more control on content and allow you to send information out proactively without waiting on a blog RSS feed to process. Also, a majority of people still have no idea what an RSS feed even is. Ask your mom.
  • Build Your List. Once you have a newsletter or feed, you need to get people to subscribe. These people become your base. Attract them by writing good content, giving things of value away (articles, eBooks, insights, etc). The more you give, the more you will receive. Give because you care, not because you expect something in return.
  • Partner with Others. Know someone who has a book coming out? Promote them and ask them to promote your in return. It’s called Reciprocal Marketing. Relationship alert… while reciprocal marketing can be extremely powerful, you won’t get very far without relationships or an already sizeable platform to leverage. Another point where relationships are key.
  • Engage Social Media. If you aren’t using Social Media, start now and make sure you engage with others. It’s not “Social” if it’s a one way conversation with you doing all the talking. Post items of value. Share good stuff from others. Engage. Retweet. Interact. You don’t have to spend an insane amount of time, just a few minutes each day is fine… just make those few minutes count. There are plenty of ways to find like-minded individuals or people who might be interested in your topics. Use the search function on Twitter and Facebook and connect.
  • Do a Few Interviews. You don’t need a published book to start doing interviews. You can begin to build credibility by booking interviews solely by topic and use them to cerate awareness for yourself, your cause, etc. Craft a radio or TV interview segment idea and send it around to a few radio or TV station producers. Do a Google search for shows that fit your topic, find their contact info and call + email the show producer. Ask to be a guest and clearly state why what you have to say is of value to their audience. Before you do, spend a little time on Google learning how to draft a pitch. There are tons of ideas and resources. Note, if you can tie your topic into something current in the news, that’s a bonus and will more likely help you get traction.
  • Do Guest Posts. Is there a blogger that reaches an audience you’d like to reach? Ask them if they accept guest posts and if so, follow their guidelines and submit something. If they post it your credibility rises, you gain more awareness and likely gain more traffic to your website which can convert into more subscribers to your newsletter or RSS feed. See the cycle? Jeff Goins has done it and offers great tips here.
  • Submit Articles. Take some of your articles and submit them to online and offline publications.
  • Start a Podcast or do a Teleseminar of some sorts. Invite others to join in and encourage them to help you spread the word by inviting others. Use an opt-in form for people to sign up and offer an option for them to join your newsletter list (most will if your content is of value). You can even do guest interviews with others who have larger platforms than you. Helps generate awareness. For podcasting checking out PodcastAnswerMan.com for some great tips. For teleseminars I suggest InstantTeleseminar (affiliate link), it’s what I use and I love it.
  • Speak. If you have a message to share, look for ways to share it to large groups. You can start with free talks locally and move up from there.
  • Multiply. Don’t let scale stop you. Start with a few followers and serve them well and they will multiply. Soon 10 becomes 100 and 100 become 1000. It’s exponential.
  • Invest in Your Success. One of the best things to do is to invest in your future with programs such as GET PUBLISHED by Michael Hyatt. Michael is a top blogger, bestselling author and the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He knows publishing inside and out, from both sides as a publisher and as an author. He’s also worked directly with hundreds of authors and see what works and what doesn’t. His GET PUBLISHED program, which is a 21-session audio program + workbook, will teach you everything you need to know about getting published and launching a bestseller. It’s probably one of the best investments you can make and will save you tons of time and help you avoid massive mistakes. It’s the best step-by-step / how-to guide that I have seen. Go here for details.

If you are trying these things yourself and still not getting any traction, call in a pro who can help you implement your ideas and connect you to areas that you might not have access to. There are marketing firms, PR agencies, and plenty of consultants who can help you. My company works with a number of authors as well. It’s a competitive marketplace out there and it takes a lot of effort to break through but the good news is that it happens every day for those who are willing to try. : )

I hope these few tips are helpful to you. There are many more and some very different tactics taken for someone who already has a platform (how to leverage it and maximize it) but the info above is a good start for most new authors.

If you have any specifics questions relating to building a platform, post a comment and ask your question. I’ll do my best to respond with any additional insight I can provide.


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    About Daniel Decker:

    Daniel Decker is President of Higher Level Group, Inc., a strategic marketing and development firm that helps authors, professional speakers, and organizations who are doing good to expand their influence. LINKS: Follow @DanielDecker on Twitter | Visit the "About" Page | Subscribe to the Blog and get updates via RSS or Email.

    Contact Daniel

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

      Wow, Daniel, you are a jewel! You've given so much good information that it's going to take me some time to process it. I have my blog and I'm building an audience–Twitter seeems to be the main source of my new readers, so I'm trying to use tweets strategically. My biggest issues are the interviews and the speeches. In my small city, there are not that many opportunities and I think I may be a little too well-known here to be considered beyond being a mother of seven and a high school English teacher. As I am turning my posts into a manuscript (lots of revision) and am preparing my book proposal, I am also thinking about finding some sort of training in speaking. Thanks, Daniel, for writing this series of posts–I appreciate it more than maybe you can imagine.

      • Daniel

        Thanks Patricia. Hope it helps.

    • Charlene

      THANK YOU of you for this information. I am a new author, who is thinking about my Platform, and just from reading your post, I realize that it is more than a Facebook page, website and blog. You gave me valuable advice. Thanks again.

      • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

        Glad it helped. :)

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    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Hi Daniel! I am in the process of working on my future best seller and somehow stumbled on your website. GREAT resource and perfect timing! Very grateful! Looking forward to digging deeper into your content. 

      As for this article, how long would you say you should be working on your platform before sending out a book proposal? Do you have specific goals in terms of numbers? What are publishers looking for in terms of platform and interaction with your community?

      • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

        Thanks Marc. I hope your book becomes just that, a future bestseller. : ) You should start working on your platform long before you actually need it, as far in advance as you can. The stronger your platform, the better your chances are at getting published (by a traditional publisher if you are going that route). Of course, you need to have a strong book idea and writing as well but the platform is equally as important these days in order to help you stand out. There really is no “benchmark” as far as what type of numbers you need to have. You just need to have an audience of some kind so that when you publish your book you have people who are already potential buyers. If you have not done so, I would strongly encourage you to pick up “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” by Michael Hyatt. It is a fantastic book that addresses many of these questions and provides specific answers.

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    • Judith Briles

      Platforms don’t happen unless the author has a clear Vision of who he is; what and where he sees the book being/going/benefitting; a high sense of Passion behind self and book; and a mega doze of Commitment of time, energy and money to support the marketing efforts (which are many of the items that Daniel has cited above). Then, the people will come.