When most of us dream about being writers, we imagine sitting at a desk or in a padded chair overlooking the ocean, writing a novel, and then kicking back as a publisher discovers it and makes it a New York Times best seller. We don’t want to have to do anything but write. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Today you need a platform.
Platform, simply put, is your visibility as an author. Chuck Sambuchino, author of Create Your Writer Platform, says, “It’s your personal ability to sell your books right this instant.” What that means is the publishers are relying on you, the author, more than ever to build your own audience before your book is for sale. Whether that means having a loyal blog readership, a robust Facebook Fan page, a Twitter following to rival Ashton Kutcher’s or a personal e-newsletter that reaches tens of thousands of people who will buy your book.
The bad news, of course, is that this takes a significant amount of time, meaning you either write less or sleep less. The good news is that if you build a strong enough audience of fans who enjoy your writing, chances are you’ll be better suited to sustain a longer and more financially valuable writing career.
When should you start building a platform? Immediately! How? Well that’s a trickier question. The answer depends on what you feel most comfortable with and how you can best reach your readers.
You want to be as many places online as possible so that more people can find you, but you don’t want too little time interacting with potential readers in every venue.
Your best bet is to pick one or two social networks to dedicate a significant time to work on connecting with people who may enjoy the types of books you write.
Perhaps you could start a blog that features your characters’ back-stories or adventures beyond what readers will learn in your novel. Or, tap into your Twitter following to crowdsource ideas for future character names and histories. You may even consider giving away a full chapter of your novel on your blog, but require readers to submit their email address for access so that you can contact them with a link for purchase when your book is released.
It’s up to you to decide where and how your time is best spent, but it is very important to invest at least some of your time in building a platform. Without one, you’ll be at a disadvantage when trying to convince a publisher to take a chance on your book, no matter how amazing it is.