If you’re interested in getting a traditional publishing deal, you’ve probably heard that you need a platform. I learned this back in 2004 after attending the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I had shown up with a proposal for a business start-up guide—my first book—and shortly after that event I received a phone call from literary agent Michael Larsen.
Mike told me that he liked my work but that he couldn’t get me a book deal until I had a platform. He explained that publishers want authors with a built-in audience ready to buy their books and that I should be out speaking to thousands of people each year.
I had just quit my Silicon Valley job and didn’t want to become a road warrior so I decided I would turn to the internet to build my platform. I launched BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs. My goal was to attract my target audience of entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. I was impatient with the process so I self-published that first book. I listed it for sale on the website a full two months before it was in print and to my own surprise it began selling immediately.
Aha! That is when I really understood that platform means audience. And I also understood where the publishers were coming from. Without an audience, it would have been incredibly hard to sell books. But with an eager audience ready to buy, it was much easier to sell my work.
Soon I had a high-traffic website and a large mailing list so when I wrote the next book I was able to show that I had a platform. I sent the proposal to exactly two publishers and had a book deal with Wiley within a month.
How to Build Your Platform (AKA Audience)
Whether you want to land a traditional book deal or you plan to self-publish, there is a tremendous amount of power in building an audience. Here are some ways to get started:
Become a speaker and book yourself for at least 20 speaking engagements per year.
Start a blog related to your subject matter and begin attracting your audience with great content.
Stand out on social media by becoming a resource for your audience.
Start a website and load it with resources for your target audience. Make it a destination that can’t be missed.
Launch a group on LinkedIn or Facebook and cultivate a community for your audience.
Write for publications that reach your target audience.
Create a YouTube channel with educational, funny or entertaining videos.
Use a combination of the above methods. In fact, the more you do, the better.
It takes time to build an audience, but it can make a huge difference in your publishing career. And for those who self-publish, building a platform is even more important because you won’t have the support of a brand name. Do the work necessary to cultivate an audience and your efforts will be rewarded.