As I began my writing journey, I often saw others speaking of their author platforms and the importance of them in being a successful writing. The opinions on what contributed an author platform, let alone an effective one, were contentious and varied. My initial reaction to these discussions was to ignore them. Surely, if I had written a bestselling novel then it would sell and I wouldn't have to worry about marketing or getting my name out there. For the 1% of writers that get picked up by traditional publishers early and skyrocket onto international bestseller lists, I am sure this is true. But as I have progressed down the road to being a professional writer, I have realised the importance of my own platform to success.
Before we start with what could be used in your platform, lets talk about what an author platform actually is. In short, an author platform is essentially how many people you can reach with your writing and how you do so. In this sense, it is not a physical thing like a podium, but it achieves the same effect, namely, letting you shout out to the world about your work. In the modern day, standing on a platform and yelling would be largely ineffective. We must look further to what an effective platform constitutes.
Just about everyone's first reaction at this point is likely to think of social media. You are not wrong. Social media is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal as writers when it comes to getting our work 'out there'. It allows us to build large networks of both fans and other writers to support our promotional efforts. It can be easy to fall into the trap of only talking about our own work on social media, expecting everyone to care as much as we do and only wanting to hear about our writing though. An important part of using the social media portion of our author platform that often gets ignored is the education component. In building our network, almost invariably, we will discover other writers who are also on the same journey as us, some further down the road and others behind us. It is these people and the things we can learn from engaging with them outside of promoting our own work that can often provide the greatest net benefit to both our work and our platform. It is these people, some of whom will have a strong author platform and some who will not, who will often become our greatest supporters and fans, willing to trumpet our success to the world through their own networks because we were willing to do it for them. In this way, helping someone through their writing journey will often have greater impact to your author platform than simply promoting your own work will. My challenge to you is this: think about how you use social media and think about how you can use it to make a more positive impact on the world. This is the true power of social media and will provide greater impact to your author platform than an endless barrage of promotional material.
Author platform for fiction writers
The second effective use of social media as part of your author platform is being a release from normality. Most people, when they open up their social media app of choice at the end of a long day at work, want to see something that will distract them from the everyday mundane aspects of their life. They want to laugh. They want to imagine. They want to shut their brain off just for a little while. So, how does this help our writer platform? Simple. Create an arm of your platform that entertains - this should be simple as writers, it is literally what the aim of most fiction work is. Be the release so people want to listen to you, they want to engage with you, and ultimately they will follow and help expand your network.
I have seen multiple authors on social media asking advice on whether they 'really need' a newsletter or website. The short answer here is no. If you are satisfied with social media being your only author platform, then that is fine. However, don't expect to have the same reach as an author who diversifies their platform. Does this require effort? Yes. Does it give you a better chance of success (whatever you define that to be) by increasing the reach of your platform? Yes.
The first alternate platform, one which took me a long time to realise, is an author website. I once held the incorrect belief that I would only need a website once I sold my book and became a published author. The fallacy of this is, how will I sell my book in the modern age without a website? How will people discover me if my website doesn't pop up in a Google search? So, after social media, the first aspect of an effective author platform should be an author website. Unlike social media, this will be a place that is uniquely your own, which you can build into anything that reflects who you are as a person and a writer. This is a powerful tool that should not be underestimated. The secondary benefit of an author website is that it give you the ability to showcase some of your other writing skills, namely through a blog (kind of like the one you are on right now). Through this, you can showcase your skills while also writing to subjects that appeal to you as a person, showing your audience who you are and hopefully helping someone along the way. This can then tie into your social media aspect of your author platform, allowing you to link the two together for greater effect.
Your website also gives you an ability to capture the contact details of those who enjoy your work and provide more targeted correspondence. There are multiple mailing apps that will allow you to do this and therefore provide a newsletter out to a mailing list. You can use this as a way to create greater engagement by offering exclusive benefits to those who sign up, or through running competitions. This provides you with yet another platform in which to provide your news and generate interest among the masses.
The final aspect of an effective author platform I will discuss is the more traditional brands of media such as newspapers and radio. Again, the first response to this is often 'I will get that once I am famous', but in taking that view you are limiting your reach yet again. Traditional media can still have much larger reach and generally reach among a much more dedicated base than social media. In this way, endorsement through a traditional media outlet can have powerful effects in legitimizing your work and generating fans and followers to support you.
Throughout this post, I have spoken of a number of different options to build an effective author platform in broad terms. I have specifically avoided being overly prescriptive in how you go about using the different options, as this will be down to personal preference in most cases, which is critically important. Using techniques and apps that have proven effective for others is smart, but the key point of building any author platform is that it reflects you as an author and an individual. Being authentic is key, no matter how you choose to proceed.