For first-time nonfiction authors, the passive pressure to “build” an “author platform” shares some of the urgent-but-empty significance of corporate jargon. What does it mean? Is it really necessary?
Brooke Warner describes it at The Write Life as an “author’s visibility”; Agent Kate McKean describes it as “name recognition”; and Jane Friedman, publishing industry insider, describes it as the “ability to sell books because of who you are and who you can reach.”
An author platform houses the various inputs by which you define yourself as an author and express and communicate your message to potential readers. A platform is a point of connection (usually several points of connection) between you and the readers who want to know more about you, your expertise, and your various projects.
For most authors, an author platform is made up of a relevant handful of the following: a website, a Twitter profile, a Facebook page, a newsletter, and podcast appearances, speaking gigs, and writing–or writing adjacent–projects.
Nonfiction writers should view an author platform as a helpful aid to securing publisher interest. The platform testifies to an author’s ability to produce work that resonates with readers. It also suggests the presence of readers ready to purchase the work. This is important because, as McKean argues, a platform “is there to sell books.”
Despite this, nonfiction authors can and should begin to build their platform while in book development. You may feel ill-equipped to build a platform before your book is finished, or you may fear that sharing too much of your project will dilute its power. However, creating connections with interested audiences takes effort, and effort takes time. Your audience can provide essential insight into what work resonates and with which audience members. Further, the mere presence of an interested audience can prompt production.
The work of building an author platform may initially feel arduous, but it builds its own momentum. Overlook its jargon-adjacent phrasing, and consider it an instrumental part of the author process.