I define an author platform as a virtual “place to stand before the crowd.” It requires recognized standing or authority, in an area of expertise, and enough personal following, or celebrity, to guarantee a ready audience for your ideas, works, and indeed, for yourself.
A really good way to establish an authors’ platform is through personal appearances, at book signing events, talks and lectures. While this method is effective, it is slow work. Your live audience is typically small: your reach is severely limited by the number of people you can attract to attend.
This fact explains why public figures such as past presidents, popular heroes and film and television personalities can write books about their unique life stories and be guaranteed publication. They have a built-in audience created by many mass media appearances, large record sales or free publicity. Some have performed death-defying exploits in dangerous parts of the world. The rest of us lack such built-in fame or a public following. We must work hard to earn it
Claim your author’s platform with a website
First, I’ll digress from my narrative on creation and publication of books to show that the process of developing an author platform should begin early. But to stake your claim on the internet, it essential is to have a website.
Long before a book is done and ready to go on sale, you need to get people interested in what you have to say. This happens one follower at a time — by making individuals aware of you. Some observers call it “drip feed” because it resembles the slow process of distilling perfume, alcohol or pure water, one drop at a time. With such a slow pace, building an author platform must start early.
Recent stories abound of how ordinary folks have taken to cyberspace to talk on their websites and blogs. Some are fascinated by aspects of their work or hobby. Others like to tell stories about unusual experiences. Those on a worthwhile mission tell about overcoming obstacles. Sometimes these are written. Some take the form of podcasts for listening only. Others take place on personal television channels on YouTube. With the help of video, their creators demonstrate their favorite pursuits, such as music performance, art or internet “how-to” techniques. Each of these creative individuals is starting to build an author platform.
The first step in claiming an author’s platform is, like the enthusiasts described above, is to create a website. Several hosting companies, WordPress.org and GoDaddy.com and others, offer free hosting services. The internet uses a unique language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the most basic building block of the Web. This language and other behind-the-scenes technology define the meaning and structure of web content. They let you work in a familiar setting, as if using a word processor like Microsoft Word. As with Word, you can write, copy or edit text, pictures, sound and video on a page. But because of their specialized technology, they will appear as web pages or blog posts on the internet.
Select a good domain name
Next, your web host will prompt you to buy a domain name, approved by a worldwide agency called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN —EYE-kan). This is a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating several databases of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation. It should cost you little more than ten dollars a year, including a valuable option, private domain registration. This prevents prying eyes from seeing your personal contact information. Pick your own name, if it is available, or another name which represents your brand to the public. For example, my name Peter Green is shared with the co-founder of the rock group Fleetwood Mac. Thus the name was was unavailable (although I wish I had his following). Instead I used AuthorPeterGreen.com, which also tips off visitors to my brand and my primary activity.
Learn what experts advise about using cyberspace
Bob Baker, a pioneer of internet marketing I’ve known for a dozen years, has a blog, about how he became a full-time author. He shares a treasure trove of experience on using the internet for promotion and marketing purposes. His book, 55 Ways to Promote and Sell your Book on the Internet, describes numerous techniques for claiming your author platform readers find you and your work in the vast sea of cyberspace.
Understand your website’s objective
“It’s not about how your book sells: it’s how your book sells you,” counsels Cathy Davis. After successful careers in promotion and marketing, she and her husband Jack founded Davis Creative in 2004. The firm specializes in helping their clients succeed in promotion, marketing and sales. They use the power of publishing to build their brand, grow their businesses, and make a difference in the lives of the people they reach. She counsels that the the main purpose of your website is to answer the question for your potential reader: “Who are you, what are you doing here and why are you a writer?” Once you have done this you’ll have a good start in establishing your author platform.
In my case, I have related how I grew up in up in a family of writers, parents who encouraged me to read and write about my experiences. They were fearless of speaking truth to power and put this courage to work in their lives. They had unique and humorous insights on their mid-twentieth century social era, the history of radio and World War II and their love of well-told stories. They stand for the millions of citizens turned overnight into warriors and women who fought bravely on the home front for their financial survival, worked in defense plants and cared for each other’s families. In the post-war world they helped realize the increase in women’s opportunities in the working world and civil rights. As a child of such a family, I suffered my own wounds of war, learned lessons about moral behavior and developed a robust love of the life my family eventually enjoyed.
Once you have addressed those questions of personal identity and established yourself as someone of interest, she continues, you have a chance to further cement the site visitor’s loyalty by identifying a Golden Thread– the main theme or themes — common to the topics to be discussed on your site. In my case it would be something like this: “The greatest threat to survival of our civilization is not nature, but man himself.”
This theme has opened up for me many issues of topical interest: Causes of and recovery from natural disasters. Steps toward environmental preservation. Personal fulfillment versus stunted personalities motivated to destroy. Early discovery of social malefactors. Official mischief by unknown actors within government ad corporate bureaucracy. The individual versus the organization or the existing norms of society. These concerns have opened a fertile field for me to explore as a writer.
Overcome a natural fear of the unknown
About fifteen years ago I began experimenting with WordPress.org software to create blog posts. Over the ensuing time, this free, downloadable software has evolved and improved. Today it is very robust and can support many media types. It has also attracted many independent developers, who have created enhancements, called Plug-ins, which add functions. These include many added capabilities for your website, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), back-ups, integration with social media and operation of an online store. All of these can improve your author platform.
The potential value of the internet may for the writer seem like a lot of information to absorb at once.But my mentor Bob Baker told me something important. He said, “Don’t be overwhelmed by all there is to learn about the internet.”If you master one new feature per week, or even one per month, you’ll be up and running sooner. At the end of a year, think about how many things you will know how to do in on your website.” I took this message to heart, It removed the fear of proceeding into the unknown, and I began to make progress int the mysterious new world of cyberspace in developing my author platform.
Read more about getting started in the next section.