We get submissions all the time from people who have no clue what an author platform is. Here's a great link that helps explain it - https://www.janefriedman.com/author-platform-definition/
But in short, here's what you need to know.
- DON'T wait until the book is published or about to be. In fact, you should already have a platform before seeking a publisher.
- A platform IS NOT an author website or author social media account. Those fall more along the lines of marketing. However, these things do help your platform.
If you wait until your book is written and you're querying publishers to have a platform, it's way too late. A platform is something you build over a long period of time. It is what you're known for. Think chat groups on facebook or particular websites, or reddit. What topics are you interested in? If you're writing nonfiction, that's easy but even fiction writers can have platforms. Do you write about vampires? Okay, then great! Where do you get the information about vampires? What websites do you use to look up information? Do you chat with people about vampires? Are you a part of any fan groups? Do you run ideas by people on writing websites? What about Quora? That's a great website for asking and for answering questions. I once got a job based on my activity on Quora. You can sign up for Quora and list yourself as being a vampire aficionado, and then when people ask questions about vampires, you can answer them. Obviously, substitute vampire for whatever you write about. BECOME AN EXPERT on your subject, or at least become known as someone who is really into the topic. Group up with other people who also like vampires and talk with them regularly. At first nobody will know who you are, but over time, they will and you will be known in the field that you are interested in because you regularly interact with people on the subject.
When I was into raising poison dart frogs, I was a member of a website called Dendroboard, it was a chat board just for raising poison dart frogs. At first I joined because I wanted to learn about them. Over time, I became one of the top people on the board who knew about poison dart frogs and could answer all the newbie's questions about how to care for their frogs. From there, I got into growing vivariums and was a member of a chat site all about how to build your own vivarium. I became an expert on that and people asked my advice all the time. When I decided to open my own store, I had a ready made group of customers WHO KNEW ME AND TRUSTED ME and therefore bought from me. I was successful at it. I wasn't just a new person who showed up and said "buy from my store". They already knew that I knew what I was talking about. They knew they would get a healthy frog from me. They knew they would get plants that were safe for their frogs not only in the type of plant, but also in the way the plant was grown (no chemicals). They knew they would get good growing advice and good set up advice. They trusted me. Because they had been chatting with me for years about frogs and plants before I ever opened a store. Frogs and plants were a passion of mine, and I turned it into a business.
That was 25 or so years ago, before Facebook became a big thing, before Youtube, and before I knew about blogging. If I were still raising frogs and plants and running my online store now, I would've jumped on the Youtube video bandwagon, and podcasts. That would further expand my knowledge to the masses and would be new ways to not only earn money, but let people know I (or my store) existed. I still talk to those people to this day, even though I got out of frogs when I had to move and went through a nasty divorce. I didn't have the money to keep that up, and I wasn't able to keep up my greenhouse, so I let the store go. But those people are still my friends and I still admire their pictures and I still participate in discussions with them. If I wanted to write a book about plants or frogs, I would have a ready made audience sitting right there waiting to buy my book. THAT'S A PLATFORM.
It takes time. It's who you are and who you know. It's what influence you have about the subject. You can use your platform to market, but a platform is not marketing.
How do you add your platform to your query when approaching a publisher? If you are active on Instagram, you let the publisher know that you have 1 million followers on Instagram, and the pictures with you dressed as a vampire get millions of likes. You can share information about your blog, in which you regularly post articles about vampires, with your potential publisher. If you're on particular chat boards like I was with Dendroboard, tell your publisher you're a moderator on this website where you regularly answer questions about frogs and plants. Let them know about your podcast in which you post regularly your talks about frogs or whatever your subject is. Fill your free time immersing yourself in your topic and becoming known as someone who knows a lot about that topic, and make sure your publisher knows that. It's really easy when you have a nonfiction topic. You can speak at conferences or churches, you can be a part of support groups if your topic is mental health. Facebook and everywhere else basically is full of support groups for everything imaginable. Make friends in these chat forums.
Don't say anything about a book at first or else they will think that you're only there to sell a book, not to learn or to teach about the topic. But even nonfiction writers can be active in online and real world communities. Do you cosplay? Do you go to events? Conventions? Do you LARP? Then you have a platform! For instance, if you write about elves and magic and wizards, playing games and surrounding yourself with people who also are interested in these things is probably something you do already. I play World of Warcraft, and I would definitely let a publisher know that if I was writing a book that fit that genre, because my guildmates and other people I play with are...guess what? My platform! A platform is basically the things you do already (or should be doing) to immerse yourself in your passion, the passion that you also are now writing a book about. Then, you can use that platform to market your book. But waiting to try to build a platform once you have a book to try to sell, you will bomb out.
- Kristi King-Morgan