After “profit” and “Oprah,” the most important two-syllable word in publishing is “platform.” A platform is your continuing national visibility in person or through the media to as many of your potential readers as possible. A platform may be:
- A radio or television show that is broadcast nationally
- A syndicated newspaper column or a column in a magazine with a large national circulation
- A seminar or keynote address you give around the country on a continuing basis
- A newsletter you write online or offline with a large national subscriber list
- An online presence that offers an interactive daily dose of news or advice to an impressive nationwide audience, like a blog or Myspace/Facebook fan page or Twitter following
The greater the impact in the media that you have on a regular basis, the greater the opportunities you have for promoting (and perhaps excerpting) your books. Your books will be worth more to publishers because they know that your books will sell to your fans. They also know that arranging speaking engagements and media appearances is easier for writers with visibility.
Take media personality Robyn Spizman for example. She has built a platform that promotes her books and timely information. With endless appearances on national talk shows talking about gift giving, she recently launched a site based on her book The Giftionary called TheGiftionary.com. This site features gifts and is a helpful consumer resource for gift givers. Many authors who have books that would be considered a gift will appreciate this site. Whenever she is on television, radio or online or in print, the media credits her books which range from Make It Memorable to When Words Matter Most. She has built a very successful national platform by offering helpful information to help gift givers give the best gifts on earth and strongly believes that a book is a gift. As a result of her platform and knowledge, she has become one of the foremost gift experts in the country and as a result, her books and any books she shares become popular gifts to give.
If you travel the country giving talks as a way of life, you are giving yourself a national tour that enables your publisher’s publicist to arrange interviews for you in the cities you travel to.
For new writers, bylines are more valuable than money. Every byline you earn for an article or short story gives you the credibility to approach the next higher rung on the steeply pitched media ladder that rises to the platform you need.
Part of the reason Dave Barry’s books are best-sellers is that his column appears in hundreds of newspapers. That kind of exposure generates guaranteed sales regardless of what else Dave or his publisher does to promote his books.
Dave’s platform helped him make his first mystery novel a best-seller. So the bigger your platform, the more easily you can switch genres or go from nonfiction to fiction and be confident that your fans will follow you.
Keep in mind that a platform isn’t something you jump on when you have books to sell, it’s something you build plank by plank with:
- Every talk you give
- Every name you add to your networks and your mailing lists
- Every bookstore you visit
- Every article or short story you have published
- Every book you write
- Every city you go to
- Every media appearance you make
By Rick Frishman
Reprinted from “Rick Frishman’s Author 101 Newsletter”
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