Author platform – what is it, why is it so important, and how you do you create one? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation and/or incomplete information online (and in books) about this topic.

That’s because author platform
isn’t just one thing.

It’s two.

* * *

Author Platform – Simple Definition

Most authors understand that getting a top literary agent and publisher isn’t possible unless you have a good book. What they don’t realize is that’s only half of what you’re selling.

You’re also selling… you.

In publishing terms, it’s called your author platform.

Author platform is one of my favorite things to talk about during interviews and events, because it’s so important… and misunderstood. Even publishing professionals have difficulty agreeing with each other, coming up with a comprehensive (yet concise), definition.

So, I created one.

Here it is…

* * *

Author Platform – Detailed Definition

Author platform is:

1)     Credibility

2)     “Sales” Ability

Now, don’t panic. You don’t have to be an extrovert, a world-famous expert, or a top-performing salesperson to get a book deal. That’s not what author platform is about. Any author, in any genre, with any background, can do things to improve his or her author platform. That’s what I’m about to show you.

Author Platform - Consultant

As a consultant I help authors improve their author platform
every day, in three different ways:

  • Sharing individualized strategies that authors can implement to get stronger in one or both of the areas above
  • Helping authors see their “Hidden Promotional Assets” – things they might not realize are important
  • Showing shy and/or humble authors how to make themselves look better without appearing arrogant

Author platform boils down to one thing…

Learning how to “position” yourself in the best way possible when you pitch your book. Now let’s dive a little deeper into how you can do that.

Remember, author platform is two parts.

The first part is…

* * *

Author Platform – Credibility

There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Why are you the best person on the planet to write your book? Why are you the most logical choice? Why are you the most qualified?

Author Platform - People

I know, tough questions… but your answers are part of your author platform.

Don’t try to tell me that credibility isn’t important for your type of book, either. Credibility is important for every book category, although credibility is certainly more important for some genres than others.

For example, you probably know that your author platform is more important if you’re the author of a how-to book on important topic like how to cure your kid of ADHD. Your instincts will tell you that an author like that better explain why he or she is an expert.

Common sense, right?

Literary agents, publishers, the media, health care practitioners, and parents are skeptical. And that’s healthy, especially when it comes to the well-being of children. So, if you’re writing a book about how to cure ADHD, everyone’s going to wonder:

  • Are you a doctor?
  • What kind of research have you done?
  • Is there something unusual and/or new about your treatment?
  • Why hasn’t someone done what you’re doing before?
  • What’s the closest thing out there to what you’re doing?
  • How established are your techniques?
  • Who endorses your work that’s a credible reference?
  • Are the treatments you suggest safe, and do you have data to support it?
  • How many kids have been cured using the techniques you propose?
  • Are other doctors using your techniques?
  • Have you trained parents to use these techniques?
  • Do you have testimonials?
  • What inspired you to start your work in this field?
  • Do you have family members or close friends with ADHD?
  • Do you have ADHD yourself?
  • What’s your long-term vision for your work in the field of ADHD?

Like I said, you probably realize that you need credibility and a solid author platform if you’re writing a prescriptive book on a topic like medicine.

But…

You might not think credibility is important if you’re writing quirky gift books, cookbooks, poetry, steamy romance novels, science fiction, young adult fiction, etc.

And that’s a problem.

You need a strong author platform for those, too.

Sort of.

Yes, you can get published as… let’s say, a fiction author (any genre) if you’re simply a good storyteller. It happens every day (J.K. Rowling wasn’t that much different than you or me – until she became a billionaire). That’s because a good story is a fiction writer’s most important asset.

But imagine you’re a literary agent for a moment…

Your assistant tells you about two queries she got that week from aspiring young adult fiction authors. One is a mystery and one is a thriller, but they both revolve around the world of Voodoo. Your assistant likes the pitch for both books, but you only have time to read one manuscript this coming weekend.

How will you decide which one to request?

Author Platform - Literary Agent

You’ll probably read the queries.

Author A uses 95% of the query letter to explain what happens in the book (the plot). Then he writes a sentence or two about how he’s always been fascinated by Voodoo.

Author B includes a much shorter story synopsis or plot summary in his query. Then he uses the rest of the query (about half) to explain, indirectly, why he might be the best person in the world to write a young adult novel with Voodoo as a backdrop.

He says things like:

  • Did you know that Voodoo is now eighth amongst the most practiced religions in the world, at 100 million followers (Judaism is 23 million)? And, many believe that Ogoun (the warrior god) inspired the Haitian slaves to fight for their freedom in the 1700s? Those are just a couple things young readers will learn in my novel.
  • Growing up in Haiti, I saw naked people bathing themselves in hot peppers and rum… walking through the dirt streets blindfolded, their bare feet painted with shoe polish… banging drums, chanting, singing, and dancing… trying to swallow fire. You see, my neighbors were a high priest and priestess living in a paristyle (Voodoo temple). My parents wouldn’t let us eat food from practitioners, for fear of what might happen to us. And, on Halloween, groups of the possessed (or, Ra Ra, as they were called) attempted to recruit children in the street.
  • For the most part, books with Voodoo backdrops are boringly predictable. The Voodoo religion is the antagonist. The story revolves around “the evils of witchcraft.” And they only explore the most widely known parts of the religion (like Voodoo dolls, zombies, witchcraft, etc.) My book is the first young adult novel to explore the dramatic world of the many Voodoo gods.
  • I’m not a Voodoo practitioner myself, but my firsthand knowledge of the religion (combined with the extensive research I’ve done), has made me something of an expert.

Which author feels most credible or has the best author platform to you? Which author communicated more passion, experience, and knowledge about Voodoo? If you had to bet your valuable time and money as an agent on one of these authors, which one would it be?

Author Platform - Credibility

That’s credibility (author platform), in fiction.

Now, don’t feel bad if this article is somewhat intimidating to you. I have good news. I can almost guarantee you that you’re much more credible than you realize. In other words, your author platform probably isn’t nearly as bad as you think.

How can I be so sure?

Because none of the Voodoo information that you read above, by Author B, was in his original query letter. I know, because Author B was one of my 1-on-1 coaching clients. I pulled all of that information out of him. I simply asked him smart questions, to discover his “Hidden Promotional Assets.” Plus, I made him do a bit of online research.

The end result?

I helped him drastically improve his author platform.

He looks like a rock star, don’t you think?

Author Platform - Expert

Agents will trust him because he sounds credible.

Yes, I know… not everyone has the “benefit” of growing up next door to a Voodoo temple. But again, I assure you, you have credibility that you’re not communicating right now… or even thinking about communicating.

You just have to figure out what it is.

If you really don’t have any credibility (or not much) when it comes to the topics and/or themes in your book, it’s easy to become an expert. You can still create a solid author platform.

You don’t have to be a genius.

You simply have to know how to use Google.

Author Platform - Coach

By the way, that’s what top literary agents do to sell books. Do you really think agents are world-class experts on every single genre they represent? They’re not. They simply do a bit of research before they pitch a project to make sure they sound like experts. In the process, they end up becoming a bit of an expert.

You can do the same thing.

Like this article? Post a comment or question below… and make sure you click here to read Author Platform – Part 2.

For more information about improving your author platform and/or getting published, click here for my free 15-part Guide to Finding a Literary Agent. Then click here to see the 3 different ways you can get 1-on-1 help from me (free to fee) as your Book Marketing Coach. You can ask me questions about your author platform or getting published on my blog, or you can ask me questions 1-on-1 via phone or Skype during an introductory consulting call.

Now, leave a question
or comment below!

– Mark

Mark Malatesta
Your “Undercover” Agent
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