Platform, or author platform, is an increasingly important concept in this age of self-publishing and digital reading. In the past it was something only publishers and agents needed to worry about -- how to promote their authors so that more books could be sold. These days, however, it seems each and every author is concerned about platform building.
So what is an author platform? The term conveys not only an author's visibility within and outside of the cyberspace, but also how successfully this author can reach his or her readers. Media professor Jane Friedman gives an excellent explanation here: an author with a platform is "someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience".
Many writers believe to build a platform is to set up a website that displays everything about an author and his or her books. If readers are interested, they can go and find all the information they need to know there. This is no longer true today, when every author is out there doing their best to attract the attention of readers.
Today's authors, especially those who have chosen digital and/or self-publishing as a career, need to make themselves known. Blogs, e-mail newsletters, social networks, podcasts, videos, digital downloads, apps, appearance at literary gatherings, sourcing reviews, etc -- anything and everything will help.
But platform building, as Friedman wisely points out, is not about self-promotion. It is more of a long-term process in which one works hard to win the trust of readers. It is about networking, socializing, benefiting the others so that they are wiling to help you. It is to become a crucial part of a community, where you are not the actual leader but everyone still wants to take your advice.
Author Roz Morris also provides an important reason why authors need to build their platforms. "If you're not easily pigeonholed, you need [an author platform] even more. You need to show people who you are under the books, where you go exploring for ideas. That relationship will keep readers with you when you venture to new places."
After all, platforms are all about readers -- not only to help readers understand and "bond" with their favorite authors, but also to enlist the help of other individuals, groups and events so that authors can reach their target readers.
One thing is for sure -- authors need to first create quality work before any reader will take notice of them. Quality books, and then quality communications, will help build a solid platform.