Today, every agent and editor wants to know that you have a platform before representing/buying your book. But what is platform?
One of Hale’s students suggested that platform is your audience—all of the people interested in the topic about which you're writing. So if you've written a book about knitting, does that make every knitter in the world your platform? Unfortunately not. Those knitters have to know who you are and know that you've written a book in order to be part of your platform.
Someone else suggested that your platform is your number of followers and fans—say 1000 on Twitter, 500 on Facebook, your mom, your sister and your best friend. But we all have a lot of "fake" followers—followers who follow us in hopes that we will follow them back but who aren't really reading our posts. In fact, nature photographer Mike Spinak, who has 52,000 followers on Google+, says an author can expect less than 3% of her followers to buy her book.
So what IS platform?
Your platform is the people who are likely to buy your book. They include:
1. Your true fans
Your true fans are those followers who know you and love you, who retweet your tweets, +1 your Google+ posts, subscribe to your newsletter, read your blog, and comment on and share your Facebook posts. They will buy everything you write because they know you and love you. Every author needs true fans.
2. Your family and friends
When building an email list, be sure to include them on it. Don’t rely on Facebook to notify them that your book is out since only a small fraction of your Facebook friends see your posts.
3. Your students
Professors have a built-in platform. If your book is related to the topic you teach, your students are going to buy it. If you teach writing, they’ll buy your book no matter what the topic is.
4. Your readers
If you have a regular column in a print or online newspaper or magazine, your readers are part of your platform. They like your writing, they know who you are, and they will hear about your book (because you will tell them!) when it comes out.
5. Conference attendees
Speaking at conferences and other events is another great way to build your platform. Attendees will read your bio in the program, will hear your name when you speak, and may even ask you for a business card. (Be sure to keep a stack close at hand!)
6. Everyone you meet
You don't have to speak on a panel to build your platform. You may perform in a show, co-produce an event, attend a meeting, or simply show up a party thrown by a friend. Everyone you meet and shake hands with has the potential to become part of your platform. Just be careful not to annoy them by pitching your book the minute you open your mouth.
For more information on platform, be sure to read this wonderful post by Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writers Digest, which is chock-full of great advice.