Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

The Author’s Platform ~ Community of Interest

Every day, over 2,000 books are published.

There’s no way around it. Authors need a platform—a place to stand above the crowd and get peoples’ attention.

If you self-publish and don’t already have a congregation of admirers, there is no other way to sell books than to build a platform.

Well, I suppose, if you had the money and the time, you could have a boat-load of books printed, pack ’em in a van, and drive all over the place meeting people and convincing them they need to buy your book. Technically, that’s still building a platform, even if it means erecting it in one place, preaching to the masses, packing it up, and moving it to another place :-)

Even respected agents like Rachelle Gardner can make a case for traditionally published authors needing to build their own platform. Here’s a quote from her post, The Dreaded Author Platform :

“…I almost wanted to announce that I’d no longer accept queries from anyone who doesn’t already have a good solid head start on a platform. (I won’t draw such a clear line in the sand, but consider yourself informed.)”

The consensus opinion about when to start building a platform is well before the book is written.

Obviously, if you don’t have books already published, all you’ve got for building materials is yourself.

So, assume for a moment you have a great idea for a book, you think you can write it, and you want to build a platform.

The most rational opinion I’ve found for how to do it is to start a blog. Write about yourself. Write your opinions about writing, itself. Offer to interview published authors on the blog. Offer to interview authors who have yet to be published. You may want to guest post on others’ blogs and have them guest post on yours.

Study how to increase traffic to a blog.

After that, you may want to (many people say you must) begin linking to your blog on Facebook and Twitter. Many folks point out that being genuinely helpful in these social media spaces is critical—you can’t just go running around and constantly shouting about how great your book is. I definitely agree; but it takes time to find the people who really matter to you.

Facebook and Twitter are, to me, two varieties of wild parties. You arrive and start talking to people. Most of them want to promote their own project. Sometimes you find people you can establish a mutually beneficial relationship with. Still, there are a huge number of people; and, again, it takes time to find the right ones.

There are other ways to build an author platform. Personally, I have no time for anything but what I’ve just indicated, as a well-respected way to build a platform.

Well, no time except for my giving away as many copies of the manuscript of my book as I can. If this sounds completely ridiculous, check out this link to Cory Doctorow’s ideas about giving it away

If you’re a budding author and decide to blog a platform for yourself, I can’t recommend a better site for learning how to shape a blog for maximum effect than ProBlogger!

So, what’s with that phrase in the title of this post: Community of Interest?

Well, one of the principles I try to follow in my life is: to achieve anything of lasting value, a person needs to work with a community of like-minded people. Whether they’re called friends, followers, fans, or associates, they are the key to establishing a project on solid ground.

To me, building an author platform and building a community of interest are the same thing.

I would love to hear your opinions/experiences/questions on this topic in our comments section :-)
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12 responses to “The Author’s Platform ~ Community of Interest

  1. Catana April 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Your community of interest *is* your platform. Yes! And I keep finding successful authors who don’t use Facebook or Twitter.


  2. Karla Telega April 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    My problem with Twitter and Facebook is that the conventional wisdom says you need to connect to people in your target audience, but instead I keep connecting with other writers. Honestly, hearing about how somebody’s cat hocked up a hairball on the carpet holds little interest for me. I don’t really care that you’re at Starbucks or your toaster broke.

    I love my readers immensely, and I’m always tickled when they take the time to comment on my blog. I just wish I could find a better balance in my network connections (without being bored to tears).

    I’ve started building connections on Linked In with other professionals in the humor and/or publishing field. I’m hoping that will strengthen my platform.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      Oh, yes, Karla, there have been days I wished I’d written a book about cats hocking up hairballs :-)

      I think the single most true thing I’ve read about author platforms is that they take time, period, whatever method one uses…


  3. Catana April 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I found a nice quote on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog this morning ““Books do not spoil. And a reader who finds your book four years after you publish it is just as good as a reader who finds it the day after you publish it.”

    Those in the know keep talking about ebooks as a long tail endeavor, something that builds slowly, and lasts. We need to think about platforms that way. Rushing around, socializing all over the web, may not be the best way of building a platform that will build into something stable and useful.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      Yes, Catana, just going around socializing is not a key to catching the long-tail; building real relationships is. I attended a webinar with the folks from Copyblogger yesterday and the fascinating and critical point was raised about the people who know you but don’t interact–like blog readers who read you faithfully but never comment–yet, they go out and tell ten other people to check you out.

      So, even the relationships we don’t know we have can be important.

      And, thanks for reminding us about books not spoiling :-) This frenetic world we live in with its greed-driven consumerism can tend to push folks into decisions in the short-term that are disastrous in the long-term…


  4. Simone Benedict April 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this post. I hope you write more about what your experience is in future posts.


  5. Nicole April 27, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Hey Sandor :D I just wanted to thank you for the downloads. I’ve started rereading the first few chapters and I just wanted you to know I reallly am enjoying it so far. ^_^ A Gift for telling stories, you have.


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