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The Author Platform Explained

It’s essential these days for authors to have a clear understanding of writing platforms. Learn what an author’s platform is and ways to build a writing platform from today’s tip of the day, taken from the book The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen.

What is an Author Platform?

Platform is the turf you claim and name as your area of expertise in your writing life, and it’s everything you do to make that expertise visible. Just as a thesis is the foundation of a term paper around which its argument is built, a platform is an organizing principle around which a writer’s many expressions of work revolve. A platform says to both the writer and the world, “I am an expert in [fill in the blank with your specialty]! Yours should be a topic or craft or theme or audience that has energy and curiosity for you: one that you know about and want to invest a whole lot more time knowing a whole lot more about.

With such clarity of purpose, over time you will likely publish, teach, lead, and share wisdom in ways that express, explore, and give shape to your expertise. And as this happens, you will start to become recognized as an authority in your chosen realm.

Platform is both the destination and the path. You build it as you go. It keeps you moving forward, tells you where forward is, and is the measure against which you decide if you’re getting there.

Using a Writing Platform & Publishing Your Work

Which came first, the publishing or the platform? This seems to be a topic of some confusion for folks. So let’s break it down.

Platform is about becoming a recognizable expert. The book publishing ideal is to first build a platform, and then leverage that platform to pitch, sell, and write the book. But there are many stages of publishing (articles, essays, poems, stories) along the way that precede becoming an author and contribute to growing a platform. And for many writers, those early stages of publishing can be slow going.

The good news is that there are many ways to grow your visibility as an expert in your field that are available to you right now. So while you’re waiting, for example, for your next short story to find a safe landing in just the right literary journal, there is much you could be doing to develop your platform, including:

  • Teach what you know.
  • Self-publish: Write and sell instructional e-books or publish print-on-demand collections of your creative writing (only if you are not seeking “mainstream” publication for this work).
  • Offer tips, insights, articles, and links via a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Squidoo.
  • Read your work publicly as much as possible.
  • Start your own online community to explore your topic.
  • Offer coaching, consulting, or editing in your field.
  • Create a subscription publication, such as an e-zine or newsletter.
  • Join organizations in your field that allow you to gather and share ideas and opportunities with like-minded others.
  • Publish magazine or newspaper articles on your topic or expertise.
  • Share content with business or organizations that serve people in your area of expertise. (For example, if your platform is dog training, maybe local pet stores would want to feature a Q&A with you on their websites or as part of their monthly newsletters.)

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