Chip MacGregor

January 14, 2013

As an author, how can I build a better platform?


This past weekend, someone wrote to say, “You have often talked about ‘platform’ on this blog. How do you define a platform? And what do you suggest I do in order to build a platform for myself as an author?”

An author’s platform is the collection of opportunities a writer has with potential readers. So, in many ways, a platform is simply a number. Think of it this way…

Does he have a TV show? If so, how many viewers does he have? That’s a number. Is she on the radio? If so, how many listeners does she have? That’s a number. Does he write a column for a newspaper or magazine? If so, what’s the readership? That’s a number. Does she blog? If so, how many people read her each month? That’s a number. Every opportunity an author has is reducible to a number.

Does he have a busy speaking schedule? If so, how many people does he speak to over the course of a year? How often? How big are the venues? Do his speeches get recorded and sold to listeners? If so, how many copies sell in a year? Is she a recognized expert in a particular area? Do people recognize her name? Does he have a popular website? Is she a regular writer for an e-zine? Does he often get contacted by the media? Do people recognize her name? 

Some numbers are easy to add up. Others are considerably harder — but it’s usually not that difficult to come up with the number of people a writer can reach through his or her current opportunities. Let’s call each one a “touchpoint” — an opportunity for the writer to touch a reader in some way that is already established. Perhaps they listen to her on the radio, or read her blog, or go to hear her speak at conferences… for each person they reach, the writer has the chance to touch that potential reader with words.

You add up all those touchpoints, and you’ve got the author’s platform. It’s a number. In many ways, it is the author’s visibility, and it reflect the author’s ability to attract readers to a book. In simple terms, that’s a platform. The number of people you can legitimately claim to touch with your words. And, of course, a publisher is going to be interested in you making a case for as large a number as possible.  

As for how how to build a better platform, that means generating a bigger number… and it’s going to be unique for each author. I suggest you ask yourself what you can be known for, and how you can expand your points of contact with other people. For some, that means establishing a speaking schedule. For others, it means writing articles and getting them posted on blogs and e-zines. For still others, it means becoming the go-to person when the media needs an expert on a particular topic. Your platform will be different from everyone else’s. Does that help?

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  • :Donna Marie says:

    This actually WAS helpful, Chip 🙂 Whittling its definition down to “numbers,” made it much easier to absorb and see clearly. Thank you! 🙂

  • I will say that an effective way for fiction authors to build their platforms is to offer samples of their WRITING to potential readers. My blog was based around the first 13 chaps of my paranormal novel (which never got published, BTW–too short at 50K). I got lots of READERS interested in my writing that way (and five years later, they still ask for the ending to that book!).

    My friend Becky Doughty is also doing this with her serial posting called “Elderberry Croft,” which has monthly installments of a story, all melding together into a publishable book at the end of the year.

    I know we have to be careful with not putting up books we plan to submit, that sort of thing. But dropping some reading for blog-readers to “munch” on is an increasingly effective tool, I believe–going back to your prediction of the rise of the serial, Chip.

    • Becky Doughty says:

      Thanks for the mention, Heather! Wow! I’m praying that Chip’s right about this one 🙂 and that my readers will feel like I have THEIR interests in mind, not just my own. I’ve gotten so tired of talking about me, about my journey, even about my spiritual walk at times – it’s good to write about other “people” (my characters) I care about, FOR people I care about (my readers.) And Lord willing, I’ll end up with some precious die-hard fans when this is all said and done!

      Great post, Chip. Good suggestions on getting our names out there. A lot to chew on.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Glad you found it helpful, Becky.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      An interesting thought, Heather. Thanks. I may need to do a post sometime about “should a writer post his or her chapters on someone’s blog?”

  • Thanks buddy. That does help….Blessings, SR

  • Jeremy Myers says:

    It helps… but we authors like “concrete” numbers. You know, 20,000 unique visitors per months, 10,000 twitter followers, 6 speaking engagements per year with 500+ in attendance, etc. But it sounds like raw numbers will be different for each person depending on what kind of platform they have?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      That’s true, Jeremy… but the fact is, for a publisher the bigger the numbers, the better it is.

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