How to Publish: Build Your Platform

While you’re working on building up some credentials and gathering information in order to improve your chances of publishing, you should also work on building up your platform of potential reviewers, supporters, and customers. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to establish some kind of fan club, but it does mean you need to start networking with people who may be able to help you spread the word about your book. Publishers are looking for writers who have ready-made networks for selling their books.

While sitting on a panel on publishing this past weekend one of the speakers mentioned that selling a book is a person-to-person transaction. If you can think along those lines, then you’re in the right mind set for building a publishing platform. How can you spread the word about yourself and your future? That is where we’ll start.

Anyone who is planning on writing a book should seriously consider blogging. It’s one of the most effective ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field. If you can build up a strong blog that readers find helpful or insightful, you can then send a copy of your blog stats to a publisher as a concrete example of your appeal to readers and they will serve as one effective avenue of connecting with potential readers and continuing to connect with them after they have read your book.

Start thinking about events, conferences, or gatherings where you can begin to talk about your work. If you’re involved in children’s literature, write some stories and start visiting local schools to read for the students or host a free workshop on how to illustrate a book. If you’re into fiction, consider starting a newsletter where you send out a new chapter each month or week from a specially written story. If you’re writing nonfiction, you can either attend or lead a workshop, join a local writing group, or publish your own newsletter in either print or over e-mail. 

Submitting articles to a few key online or print magazines will also put you on course to build a portfolio of published works that will make yourself more marketable to a publisher. Keep in mind that your best bet is to focus on roughly five magazines at first and establish a relationship with the editors so that you can provide exactly what they’re looking for. They may even help promote your book in the future. Over time you’ll hone in on the magazines that best fit the kind of writing you do, and you’ll also be able to explain other markets that may work.

Of course you may not be able to start teaching or leading a workshop right off the bat, but these are goals you should be aiming for as you work to establish a platform of potential readers. The key is to determine what you want to write, and to then think of ways you can start connecting your writing with readers.

Perhaps one of the hardest things for writers to confront when breaking into this field is the need for self-promotion. However, if you can keep in mind that you’re providing a service to your readers (advice, wisdom, or just a great story to enjoy), you should be able to start looking for ways to promote your writing and your insight as an author. This dilemma of self-promotion is where we’re go next.