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Got Your Platform Handy?

By Brian Hill and Dee Power copyright all rights reserved worldwide May 2004

All industries need buzzwords. They are like secret handshakes you can use to determine whose an industry insider and who’s not. And they must change with a certain frequency, like passwords.

By far the hottest buzzword in the publishing industry today is PLATFORM. This simply means the various skills, contacts, media access, personality, enthusiasm, or established fan base an author brings to the table, that can result in higher sales for his/her books. An author with a national radio show would be highly prized by a publisher, because potentially millions of people listen to him each day or each week. A marketing director at a chain bookstore told us that these days it isn’t enough for an author to just show up at a book signing and, well, sign books. Having an interesting, entertaining presentation to give the audience helps the bookstore create interest in the event and draw more people.

Another way of looking at PLATFORM is that it is anything that causes a significant number of people to know you are alive, and means you can use to let these people know about your book. It could be your web site that generates thousands of “hits” each week because you have contests, promotions and giveaways. You might have an on-line newsletter you distribute that reaches an audience of 10,000. You might have a newspaper column or write regularly for a high circulation magazine. You might be viewed as an expert on a certain subject by the media and be interviewed frequently. Better yet, you might have your own radio or TV show.

What sort of PLATFORM does a bestselling fiction author have? The best kind: a recognizable “brand name” and an established base of readers or fans who will undoubtedly at least take a look at whatever new book you put out there. The brand name also means your publicist can book you on the talk shows or interviews with the largest audiences. Earlier in a bestselling author’s career there is often a “survival of the fittest” aspect to it. The author who can get in their car and drive to city after city virtually hand-selling their books to bookstore, libraries, and appearing wherever anyone will let them, helps put the first few planks in this PLATFORM.

For all aspiring bestselling authors, this is the phrase to keep in mind:

PLATFORM BE GOOD, LACK OF PLATFORM BE BAD

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