Establishing Your Marketing Platform: Introduction

By Chris Bass, director of marketing services at WestBow Press

True story … A few months ago one of my colleagues asked an author what he was doing to establish his platform. His response: “Platform? I’m an author not a carpenter, why do I need a platform?” This might be an extreme example, but nonetheless it illustrates how misunderstood building a platform for your book can be.

What is a marketing platform?

A platform is simply a complete and comprehensive plan that defines your audience, how you’re going to reach them and why they should care about you and your book.

Why do you need one?

  1. You need to plan for the journey. Think about how you prepare for a trip. You think about things like: the weather, your attire, the people you're meeting with, whether it’s for business or pleasure, what activities you’ll be doing, how you’re going to get there. As you think about all these things for your travel plan, it helps ensure that you have the most relaxing or productive time possible. In the same way your platform ensures you have the best chance of achieving your goals for your book.
  2. Platforms help you set your goals – and stick with it. If you’re interested in getting the attention of literary agents they are going to want to see commitment to building an audience and consistent/sustainable growth. Your platform provides the discipline to help you achieve the growth and accomplish your goals.
  3. It helps you budget wisely. In our experience there is no shortage of ideas for what you can do to promote your book. However most of us don’t have an unlimited supply of resources (time and money) to do everything we can imagine. A complete and comprehensive platform will help you identify the best things you can do to promote your book, while at the same time mitigate waste of your precious resources.

What are the three Key Platform Ingredients to success?

Now that you know what a platform is and why you need one, we can begin to explore three Key Platform Ingredients (KPIs) so you can start building yours.

  1. Audience Insights. You need to understand who your audience is, why they should care about your book, what they are interested in and where they go to get information. A strong definition of your audience will help define the next two KPIs.
  2. Messaging Strategy. Commonly referred to as an elevator speech, your messaging strategy is a compelling statement 40 words or less that gets a prospective reader to say, “You know, I need to check out this book.”
  3. Initiatives. The third and final KPI is the selection of the most effective initiatives that will have the biggest impact and make the best use of your resources (time and money).

I’ve outlined the KPIs needed to establish a complete and comprehensive platform for you and your book(s). As you consider establishing your platform, you need to do so in the context of the outcome you desire, such as selling books, raising awareness or both. Awareness and sales are two sides of the same coin. A complete and comprehensive platform will help ensure you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. In my next segment, I'll dig deeper into how to define your audience – the first KPI in establishing your platform.

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