Author Platforms: What Are They And How Can You Build Them?

Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel about caregiving and ALS. Her short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Awards. Her fiction has won Gold and Silver Medals from Readers' Favorites International Book Awards, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, and many others.

In this post I’m going to explain author platforms so that you can decide whether you want to invest time in building one. Essentially, author platforms are soapboxes. Authors stand on their platforms to gain the attention of a crowd.

Politicians have platforms, as do political parties. It’s helpful to think of the political analogy because, as an author, you, too, have something to say–an idea or story you want to share with the world.

Like the platforms of political parties,  author platforms allow you to stand above the crowd and broadcast your message. Author platforms help you develop relationships with your readers. Just as in politics, readers expect you to deliver on your promises. In exchange for a reader’s loyalty, you will provide the same kind of information or entertainment you provided before.


Jimmy Carter standing on a soapbox in Tallahassee

What is the “message” you want to get out into the world? It’s probably this: “Buy my book.” But “buy my book” may also mean “buy my message to save the world from global warming” or “let me share what I know about caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.” Your desire to share your message with the world can also mean that you promise to divert your readers or entertain them. In exchange for your readers’ hard-earned cash, you’re going to deliver information that will solve a pressing problem or transport your fans out of their ordinary lives. Image from Flickr via State Library and Archives of Florida

If you’re writing nonfiction and putting yourself forward as an expert–a doctor, a diet guru, a relationship counselor, or a lawyer–then by all means you will want to “build a platform.” Who wouldn’t want to be Dr. Phil or Deepak Chopra? But if you write fiction, you aren’t trying to solve anyone’s psychological or financial problems.