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Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell author of The Father of All Things 

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How to Build Your Author’s Platform From Scratch


By Sophfronia Scott, “The Book Sistah”


These days it’s the magic word in publishing. When a publisher wants to buy, they’re not just buying your book or your idea, they’re buying you and the many ways you reach people. Some new authors focus solely on writing their books, thinking they can work on their platform after the book is published. Unfortunately, the business doesn’t work that way. You can’t wait to sell your book to build a platform, because the platform is what helps sell your book. So get started now, even if you’re still in the writing stage. Here’s how you do it.

Decide On a Target Market
It’s tempting to skip this step, especially if you feel your book or story speaks to everyone. That may be, but it’s awfully difficult–and expensive–to market to everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re shutting out potential customers, it just means you’re focusing your laser to greatest effect. So if you survived two back surgeries and your story is about dealing with chronic pain, you may target people with back injuries, but that doesn’t mean other sufferers of chronic pain (people with arthritis, for instance) will miss out on your message.

How Will You Talk to Your Market?
Thanks to the internet you have many free and low cost ways to communicate with your audience. Why is this important? Because this is how you establish yourself as an expert in your subject area. For instance, you may consider yourself an expert in back pain if you’ve developed ways to cope after having two surgeries. But you’re a more visible expert, with loads more credibility if you have a television show, newsletter or radio show where you discuss ways of dealing with chronic pain. And here’s the best part–your show doesn’t have to be on one of the big networks or even on cable. You can post your own show on the web! Likewise you can have your own radio show or podcast on the web. And blogs get tons of attention as well. This is important if you’re not known in your field. Here’s a great example. “Sportscaster Chronicles” is a blog and podcast by John Lewis, a New York City writer who is developing his platform as a sportcaster historian. You can view his handiwork at

Send Out Press Releases
Don’t keep it a secret. Let the media know you’re an expert available to comment on relevant news stories. You don’t want to send releases out without reason, though. For instance, almost all of John Lewis’s sportscaster broadcasts are connected to something currently happening in the sports world. A few weeks ago it was comments that Bryant Gumbel made during the Olympics. Before that it was the death of legendary sportscaster Curt Gowdy. He can send press releases alerting reporters of the material especially when, as in Gowdy’s case, he has unique information–John had interviewed Gowdy in recent months.

Let’s use the back pain story as another example. What if a popular painkiller is pulled from the market. You could send out a press release saying something like “10 Pain Relieving Exercises Developed for Former Users of Medicine X”. Reporters love stuff like that. You’ve given them a fresh angle on a story they’re already covering. And when you write your query letter or book proposal, you get to say, “pain expert quoted in magazines and newspapers”. And these days you can send a press release out via email or use free distribution sites such as, or

Speak Your Mind
Speaking is a great way to get people familiar with you. If you fear speaking think of it this way–pretend you are already on book tour and this is just another forum where you get to talk about your subject! You can start out speaking locally and doing it for free. If you’re writing a memoir on your experiences in World War II, there may be high school history classes interested in hearing your story. Or, if you’ve learned how to cope with chronic pain, you could address support groups who deal with the same struggles. Speaking is also a great opportunity for adding people to your list so that you can let them know when your book comes out. Your list will always be an important marketing tool.

You don’t have to have an elaborate PowerPoint presentation or music or flashing lights to be a speaker. Just choose one or two aspects of your story or subject (you don’t want to give away your whole book!) and start presenting them. Groups such as local Rotary clubs are always looking for speakers. If you feel you need to polish your skills, join a Toastmasters group. Bottom line, if you have a compelling story, some group large or small will want to hear it.

Publish Articles
You don’t have to send a bunch of letters out to editors trying to get an assignment to write an article. You can write a meaty, content-filled article and distribute it on the web. This is another way to establish your expertise. As with the press releases, there are many sites where you can make your articles (usually 800-1,000 words in length) available for use in other websites, newsletters and blogs. It’s an excellent way to get your name in front of new audience members. Two popular distribution sites are and

Will You Pass the Test?
How does this all sound to you? If you’re excited by these ideas and see them as opportunities to talk and write more about something you’re deeply interested in, that’s fantastic. It means you’re on the right track–you’ve chosen a topic or story you’re passionate about. If you aren’t interested or motivated enough to want to speak and write articles or press releases connected to your topic, you may want to reconsider your book. After all, this is the kind of stuff you’ll have to do at some point to sell your book. If you don’t want to do it now, how will you sell your book later? Even more to the point, if you’re not willing or interested enough to put this kind of activity behind your book, why should a publisher be interested in working with you? You build your platform, you build your book’s future. So give it your best shot. If you feel you need help brainstorming ideas or developing your plan, hire a coach or consultant to support you. Often it’s easier to move forward when you can better see the road ahead.

© 2006 Sophfronia Scott