I just read a linked-in discussion where someone asked for a clearer definition of “platform” and what should go in your book promotion plan (in your book proposal). I responded to the discussion and then thought it would make a useful blog post.
Note: This post has been updated as of 3/3/2021 to reflect changes in book promotion.
Your book promotion plan should:
1. Demonstrate that you know your audience and you know where they hang out online and offline.
2. Provide a detailed plan for how you will reach this audience where they hang out, based on the foundation or platform you have already developed. This includes:
Mailing List and Website Traffic: People on your mailing list who open your emails are already engaged with you and likely to buy your book. Those who have bought programs, products or services from you in the past are the most likely to buy. Provide those numbers. Website traffic can also be a benefit to include in your promotions section if the numbers are impressive.
Online media: This includes online news sites and shows, your blog, online articles, social media, YouTube videos, podcasts, social networking sites (they’ll want to see you already have a presence), social bookmarking and more.
Public Speaking and In Person Events: Where will you speak? If you list speaking gigs in your plan (which is always a good idea), publishers want to see that you are already speaking to at least some of these targeted companies, associations or conferences. Include numbers of people at the events where you speak. If events are on hold (such as due to COVID-19) see if you can schedule and offer some online events and courses, whether you offer them on your own or through conferences, associations and other groups, and mention recent and upcoming events (in person or virtual) in your proposal.
Training: Include workshops, seminars, teleseminars, zoom training, webinars and any teaching you plan to do–on-line or offline. Will companies that hire you to speak or train purchase your book in bulk? State specifics in your book proposal’s book promotion plan.
Traditional media: TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines (both articles by you and articles that cite or quote you). Your plan should show that you know what media your specific readers buy and read. Publishers also love to see that you plan to hire a publicist–especially if you can quote a significant budget for such ventures.
Joint Ventures: If you don’t have a large list, the way to reach the most people online is by venturing with other people who have large lists. What’s in it for them? Perhaps a percentage of the profits of a webinar you’re plugging, or you’ll interview them for your list. Again, if this is part of your plan, you need to show you’re doing this or, at the very least, you plan to hire someone who’s facilitated joint ventures before.
Your Own Shows: Do you host a TV show, radio show or weekly podcast? This is always a plus to publishers and agents, but they’ll want to know the size of your audience.
Endorsements and reviews: Publishers love to see endorsements that are already written by bestselling authors, experts in your field or celebrities. You may want to list those who have already written endorsements, those who have agreed to write an endorsement and/or review in the future and those people you plan to approach for endorsements or reviews (if you have a relationship with them) and the relationship you have with those people. If you don’t have a relationship or connection and they haven’t promised a review or endorsement, don’t list them; you can still contact them later but publishers won’t put much faith in their position on the list. Will they also do anything to promote? Include that.
Amazon bestseller campaign: Amazon is such a big player in book sales that you want publishers to know you understand how to leverage Amazon. Have you done keyword research for your title and subtitle? Will you hire someone with a strong track record to organize an Amazon Bestseller campaign for you? Why is this important? Amazon’s algorithm kicks in to show your book more frequently once you hit certain benchmarks, including bestseller in one or most categories. Will you do any paid advertising on Amazon? If so mention that and your Amazon advertising budget.
Your Website Speaks Volumes About Promotion and Platform
Publishers and agents will also look at your website. Be sure to include a media page or press room; speaking gigs, training and events; and other pages that highlight your platform. If you have a blog or podcast, they will also look to see how engaged your audience is. This posts tells you exactly what you need on an author website.
Reader-Focused Book Promotion
When I work with a client on their book proposal, I also tailor my book promotion plan suggestions to their particular book and audience. That’s the creative part. We also include any well-connected close friends or colleagues who have offered to help them make connections in the media or online.
Remember, publishers and agents have been burned in the past (years ago) by authors who wrote a great plan but did not follow through. They’re not so naïve anymore. They’ll want to see that you already have an author platform and that you’ve at least started many of the projects you suggest in your promotion plan.
Platform Legitimizes Your Book Promotion Plan
So, what’s platform? Your platform is the number of people you reach online and in person–through your mailing list, traffic to your website (unique visitors, not hits), your blog, your speaking engagements, TV and radio interviews, podcasts, joint ventures, teleseminars, webinars, magazine articles/interviews, newspaper articles/interviews, online articles, youtube and other video sites, your social media activities and any other way you reach people.
You should indicate your platform in your “about the author” section. Then build on that and add other ideas in the book promotion plan.
If the promotion plan is to “pie-in-the-sky” (meaning you haven’t actually done any of these things yet and it’s all a “plan” but not in motion), publishers will consider you too much of a risk. They want to see that you already have a platform.
Worried you don’t have enough of a platform? Work on it. With time, you will.
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.