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Should I Focus on My Book/Proposal, Author Platform or Both?

book writing coach lisa tenerA client asked me today whether he should focus only on writing his book proposal or work on building his author platform at the same time. First, my advice to him, followed by my advice for you.

For him: “I understand you’re feeling overwhelmed, but right now you’re not getting contact information for the people interested in your topic. If you write the proposal and completely wait to develop your platform, it will be a hurry up and wait scenario, where we can’t put the proposal out until we’ve built more platform.” [His is a fairly competitive category in the book market.]

While this author is appearing on TV, he would get much more leverage from his TV appearances–and articles–by developing a mailing list. And that means he needs a way to “collect” names and e-mails of people interested in the expertise he has to share.

I suggested he come up with a schedule that separated out the different tasks. He can work on the proposal twice a week; let’s say Mondays and Wednesdays. Then, separately, he can schedule an hour or two once a week–Fridays, for instance–where he focuses on one specific platform building tasks.

For example, I suggested that one week he create a free opt-in gift for visitors to his website; another week he can add the functionality to his website so that people can sign up for that gift and it can interface with contstant contact or mailchimp to create a database that’s easy to mail from. I also suggested shortcuts like using a tip list from an existing blog post to create the free gift.  By breaking tasks down into small manageable chunks, we can focus on the most important aspects of platform building–those that will create the greatest momentum and are most important to start early.

By separating out the two tasks, he’ll continue to make progress on both. And by taking small steps on growing author platform, mainly growing his mailing list, he should be able to do it without getting overwhelmed.

How about you, though? If you follow my advice to him, that’s ideal, because platform growth is cumulative. The more you do up front, the more momentum you can gain for when your book proposal is ready (or your book is ready to launch). However, if you sense that the platform building will just overwhelm you or impede your creative process, do what you need to do to get your book proposal–or book–written first. Click to Tweet this Post.

What questions do you have about growing your author platform?

Lisa Tener

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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Christine Allen says

    Thanks Lisa! You said essentially the same thing to me via twitter and it is helpful, since I might tend to do on thing or the other (or sometimes neither). Your strategy for breaking “building a better platform” down into steps is useful also. Writing specific things I am going to do on the calendar, rather than “work on book” or “work on platform” is much more helpful!

  2. Marieca says

    Hi Lisa,

    Very helpful post! Do you think it’s important for a fiction writer to build an author platform prior to releasing their first novel? If so, any tips on how to go about doing that?

    Thank you

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Marieca,
      My specialty is nonfiction, not fiction, but I have heard that platform has become more and more important for fiction authors, too. One possibility is to start a blog. Another complementary strategy is to form relationships with book bloggers–read their blogs, comment thoughtfully, share their blog posts on social media. And have a free opt-in gift on your website–something that relates to the subject you write about and that will be meaningful or attractive to your core readers, so that they will give you their e-mail address and first name in exchange for the free gift. Rachel Horwitz just signed with an agent. She is a blogger and a fiction author. You might ask on her writing blog.

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