From Jane Friedman:
Certain words and phrases are bandied about all the time in publishing, but they don’t always make sense. One of the biggest is author platform. You may have attended enough writing seminars and conferences to recognize that even people in publishing aren’t consistently using the term.
How and where authors reach readers: that’s platform. It’s a combination of four factors, and let’s use the TV show Gilmore Girls to help visualize it.
- Message: an announcement shouted to the citizens of Stars Hollow from the gazebo
- Target Audience: the Stars Hollow citizens gathered to hear it
- Platform Tools: the gazebo and the directional signs to it
- Brand Elements: the gazebo they see and experience
- If your message and tools are built effectively, those in your target audience will be so invested in your platform, they will personally deliver that message to anyone drinking coffee with Lorelai and Rory at Luke’s Diner.
If you need to run off and watch a few episodes to understand my analogy, I’ll wait here. For those who have already seen the show, let’s start with the author message…
Author message (the announcement from the gazebo)
I know you have something to say. You wrote a book! But your author message is not the subject of that book. Rather, your author message is tied to why you wrote that book.
For instance, my first novel, Carrying Independence, is about a guy hired to help gather the final signatures on the Declaration of Independence. But why I wrote this story has nothing to do with the document. I firmly believe we can learn about ourselves by traveling and engaging in history.
Sure, other authors are also motivated by one or both of those things, but when I couple my belief with my particular brand of humor and unbridled nerdy enthusiasm, my author message becomes intrinsically mine. It becomes my purpose, and one my readers can experience with me. They can #TravelWithAdventure while #ChasingHistories, too.
For some authors, the reason they write is to provide an escape. For others, it may be to debunk faulty thinking. Once you define your message, you must figure out how to share your message.
Target audience (the citizens gathering around the gazebo)
These are the loyal readers most likely to gather around your gazebo (real or virtual). If you are a young adult (YA) author, yet your Twitter feed and primary contacts are moms and librarians, you’re not speaking directly to your readers. Or, as I said to a YA author with this problem, your target audience of teenagers is talking about books in the cafeteria while you’re hanging out in the teachers’ lounge sounding like a boring grown-up. Yes, librarians recommend books, but authors should connect with the bullseye of their target—the people most likely to jam their noses into your book and who will then turn to their friend and say, “You also have to jam your nose into this book.”
Your readers hang out in certain places online and physically. They have other books, magazines, movies, vocabulary, and activities they love (or hate). For example, if you write Georgian romances, your readers are likely women ages 16 to 65 who read Jane Austen, follow Colin Firth, know the difference between corsets and stays, and might be members of Regency societies.
Platform tools (the gazebo and directional signs to it)
If all you have is a gazebo from which to sell your book, your readers will consist of only those citizens who happen to come to the town square. That means you need to think bigger, broader. A platform tool is anything a reader will engage with that comes from you. If they can see it, touch it, or hear it, it’s a platform tool. If you’re a cookbook author or your novel includes recipes in the back, your loyal readers may even taste it!
Tools, like directional signage pointing to the gazebo, are the means by which your target audience finds and engages with you. What are your primary tools? Your book(s), website, and newsletter. You also have social media, advertising, publicity, presentations, and even printed materials such as bookmarks and business cards.
However, not all platform tools are effective at capturing your particular target audience. YA readers are less likely to be on Facebook than on Instagram, for example. And AARP events and retirement communities won’t be ideal places for middle-grade authors to give presentations.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman
PG never watched The Gilmore Girls, but the OP seemed more than a little saccharin and gimmicky for him. He’ll rely on others to comment on how effective the metaphors in the OP are.