The Reason Your Author Platform Matters

The Reason Your Author Platform Matters, Rachel Thompson, BadRedheadMedia, @BadRedheadMedia

Every day I hear prickly, sometimes even angry authors, discussing The Evils of book marketing:

“Blogging is a waste of time. I could be writing.” 

“Social media doesn’t result in sales, so forget it. Not worth it.” 

“Author platform is just a dumb term some bean dip in a suit made up. Next year they’ll call it something else.” 

Oh, dear. Let’s deconstruct.

Author Platform 

Many writers run kicking and screaming from the term author platform, but get over it. If you have any hope of marketing your books — er, selling your books — you need to understand that selling books is a business. Art is commerce. You are part of the machine that you are so vehemently protesting. Irony, huh?

Your platform consists of how visible you are, your authority on a particular topic(s), proven reach, and knowing your demographic (Source: Jane Friedman). Most authors I work with have or know maybe one of these. Do your homework.

According to Bowker data (2013), over 1,000 books are released every day (if you have updated data, please pass it along). That’s about 400,000 books each year. How do you plan to stand out if ‘writing is all that matters?’The Reason Your Author Platform Matters, Rachel Thompson, BadRedheadMedia, @BadRedheadMedia

Branding, platform, marketing, advertising — all those crazy ‘buzzwords’ — don’t sound so crazy when you are faced with the herculean task of trying to get someone to notice you, your book, and actually you know, sell something.

Remember when you were a kid and you and your buddy decided to sell watered-down lemonade to passers-by on the street corner for a quarter? You made signs, jumped up and down, waved like you were on acid? Maybe you even got creative and used one specific bright red marker on your signs so your lemonade stand stood out from mean ole Mary Jane’s, with her perfect Marcia hair who lived down the street, who you KNOW was handing out sneezers.

Guess what we marketing people call that? Marketing. Advertising. Dare I say, Branding?

Smart Work, Hard Work 

I’ve released five books (award-winning, best-selling) in the last five years (slow by some people’s standards but hey, I’m a busy girl, what with running a business, being a single mom, and writing my next two books. I can tell you that getting all five of my books to #1 bestseller status on Amazon didn’t come from magical fairies sprinkling bestseller dust over me while I’m writing or sleeping (I miss sleep).

It happened because I made it happen. I work hard to build relationships with readers, authors, publishing and industry folks, book bloggers, and reviewers. I don’t sit back eating bonbons while the fairies dance around me, making the magic happen. How do I do it?

Write Great Books 

I started writing at age ten, pursued Written Communications and Journalism in college, worked at a magazine during and after college, sold stories to publications in my twenties, actively blogged and wrote articles for years, and released my first book in my late forties. I tell you that to show that it’s a l o n g process.

Beyond writing award-winning books, I work with professionals: editors, graphic designers, formatters, etc. I write draft after draft after draft, working with trusted critique partners willing to honestly tell me when my work is shit or when it sails. If your writing needs work, working with the best pros in the world won’t help your book sales if your writing isn’t the best it can be. Learn your craft.

The Marketing Mix

Beyond writing, what’s my secret? It’s not a secret because I blather on constantly about building relationships. You’re probably sick of it by now, but it’s so true. How do I build relationships? Let’s look at Jane’s definition above and break it down.

  • Demographic: I share lots of interesting content (other than ‘buy my book!’ because dear god, if that’s all I knew how to write, why on earth would anyone buy my book at all?), articles, other people’s posts and articles, quotes, pictures, videos, and yes, the occasional promotional giveaway or sale, all having to do with what my demographic is interested in because I targeted specific people with similar interests.
  • Visibility: I’m very visible: I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram — social media is best used for building relationships, not for blasting ‘buy my book!’ links. I blog weekly (my author blog and my business blog), I guest blog, I write for Huffington Post,, I pay for low-cost ads, I do blog tours. If you google RachelintheOC, BadRedhead Media, or Author Rachel Thompson, you’ll find me.

I rarely discuss my books; rather I focus on sharing real-life stories, others’ stories, and meaningful articles and information. Being ‘other-focused’ and generous is like catching flies with honey.

How do I manage to be so visible? A combination of several easy to use social media management tools: Hootsuite, Buffer, Swayy, Google Alerts. Many are free or low-cost. You can use them, too. I schedule in some content and I live interact as well when I’m not writing or handling client accounts or burning dinner for my kids.

  • Authority: This one seems to be trickier, but it’s really not. Everyone is good at something, knows a particular topic intimately. That’s not usually the issue. The issue is giving ourselves permission to be an expert on what we know, what we’re good at.

I was no different. Despite having 17+ years of sales and marketing behind me, it took me awhile to get my feet under me to start my own business, to ignore the people who told me I didn’t know enough about publishing to market books. Having three bestsellers under my belt helped me change my own mind! As did having many authors asking to hire me to help them. My business almost started by default, to be honest.

Share what you enjoy, what you are good at, your struggles. Be authentically you. People respond to that.

Proven Reach:

Your author platform, social media, and blogging are the best way to build a readership and fan base. It’s also how you will connect to book bloggers and reviewers, yet I read a lot of writers moaning about how they’re too busy to interact with readers online.

Um, what? Let me get this straight: you want readers to find you, but you don’t want to interact with them. You just want to write. You want a traditional contract because you think everything will be done for you (not) — I have traditionally published clients right now who hire me to do their social media because their publishing company doesn’t do any of it. 

Here’s the bottom line: publishing companies will look at your manuscript to see if you can write, of course, but they will also look at your ability to bring in readers. That’s how I eventually got an agent and signed to a publishing company (and while that was great for awhile, I didn’t make much. I’m now back to self-publishing and making more!). They will check your social media numbers, website visits and comments, and how you interact with people. They want to see your brand, how well you market, and if you can prove that you have reach.

How can you have that if you don’t have that? *scratches head*

All this hard work I’ve done the last nine to ten years (since I started blogging), is starting to pay off.

Have patience, work smart, be realistic, and have a plan.


Pick up The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge now for only $4.99 (eBook) to learn how to jump-start your author platform right now!




Pictures courtesy of unsplash


  1. Eric on February 21, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Rachel, wonderful post. My plan is to never give up, never surrender, and to follow to your advice.

  2. Susan Fox on February 22, 2015 at 4:51 am

    This is such a great article. I need to read it everyday. It seems discipline and focus is where I need to direct my attention. I think your very point of marketing and social media as a tool for your work can be a source of constant distraction while you are trying to stay focused on writing the material that you need to get out to the media. I find that very ironic don’t you? I really admire your work Rachel. Your article about the fact that you seldom mention your books in all your social media reminded me of the volunteers that worked on this year long project largely I believe because of caring relationships we have between each other. I will be a speaker at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show this year, last year, show owner, Tony Abruscato, asked me if I could help him get rose growers interested in his show and to get the rose gardens there for the first time in over a decade. Rose gardens blooming in March, in Chicago, which most rose growing experts we approached told us it would be impossible due to the early date in March, the climate of Chicago and the process called ‘forcing’ the roses into early blooming. Rachel, we heard quite a few ‘No’s. However we, Tony and I believed it could be done and never gave up, that’s been our goal and God willing we will have now two rose gardens with over 1000 blooming rose bushes! A classic rose garden and a miniature rose garden. Garden Design Magazine (
    interviewed me and I will tweet you the link. I am so proud of all the folks we got together to do this. And its mostly all volunteer. Your article reminded me how most all of us worked on this because of our passion for what we do and came together because of friendship. Thank-you for all you do Rachel to inspire me and the people I see out there. It’s about giving back.
    Warm Regards,
    Susan Fox

  3. Kate Woods on February 22, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for the great information and the motivation this morning. I, like so many writers, am not a great fan of marketing. I can be quoted as saying “Writing is my Passion, and Marketing is my Pain”. However, after having said that, I do market quite a lot now on social media, and your articles and your gentle pushes have been instrumental in helping me with that work. You might say that now, even though I still don’t love marketing, I have now followed many of your suggestions and it’s now less of a pain and sometimes even a little bit enjoyable.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Kate Woods

  4. Carrie Ann Lahain on February 23, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Shared this! Heaven knows the message needs to get out. Too many of my writer friends hit “publish” on Createspace and then…nothing…. They ask me, “Why do you bother blogging, book reviewing, helping out at Facebook parties. How many books has that sold for you?” The honest answer is that I don’t know. People are buying/borrowing the books. Not in droves. Not yet, anyway. And it’s true that when someone I meet on Facebook or Twitter or through attending a webinar ask me which of my books they should try first, I invariably send them the Kindle for free. I figure why not? It’s not like the .65 to 3.00 profit would change my life–the relationship and goodwill is worth way more than that. Some of these individuals have gone and bought the book anyway or another of mine. But even when they don’t, invariably something good happens. Someone I’ve chatted with on Twitter will choose my book for their book club, or post a fabulous review, or pass my name along to a book promotion site looking for people to guest post. I feel my career building momentum, but since I can’t show a one to one correlation between activities and sales, my writers friends poo-poo a lot of my efforts. At times their attitude does make me second guess myself, but not for long. My gut tells me I’m on the right track, so I’m sticking with it.

  5. […] The Reason Your Author Platform Matters […]

  6. Kathy on March 7, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Great article. I must admit, I’ve been trying to grow my social media reach. I suck at blogging, but came up with an idea: post an excerpt from a WIP each Friday morning until the novel is finished. That way folks get to “try” me out for free. I post on Blogger and Wattpad and it seems to have helped. I tweet, FB, and a do little Google. I have a great time interacting with my fans- heck, I even invite them to my house! (once I know they aren’t freaky stalkers). I don’t have kids, but I do have an entire farm of animals and a big house to take care of. Still I try to take time each day and do a little PR. Lately, though, with the exponential increase in the number of titles published, sales have slipped. I hope that changes. But I still write because I love telling stories.

  7. Melissa McPhail on March 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    You make a great point about interacting and engaging with others, Rachel. I think it can be challenging for people at first, especially us writerly types who are more introvert than extrovert, yet I’ve found the interaction and engagement via social media and my blog to be so beneficial – both to me as an individual and as a writer. That social engagement has contributed in so countless ways to my artistic growth. I can’t imagine being a writer in a day and age where such immediate interaction was impossible.

    Thank you for sharing your successful actions and being such a voice of wisdom in the online community.

  8. Melissa Herrera on April 15, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing these words with us! This is exactly what I have begun to focus on but need to improve in “sharing” more “outside” of my books! I feel inspired and with hope!

  9. […] The Reason Your Author Platform Matters […]

  10. […] 2. I don’t usually hear negative things at writing conferences, but it seems like there is one thing that can bring out the negative in a few writers at every conference I’ve attended. And that comes when a presenter brings up writing platforms. So with that in mind, why don’t we let Rachel Thompson tell us The Reason Your Author Platform Matters. […]

  11. […] and use them (Tip: check their HELP section first), you’ll find each new channel improves upon the brand that is you. Twitter will showcase your quick thinking and attention to the latest trends, Instagram will […]

  12. Martin Baker on October 24, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Great article, Rachel, and always worth a re-read.

  13. Diamond Valley Writers' Guild on December 30, 2015 at 10:38 am

    […] The Reason Your Author Platform Matters […]

  14. […] The Reason Your Author Platform Matters […]

  15. […] for any favors — I used my own blog, over many years, to establish my expertise (why are you still not blogging again?), and then pitched them. I’ve had my fair share of rejections, too (Elephant Journal […]

  16. […] suggested he rethink his author platform completely, create a robust marketing plan which he then implement, and lose the expectation that […]

  17. […] suggested he rethink his author platform completely, create a robust marketing plan which he then implement, and lose the expectation that […]

  18. […] much impact does your author platform have on book sales? People ask me this all the time — they want hard […]

  19. Estella Wicks on June 24, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I’m taking a course (Publish and Sell Your E-Books” and an assignment included reading about Rachel Thompson. I didn’t want to because I’m always in a hurry and felt I didn’t have time. However, I decided to be different this time as being in a hurry has gotten me nowhere. I’m very glad I decided to do the assignment as you have proven to be very helpful and informative. I never thought about a “Writer’;s Platform” before. Visibility impressed me most as I’ve discovered you cannot get to author status without visibility. I don’t have a website but I will have one soon. I didn’t understand blogging but for visibility purposes I will blog. I’ve been using Facebook mostly to play games but that is very boring. Therefore I’m going to use as much social media as I can to increase my visibility by following your suggestions. I’m so glad I did this assignment. Thank you.

Leave a Comment