Build Your Platform, Grow Your Audience

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

I am traveling from the Books & Such bi-annual retreat for clients today and won’t be able to respond to your comments. Today’s blog was originally posted over a year ago and ignited a great conversation. I hope you have a great time brainstorming together again today.

Agents frequently receive editor feedback similar to this: “I must tell you that I think [client] is a fabulous writer . . . [but] without a platform, we unfortunately will not be able to pursue this project.” Ugh! If you have been writing for a while, you know that a modest platform isn’t enough anymore, especially for nonfiction authors. I know many skilled writers who are stalled from getting a publishing contract for this reason alone.platform-growth

Is there anything more writers can do to overcome the platform hurdle in addition to the usual social media, newsletter, and blog activity? The answer is yes, when you put your entrepreneurial hat on and think creatively. Here is one idea.

Adopt a cause.

Lately, much of the editor feedback we receive from Christian publishers sounds like that rejection I received. These responses aren’t only for debut authors but also mid-list authors who have disappointing sales numbers. Recently, a client told me a potential publicist she interviewed recommended she take up a cause to grow her platform, so I did some research.

It all begins with knowing what your passion is. I’ve talked in the past about how important it is to focus on what you are most passionate about because that’s where your best writing will happen. That focus is also important for your brand and your platform growth. Double your effort to gain as much knowledge and experience as you can about the people, topic, time period—whatever it is that will be the constant thread in the books you write. Become an expert in your special area.

The cause you choose must connect with what you write. For example, bestselling author Steve Berry is passionate about preserving history. All of his books involve some historical location. Read his bio here to learn how he connected his passion and his books with his cause. You might not be able to start your own foundation like he did, but you can partner with an established cause after you’ve researched and are confident of its integrity. Offer to do speaking for the group. If you can connect your cause to a current cultural or newsworthy topic, doors may open for additional speaking opportunities.

Here are six tips for adopting a cause to grow your platform:

  1. Think strategically when choosing a cause. Some will attract people who aren’t necessarily readers of your genre—or readers at all. One client is writing a fiction series in which water shortage is one of the common threads. It would be a mistake to choose water issues as a cause because it is likely to attract scientists more than fiction readers.
  2. Be prepared with talking points. You never know what impromptu opportunities you might have to talk about your cause and your books with someone who will want you to speak to their group when they see your enthusiasm and passion.
  3. Don’t wait for media to come to you. Local radio and TV shows are always looking for interesting interviews. Contact the producers and share some of your expertise about what you write and the cause you are supporting. Your knowledge and the fact that you are a writer reflect your authority and credibility.
  4. Dedicate an area on your website to the cause you support. Update it frequently with news and your speaking engagements for the cause.
  5. Talk about your cause on social media and your blog. It offers a subtle segue to talk about your books in an appealing way that doesn’t sound like a sales pitch.
  6. Seek out others who blog about your cause and suggest you guest post for each other. Agree ahead of time that you can also talk about the books you write. You and your books will reach a new group of readers who might not otherwise have known about or purchased your books.

Platform has been a major hurdle for nonfiction writers for a long time. It has become an obstacle for novelists as well in the few years. Today, authors have to be creative and strategic about expanding your platform. Adopting up a cause is one idea, and you don’t have to wait until you have a book releasing to begin. In fact, you’ll have increased authenticity if you are associated with the cause before your first, or next, book is published.

Now brainstorm together. What is your initial reaction to adopting a cause? Offer two or three possible causes you could adopt that align with what you write, and then talk about which one has the greatest potential for gaining readers of your books.


Writers must be creative about platform growth. Here is one idea and six tips to make it work. Click to Tweet.

Authors, you can accelerate your platform growth when you adopt a cause. Click to Tweet.