03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Big Is Yours?

I met with one of the world's leading self-help publishers a few years ago. He had a stack of manuscripts on his desk and I jokingly said to him, "Oh! I see that you read a lot."

He looked at me very seriously and said,
"Arielle, I don't buy authors, I don't buy books, I buy platforms."

He could not have been more serious. That's what publishers are looking for today....your platform. A platform is the combination of your email list, social media connections, media interviews and paid speaking dates. They want to know that you already have thousands fans out there that will buy your book the moment it hits the bookstores.

In an ideal world you will be able to announce to a prospective publisher:

"My e-mail database has 30,000 names on it. So far this year I've had 20 paid speeches and I've done four weekend workshops. Here is my list of speeches I am going to be doing next year; here are the media interviews that I've done and here is my press kit. I've got 15,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 fans on my Facebook page and my own YouTube channel with 30 videos."

This is a platform they will drool over.

As the budding author, you are also President of your own marketing team. I mean think about it: if you write a book or invent a new product, who is going to buy it? You need to become a commodity that publishers want to partner with.

I frequently tell people that they are writing their book too early in the game. If you have something important to say and you have fresh material, that's really great, but you still aren't ready to be an author until you have a platform. You need to get out there and get seasoned; be adept at talking to the media; be a good platform speaker and have people who are just dying to get a hold of your book. That's when you write the book. (One exception would be if you plan to write an e-book or self-publish.)

Often first-time authors believe that they will build the platform once they have the book. These days, if you want a "real" publisher you need the platform first.

Fortunately you can begin building your platform for little or no money, long before you even begin writing the book.

In less than an hour you can set yourself up with a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page and much more....all for free! This is how you begin building the relationships with the people who will one day buy your book. One-by-one. Start investing 20-30 minutes a day right now and you will be amazed at how fast your community will grow.