Nowadays everyone’s talking about platforms. If you’re a writer looking to be published, you have to have one. Period. I just finished writing a book proposal, and the most difficult aspect for me was writing about my platform. I’m still a fairly new writer and haven’t had the opportunity to develop much of one, although I am working on it.

But I knew that without including all I could in the platform part of my proposal, I would have zero chance of getting it sold. Publishers have to know that you are able to get the word out about your book and that you have “circles” of people to sell it to. Without that, you really don’t stand a chance. So it has become a very important buzz word for a reason.

As I’ve been working on developing my platform and speaking to other writers who are doing the same, I’ve identified several ways an author can build a platform for themselves. I’d like to list 5 here that I believe will give you the most bang for your buck:

1. Identify trade magazines or other newspapers or magazines that will reach your target audience and write for them on a regular basis. Try to get in with the editor as a contributing writer to his or her magazine so your name will begin to be associated with your niche by your particular audience.

2. Take article writing one step further and aim to develop a column to write for local or regional newspapers or magazines. Columns are an excellent way to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

3. Create websites and/or blogs specifically geared to your expertise, and engage in other forums or blogs within your niche. Establish a strong online presence for yourself so when your audience searches online, your sites/blogs will come up as the “go-to place” to meet their needs.

4. Begin to speak at trade or organization shows, for church groups, at schools (for children’s writers), or anywhere throughout your community where your target audience may be found. People tend to associate speakers with being experts at what they are talking about. If you can show a publisher that you have X amount of speaking engagements lined up during the next year that will directly reach your target audience, that is a good thing!

5. In addition to speaking on your topic, you can also develop workshops or seminars where you are acting as an educator. If you don’t charge for these workshops, you can typically get free space at libraries or community centers. Advertise well in advance where you know you can reach your target audience to ensure you have an audience when you conduct your workshop.

Speaking events are perfect places for selling your books, and publishers know that, so the more you can get out in person in front of your audience, the better.

There are other ways to build a platform as well, and sometimes it’ll just be trial and error to see what works best for you. But if there’s a book in your future, now’s the time to start thinking about how to build your platform–not after the book has been written!