Great idea, no author platform? Here’s what to do.

What’s your play if you have a fantastic, book-worthy idea, but no platform to promote it with?

Just this week I’ve advised a couple of people in this category. They know they’re onto something and want to get it out into the world — and I love their ideas. But their author platforms are weak. That is, they have no popular blog, podcast, or Substack; no newsletter; no column in a publication; modest social media followings; and limited speaking opportunities. In a word, they’re invisible.

What should you do if you’re a GINP (great idea, no platform)? You should publish now, even as you build up your visibility. Here’s why and how.

The traditional advice is to build up your platform

One way to succeed in this situation is to put your authoring ambitions on hold while you build up your platform. Start a blog or Substack and promote it. Make more LinkedIn connections and post on LinkedIn. Attend conferences and identify opportunities to appear on panels. Start a newsletter and reach out to popular friends to promote it.

This advice is all fine. But if you wait until you’ve built up a following, you could be waiting a long time. Most prospective authors aren’t keen on waiting very long as they sit on top of what they believe is a killer idea.


Consider your publishing alternatives.

Traditional publishers rarely show interest in authors with no platform. They put little faith in your promises about what you are going to accomplish. Even if you could get one interested, you’re going to have to wait a year-and-a-half for your book to come out. That’s not a very attractive scenario.

Hybrid publishers will be happy to publish your book, but you’ll have to invest tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a big investment for an idea that hasn’t been proven out yet.

So self-publish. Write the book now. Publish it soon. Here’s why and how self-publishing is the right choice for GINP authors:

  • Writing the book will force you to nail down your ideas. You’ll gather the evidence you need to support your idea, which will make the idea stronger.
  • The book will support your platform (as opposed to the other way around). Authors — even self-published authors — get more speaking gigs and more opportunities to promote their ideas on others’ podcasts or videocasts.
  • You can get the ideas into book form quickly. For self-published authors, the time from completed manuscript to published book is just a couple of months. People with great ideas often want to get them in front of audiences quickly.
  • But GINP authors should concentrate on doing a professional job. Publishing a crappy book quickly won’t help you. Hire a developmental editor. Work with a self-publishing service with a solid reputation (Gatekeeper Press is one). Get an attractive cover. Use footnotes and include diagrams. Working quickly doesn’t mean generating sloppy results.

You’ll find that working on the book generates concepts you can use in building up your platform, such as blog posts, LinkedIn posts, Instagram posts, videos, graphics, and speeches. And if your idea is truly great, it will spread.

If it actually isn’t so great, well, you won’t have wasted tens of thousands of dollars or had to wait a year to find out. And if it’s not quite right, you’ll get useful feedback from putting it out into the market.

If the self-published book takes off, publishers will find you. And you’ll be in a strong position to negotiate your next traditional publishing contract.

Because the only thing publishers love more than a solid author platform is a great idea with a track record of success.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.