Well, I can try.
Think of a platform in terms of the number of people you can reach when you need to. I'm not talking about strangers but, rather, about those who know you, trust you, and want to help support you and your work.
That's an important concept to most acquisitions editors (those who actually specialize in acquiring new book properties) because the size of an author's platform directly relates to sales.
Sure, sure, I know. It's a publisher's job to market your book and generate sales. But publishers learned long ago that, if a writer could directly influence the sales of, say, 1,000 books, those sales are pure gravy--they're sales the publisher reaps in addition to its conventional marketing efforts. If a writer can influence the sales of 5,000 books, that's five times better.
Get the point?
So how do you build your writer's platform? Get your name out. Influence people. Contribute knowledgeable articles and comments to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, on-line magazines, etc. If you belong to an organization willing to promote your book, say so in your platform and list the number of members within that organization. VFW? The Rotary Club? Your college alumni association? All add to the strength of your platform.
In short, wherever you can come up with a thousand or twenty thousand followers, you're adding to the strength of your platform.
Once you have developed an impressive looking platform, get in the habit of including that information with all of your book proposals (and even article pitches, for that matter). You'll be increasing the chances of landing a lucrative book-publishing contract a thousand-fold.
Copyright 2009 AmSAW