Unpublished writers often want to know if they need an author platform in order to be published. As with so much in the publishing business, the answer is yes and no. Or no and yes, depending on your point of view.
We live in an age where anyone with a computer and an internet connection can become a published author. (Thanks, Amazon.)
But the relative ease of publishing highlights and reinforces the fact that getting published is the easy part of the process. The hard part is selling books. And to sell books, you need a platform. That might be a real-life platform you’ve built yourself, perhaps as a speaker or sportsperson or actor. Or it might be an online platform—a popular website or blog.
Some people build the platform, then write a book. They might self-publish, or they might work with a traditional publisher. Either way, the success of their book will be related to their platform.
But my experience observing and talking to pre-published and newly published writers suggests the author platform is low on their list of publishing priorities. The typical publishing process seems to go more like this:
At this point, an author will make an important decision:
An author who decides to self-publish is likely to experience the following:
An author considering traditional publishing will soon find they need a literary agent to attract the attention of a big-name publisher. They’ll find that agents and publishers expect them to have an author platform.
But what does this mean? What are agents (and publishers) really looking for?
Enter this massive Rafflecopter Giveaway!
THRU MAY 15
When I first started investigating the publishing world, literary agents talked about author platform purely in terms of the number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes they wanted potential authors to have. Later, this expanded to what we now see as an author platform:
The focus remained on numbers, and the author with the largest Facebook following or email list “won”. But agents and publishers now realize that focusing purely on the number of followers detracts from the more important metric: engagement.
It’s still important to have a big platform in terms of numbers if you’re trying to pitch nonfiction, especially memoir. Platform size provides a metric publishers can use to leverage their marketing efforts:
The same holds true for self-published authors: the bigger your platform, the more people will hear about and potentially buy your book.
Platform numbers or engagement aren’t as important for fiction writers, but they’re still important. If you plan to self-publish, then your platform is the people you can expect to be most interested in your book. This is vital if you self-publish, but it’s still important if you are seeking traditional publication. Agents and publishers will want to know about your platform.
Why? Because most first-time authors don’t get a lot of attention in terms of marketing. The publishers will undertake some advertising and promotion, but they also want to know how the author can contribute to the marketing plan. And publishers want to see evidence of that contribution. They don’t want a proposal saying things like:
That’s not a plan. It’s a wish list (unless you’re already BFFs with Oprah, Conan, and Reese Witherspoon).
Instead, publishers want to see what you’ve already done. They want to see a platform you can build on:
You don’t have to have big follower numbers to get a traditional publishing contract. One author I know got a publishing contract with a Big 5 publisher with less than 300 people on her email list. But she had all the elements of a platform and had launched a podcast and YouTube channel aimed at her target reader. It wasn’t a lot. But it was a start.
That's what is important:
Making That Start
Building a platform takes time and effort. It's a long-term project. And the best time to start is now.
What questions do you have about author platform? Ask in the comments.
One free enrollment in my email course, Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge (Value: $69).
Click here to find out more.
Want to win this giveaway? Simply leave a comment WHY below!
All comments must be left prior to midnight on Thursday, May 7th, 2020 in order to be eligible to win. Winners for the week announced on Friday, May 8th.
Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist.
Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, works as a freelance editor, and has developed the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge, an email course for authors wanting to establish their online platform.
When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, son, and cat.
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Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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