The two "big" things at BEA this year (well besides all the announcements about Amazon's move to publishing and the two big bombs of Larry Kirshbaum being brought in and Barry Eisler signing with their Thomas and Mercer line.) were
- Author Platform
I'll talk more about the first in a future post but I wanted to talk a bit today about Author Platform. Let's start at the beginning..what actually is it? I did a quick Google search and found this.
The author platform is how you are currently reaching an audience of book-buying people, or how you plan to do so. It is your influence, your ability to sell to your market.
If you are self-publishing then the need to create and build a platform is obvious, after all you are a one man/woman business and you are responsible for everything from start to end. For those that are either pursuing or have a publisher don't think you're off the hook.
I hear the following all the time from writers:
- I don't want to market my book...I want to write. I'm not good at sales and it makes me uncomfortable
- Marketing is the responsibility of my publisher. That's why I didn't self-publish
For those pursuing a publisher, a platform is a huge bargaining chip. There are some agents that look at platform first, and others who won’t consider an author without one. When an intern at Ridan Publishing brought Nathan Lowell to my attention, I went out to podiobooks.com and saw he had an extensive platform of followers. As a businesswoman I was immediately interested. After I listened to the podcast of his Quarter Share there was no question I wanted to sign him.
Historically, publishing contracts are very weighted toward the publisher. I’ve been shocked by some of the clauses that friends of mine have signed. When confronted, they all say the same thing, “It was the best I could get, they held all the cards.” If you have a platform you have power that can be leveraged to swing the pendulum to a more author friendly partnership.
In today’s publishing environment, writing a good book is not enough. We live in a digital age and readers love, and expect, to connect with authors. This is a good thing. You want “stark raving fans” (More on this in another post). It is now a requirement of the profession and if you are not willing to participate then you’re chance of success will take a substantial hit. It’s like being a salesman that sells high priced products not being interested in playing golf or having drinks with clients. Can he sell without doing this? Probably? Is it expected that he’ll do these things? Yes. Will others that do wine and time the client sell better? On average they will.
I’ll talk more in future posts about how you go about building your platform but here are some teasers to get you started.
- Everyone starts from a platform of none. It takes time to build, it won’t happen overnight so don’t be discouraged if you have none now.
- Don’t think of building a platform as selling. Think of it as making connections and helping others. It’s about being a member of a community.
- Successful platforms are built on reciprocality—Give and you shall receive. The more generous you are toward others, the more people will gravitate to you.
- Platform building is like laundry. If you do it a little at the time you’ll be less likely to be overwhelmed.
That’s it for today. I need to get back to editing. But I’m trying to keep the posts frequent as it seems as though you guys are getting something out of them.