October 22, 2019

Author Platform for Getting Published (Part 1)

Kate Epstein

Building your author’s platform? Querytracker a while back featured literary agent Kate Epstein on this issue.

I want to tease out a distinction she makes that I find helpful. But first, Kate’s definition: An author’s platform is “something you specifically bring to promotion that will increase your book’s visibility in a way that another author might not be able to do.” Point: Authors who work hard on this before submitting their proposal have an advantage.

In helping authors build or organize their platforms, I’ve discovered that authors think too broadly as to what counts. A platform is not a stack of sign-in cards gathered at various speaking events the author has given–although these cards could form the basis for a platform.

Nor is a platform made up of 5,000 Likes on Facebook (or followers on Twitter) or even the mailing list of an author’s hobby club–unless the book is about that hobby.

Close but not still counting would be endorsements from important persons not friends with the author.

Why are these not an author’s platform? For two reasons: either the connection between the contact and the author is not fully formed or the author stands in a crowd, but isn’t yet standing head-and-shoulders above the crowd (what Epstein takes as the core metaphor of meaning).

So what can author do?

1. Bravo if you have been giving talks, demonstrations, or workshops on your book’s subject. These have likely helped you refine your approach and manuscript so that it makes sense to your potential readers, even when you are not present to interpret, give new examples, or guide someone.

Now take those cards, enter their email addresses into your email manager, and send as personal a note as possible to each one, thanking them for their assistance and asking them to reply to get more information about your forthcoming book.

>>Those who do reply to your request are one plank in your platform.

2. If you have a Facebook page, you might add an entertainment page (where books are grouped), naming it the title of your book (or subject with a twist), and promote it or suggest the page to friends.

>>Those who like the page are part of your platform.

3. Prior publications can also be part of a platform when the author has built a following from one to the next. Epstein points out that Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) had a platform as a well-regarded memoirist, biographer, and journalist before her new title. Of course, none of that suggested the spectacular success of her new book, but still…

So can you find out about buyers of your previous titles? They might appreciate knowing about your forthcoming work and the connection between them.

>>Make your fans insiders.

Also, you need to figure out where your market gathers and get there. Many groups gather online, and this can be a great way, not to pitch your book, but to make contacts and post comments that tag you as a leader in each group.

A platform is comprised of persons you can bring into the promotion and sales of your book. How sufficient a platform is depends on how large the potential market is for your book and what constitutes success at your publishers. Many publishers are happy with 5,000 units sold in 12 months. And that probably requires a platform of 1,000 or more persons.

Getting published well is not only finding a publisher but also helping your book reach as many book buyers as possible.

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