Today I am going to stick up for the poor, downtrodden multibillion dollar global public corporations behind social media.
Blamed for everything from the breakdown of the family to the dissolution of meaningful personal relationships, they are supposedly the reason society is on a virtual brink of collapse.
But for authors of books, social media is the simplest and quickest way to create an author platform. This is why traditional publishers want it and self-publishing success demands it.
If every last social media company or system disappeared overnight, authors would still need to have a platform in order to be considered seriously by traditional publishers or succeed at self-publishing.
So, please give the big multinational corporations a break. They are very sensitive to criticism. (Actually, they aren’t, but work with me here, so harmony, understanding, sympathy and trust abound…peace, man)
Prior to social media, an author platform was relatively out of the author’s control. Authors built their platforms slowly by appearing in various print or electronic media, needing first to convince the media they had a worthwhile message and give them an opportunity to communicate to an audience. Authors needed to convince others to allow them to speak in public at various events, like churches for Christian authors.
It was the era of media gatekeepers and the reason decades ago the most successful authors tended to be newspaper or magazine columnists. They had a ready-made audience for their work.
When the internet took off in the mid-90’s, it provided another channel to reach people, but the incredible growth of the medium made it very difficult to get attention. Any communication method available for everyone to use, quickly becomes crowded and “noisy.”
After a decade or so the social media companies started popping up and today we find ourselves virtually swimming in customized communication.
The reason social media has become such a marketing focal-point is it is the simplest and cheapest way to develop a readership or audience in a comparatively short time. If social media didn’t exist, the foundational requirement of an effective author platform would still need to be in place.
What would authors do?
–They would still need to have the credentials to write, a way to reach an audience with a message and an ongoing plan to grow and communicate to their readership.
–They would need to travel more in order to network with people and organizations.
–Publishers and authors would need to spend more time and money convincing media “gatekeepers” to allow them access to their audience through interviews or content placement, with no guarantee of success. Media gatekeepers can say “no.”
–Christian authors would need to spend far more time and money connecting with churches and church leaders, convincing them to allow access to their flocks.
Author platform is not some made-up requirement by traditional publishers. You will struggle more as a self-published author without a good platform as your book is entirely on its own. At least a traditional publisher could take a chance on a non-platform author and still get some retail exposure for the book.
While attending a writer’s conference a while ago, I sat on a panel made up of a variety of publishing and media people. If you have been to a writer’s conference, you can envision this type of eclectic group in your mind.
Questions from attendees covered a wide range of topics, but inevitably circled around to the issue of an author’s platform.
One of the panelists was part of a major online media company and when they mentioned authors needed to focus on writing and not on developing a platform, they were almost carried off on the shoulders of excited conference attendees.
Of course, I needed to be the buzz-kill in the room (it’s one of my gifts) countering with, “I disagree. From your perspective you are correct, but only because you are a platform. You already have an audience and can decide who gets access to it.”
I sensed the attendees about to break out the tar and feathers.
Most aspiring authors do not have a readymade audience waiting for their writing. They need to assemble their own follower-readers, one way or another.
Social media is the easiest way to accomplish it.