The issue of authors needing large social media platforms before they can be considered by certain publishers (and therefore agents) has been a source of frustration for some and a challenge for others. For few, it is an energizing, motivating pursuit.
Agents at this agency have blogged about it here for years. We’ve all given presentations at conferences on the subject. Questions about platform come to us almost every day. We recommend books or articles to read, seminars to attend and suggestions to follow. For those who are individually successful at developing a strong author platform, a common occurrence is they spend almost as much time on it as they do writing. It is neither fast or simple. Platform development and maintenance can become the proverbial tail that wags the dog.
But it is the omnipresent issue every author must address sometime. And it will never, ever go away.
Getting published is never about the manuscript or idea alone. Content and writing matter, but not in isolation of everything else, such as assembling a group of “followers” beforehand, which is what a platform is.
Universal truth about author platform: No single approach works for everyone.
(Sounds like the common argument of the universal truth there is no universal truth…and ‘round and ‘round we go)
I am going to suggest something today that is not for everyone, but maybe for someone.
Have you noticed that this agency blog has four writers contributing to it? Sometimes we will even add others to guest-blog. If Steve Laube continued to try to blog regularly on his own without contributions from the others, he would not be enjoying it.
Group blogging and social media might be the answer to some yearning to solve the problem of author platform.
But it involves giving up a little of your own personal identity and agenda and accepting being less of the focal point.
Click here for the listing of the top 300 Christian blogs as of a year ago. (http://churchrelevance.com/resources/top-church-blogs/)
Note that eleven of the top twenty blogs have multiple contributors.
How this would work:
- Have a clear idea of your “message platform” Click here for my post on what that means. https://stevelaube2.wpengine.com/author-platforms-101-part-one-message-platform/
- Find other people that have a generally similar message
- Connect with those people and tell them you have an idea that the sum of your parts would be greater than the individual. (Actually, introduce yourself and get to know them a little first. Blurting out something about “the sum of your parts” could weird them out)
- Create a social media and website presence reflecting the agenda of the group.
- Pick one person as managing editor and set deadlines, etc.
- Share any costs equally.
- Hold hands and sing, “Kum Bah Yah” followed by a rousing chorus of “It Only Takes a Spark.”
- Get to work.
Seriously though, a group needs a coordinator, so whoever has the spiritual gift of administration wins that job.
So how do you find people to do this?
You don’t. Unless you are ready to admit you need to join a group and are willing to give up some of your agenda for the sake of the group. No one will want to join you on the group platform if they sense it is a tool to sell one of the members’ books above all else. It must be a group effort for the general group benefit.
Sure, there might be a dominant person, but the burden is placed at their feet to serve the group and not be overly controlling.
OK, so how do you find people to do this?
Start with one person who you know who might fit with you and then ask them to recommend others. Any aspiring author should know a few other people in their general category they can ask. Start with two, then add more as you grow.
So how would you determine the theme of the group?
Consider general themes like:
- Practical living
- Genuine relationships
- Radical spirituality
- Racial reconciliation
- Financial stewardship
- Inspiring stories
- Positive living amidst the negative
If it is new, make the theme of the group something that comes out of the group consensus. If you are established, ask people to join you and share the spotlight.
The key is to give up a little to gain a lot.
Group platforms create a larger effort that probably has a longer life rather than an individual platform. You will know when you are successful when people are asking to join you and there is a waiting list.
A good analogy would be a magazine. Articles and features centered around a certain general theme for a specific audience.
Give it a shot. Might be just the thing for you.
Thank you Mr Balow for this wholesome idea.
I’m totally up for this if anyone would like to have me, since I’m just a week away from starting a ‘consistent’ blog.
Great idea, Dan.
Thanks for the post.
When I think about it, the blogs I follow have a different author, agent for each day of the week.
Thank you for adding this post and the link to the past blogs. Very helpful and i plan to share it with other writers
Brennan S. McPherson
Agree with everyone, this was a fantastic post and definitely got my wheels turning! Dan’s the man.
Christine–just noticed something on your blog. Under “My Latest Publication” you have a compilation called 21 Days of Love, and I recognized the cover. I just realized 21 Days of Love was published by my publisher–BroadStreet Publishing. How fun!
Linda Riggs Mayfield
After seeing in one of your posts last week that BroadStreet was your publisher, I tried to check it out online. I read every tab, post, link, and widget in their whole web site and could not find any specific information about (1) whether they are a traditional publisher, a self-publisher, or a blend; or (2) how to submit anything for consideration. I used their link for asking questions, which was said to elicit a response within two days, but after more than double that, still haven’t received answer. Can you answer those two questions? Thanks.
Brennan S. McPherson
Absolutely! Yes, they’re a traditional publishing company. I’ll attempt to put a link here: http://christianretailing.com/index.php/newsletter/latest/27287-new-company-broadstreet-publishing-partners-with-authentic-media
It’s led by Carlton Garborg, who started Summerside Press years back. BroadStreet is a newer publishing company started a couple years ago, but they offer great distribution and good services. Google their name and you can find a bit more info out about them. I know they’re swamped with projects right now, as May is growing ever closer, so if they don’t respond within a week or so, let me know.
I’ve heard about group blogging before, but I haven’t figured out how to become part of one. 🙂 I have not heard the idea of becoming part of a group for other social media forms. I love your suggestion. Figuring out who I might work well with and going from there is a great suggestion. Thanks, Dan!
Dan, first of all, GENIUS!
Secondly, how might an agent or publisher distribute the success of say, a four person blog, to ONE of the individuals blogging when considering representation or publication.
Lastly, I do see the potential for exponential magnification of a new release through FOUR facebook et al. pages verses a single page.
THANKS FOR THE GREAT IDEA!
I have read several of your posts on social media and it feels like a mixed message. Potential authors are not supposed to use their social media to sell books. They just use social media to establish connections that might incidentally help them sell books. But agents and publishers check on the platforms of potential authors because, I assume, they want them to use their connections to sell books. In your post, you say writers spend as much time on their platforms as their writing. How are authors supposed to use their platforms with sounding hucksters?
Brennan S. McPherson
I think what Dan means is the focus should be on offering real content–on giving to the reader/follower/subscriber rather than trying to take advantage of them by thinking purely from a sell-all-the-books mentality. Obviously, if you believe in your product, you’ll feel comfortable selling it to your following (and everyone, including the reader, wants you to do that, to a point), but the main driving force behind your platform should be a servant’s heart, not greed. Most readers don’t want to read a string of, “Buy my stuff because I’m so great.” But if you give them a lot of blogs they consider valuable, and from time to time say, “You should check this out, because I’ve put a lot into it for you,” the reader will be grateful for the opportunity to support you, rather than dry-heaving at your shameless self-promotion.
But maybe I should let Dan just speak for himself…
I think the conflict you feel relates to time. In real life if you make a new friend today, you don’t ask them to help you move a couch tomorrow. You take time for the relationship to develop and make relational “deposits” over the months/years.
Author platforms are developed over time as well. Once you develop a good relationship, they would be angry if you didn’t tell about your new book.
I agree, it is awkward promoting, but especially when those you are promoting to are viewed as “marketing targets” and not as relationships to serve.
The former is quick and ineffective. The latter takes time, lots of time.
Thank you for your explanation, Mr. McPherson. It helps a lot.
Hmm, interesting idea! Will have to think about this! You could also do a group podcast if you could find a few people willing to learn how to do it. I love to podcast but it sure takes a lot of work! Thanks for the idea, Dan!
Thanks also for the link to the Christian blogs list. I just started actively working on guest posting (sent my first two queries last week) and hadn’t found this list in my search. It’s a good one!
Great, practical suggestions. Thanks!
Dan, did you ever post the complete white paper mentioned in the Author Platforms 101 post?
Yes…send your email to my assistant’s email…email@example.com and I’ll send it to you.
This goes for anyone….
An idea “outside the box” … nice!
But what I really liked the best on this blog and some of the responses was the idea of creating a serving community.
Jesus washes the feet of His disciples and bids us to do likewise … not for gain but to establish relationships. His example is always eternal and washing feet comes in a lot of disguises.