How Big Should an Author’s Platform Be?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


PLATFORM. I read a lot of conflicting ideas about the importance of having a substantial platform: (1) It used to matter more but its importance is declining, but also that (2) a writer must have at least 5k followers on social media to even be considered for agent representation, and (3) some kinds of social media “count” more than others. Is a writer wise to stop writing and concentrate on platform?

I’m reluctant to offer specific numbers because each author and project is different. With nonfiction, a fantastic topic presented uniquely can overcome a modest platform, and a large platform ensures other authors of one or more contract offers on any given book. A novelist with a huge fan base built by a successful publishing history will find an easier time of it than most debut authors, but that has always been so.

I advise authors to pursue a strong social-media presence. I recommend spending some time each day on social media. A half an hour is a good target. Choose one or two platforms you enjoy. I emphasize, enjoy. Make social media part of your daily entertainment, and it won’t feel like work.

You may say you don’t like any social media. If this is you, I recommend that you try working with a few platforms until you figure out which is the lesser evil for you. Better yet, try to appreciate the journey and find something to like about posting.

Another way to build a platform as an adjunct to social media is to publish a newsletter. Authors who demonstrate that their newsletter has a healthy number of subscribers are letting editors know that people want to hear from them regularly because you have to subscribe to a newsletter.

Whichever path you take, you can gauge your success by the people who engage with your posts/tweets/photos. That will guide you on which one best suits yourself.

You may want to expand your knowledge by becoming acquainted with my friend and expert on social media, Edie Melson. Here is a link to her programs:

Happy posting!


Your turn:

What authors do you enjoy following on social media?

What author newsletters do you enjoy most? Why?

What are some topics you’d like to see authors discuss?

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”



16 Responses to How Big Should an Author’s Platform Be?

  1. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 13, 2020 at 5:42 am #

    Many heartfelt thanks to all who have offered prayers; I just watched the sun rise at the end of a dreadful night, and felt y’all’s warm thoughts.

    Cancer’s winning now, but it will not have the final victory.

    It’s got the earth in its embrace,
    my platform’s grown and grown,
    and there’s a smile upon my face
    for all that I’ve been shown.
    I’ve emails sent from Timbuktu
    (such a surprise to me!),
    and perhaps, ‘fore all is through,
    I’ll have one from Timbuk3.
    I started out so I could sell,
    a means unto my ends,
    but coming to God’s final bell
    I’ve made such valued riens
    who sharpened message I’ve been giving
    on dying well while you’re still living.

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 13, 2020 at 5:44 am #

      Ah, well. Obviously the third-from-last line should say ‘friends’, not ‘riens’ (which means ‘nothing’ in French, and makes me think my odgy keyboard has an attitude this morning).

  2. Avatar
    OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU August 13, 2020 at 6:29 am #

    Amen to your prayer, Andrew. May the Lord be kind to you as you wait for His help. Surely he will rise like the dawn of each new day. God bless you.

  3. Avatar
    OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU August 13, 2020 at 6:48 am #

    Hi Tamela, Thank you so much for your post. I will take the advice of finding at least one or two social sites and ENJOY posting. I see the wisdom of authors having a strong social presence. This is the 21st century and writers have no choice but to follow in its wake.
    I have been practising on this blog here and it is kind of lovely to make comments and share ideas or opinions. It is a great feeling similar to receiving a review on one’s novel, when I read a personal response to a comment I posted on this blog directed to me.
    I will take it one step further and create a daily newsletter and write on…..
    Anything that God puts on my mind.
    I will remind myself that like the daughter of my Abba, I will create words,speak words and imagine words which have all been put in me by the the Source of the Word Himself.Thanks to Bob’s earlier post on this in the morning.
    Thanks again Tamela. This post will help us take steps in the right direction to our success as writers by God’s grace. Amen. God bless you real good, Amen.
    What would you advice writers to choose as two very good social platforms?
    Thanks and God bless yourichly, Amen.

  4. Avatar
    Lois Y Easley August 13, 2020 at 7:07 am #

    This is so helpful today! Thanks!

  5. Avatar
    Joey Rudder August 13, 2020 at 7:49 am #

    Thank you, Tamela! I’ve been trying to work on my platform, but it’s something I struggle with. I’m going to take your advice and work on branching out into a few more social media sites to see which ones I enjoy working with the most.

    Blessings to you!

  6. Avatar
    Karen Ingle August 13, 2020 at 8:02 am #

    Tamela, this is very affirming. It helps to hear this advice from someone more squarely in the loop than I feel. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going in this positive direction.

  7. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka August 13, 2020 at 8:40 am #

    I appreciate your insights, Tamela. I have a few social media places where I am active. And I just started a newsletter earlier this year. It’s hard to keep up with everything. I like your idea of just spending a little time each day on social media. I need to get better at that.

  8. Avatar
    OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU August 13, 2020 at 10:37 am #

    Amen! Andrew. Thank you so much.God bless you.

  9. Avatar
    Lester August 13, 2020 at 4:35 pm #

    Social media is a bit of a sore spot for me. You ask which authors I follow. I find that the successful authors I’d be interested in listening in on seldom bother with it. The ones that I can locate are wannabees like me. 🙁 Instagram and Pintrest are more like scrapbooking and sharing nice pictures. I have the most followers on LinkedIn, but its too stilted to be of much use. Twitter is okay, but the medium doesn’t really allow you to develop and discuss ideas. So that leaves FaceBook, and that’s the one I prefer. But either the writer’s groups are dying out, or I haven’t found the right ones. So you end up trading gossip, politics, and COVID ideas. I want someplace where serious writers get together and share ideas. Where agents glance through once in a while. It seems like the big names mostly sell their ideas now. They want to charge big dollars for courses that will make you the next person on the best seller list. Maybe someone could put together a resource of helpful groups to follow? Anyhow that’s my grumping for today. Maybe I’ll take a look at what your friend offers….

  10. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks August 16, 2020 at 2:16 pm #

    I like to follow authors who post encouraging things, beautiful photos, bits about their life and home, their pets, and behind the scene things about their stories! I get tired of posts both if they are all book-related and if they are all non-book related. I want an interesting variety with little to no political commentary.

  11. Avatar August 17, 2020 at 11:56 am #

    Thank you for your presentation at CCWF Saturday. Enlightening!

  12. Avatar
    Jennifer Saake September 11, 2020 at 3:30 pm #

    What is your best advice for how to go about creating and building me email list?


  1. Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-20-2020 | The Author Chronicles - August 20, 2020

    […] The pandemic has forced us into a virtual marketing strategy. Cristin Stickles shows how to create the best virtual author event ever, Claire Annette Noland talks about launching a debut book in the middle of a pandemic, and Tamela Hancock Murray looks at how big should an author’s platform be? […]

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