There are few things more frustrating to aspiring authors than the requirement they have a significant national following and robust “author platform” before their book is considered by an agent or publisher. After all, isn’t the book supposed to help create that?
It is like needing extensive work experience to get a job, but you need to get a job to get experience. Or you need to be an expert pilot before we let you into flight school.
The first thing to remember is that publishing has always been this way. It has always favored the well-connected and already-famous to get the first consideration as new authors.
Years ago, we used estimated number of radio listeners, TV viewers, circulation of a magazine or newsletter, or for pastors, size of church membership or ministry to determine the extent of author notoriety. These days, because social media involvement is relatively free of cost and available to anyone with a keyboard, agents and publishers use it as a quick and easy test to determine the extent of author-fame.
Here is what all this means for you:
If you really want to write and have a story burning inside you, order a website URL for your name, establish a social media presence and get to work on blogging and building your platform. The reason to begin with platform is that the cart is officially before the horse.
As proof, this press release just came to my attention: (with tongue firmly inside my cheek)
At a press conference this morning in Muscatine, Iowa, the president of the association representing all towed and pulled carriages, wagons and carts announced that the association needed to adjust to the new reality of the social media world of the 21st Century.
In a stunning reversal of their long-standing policy requiring that all carriages, wagons and carts be pulled by horses, Wilbur “Mr. Ed” Schnookwalder, president of the International Association of Pulled Things (IAPT) stated in a press release, “We finally had to admit that our friends in publishing have redefined the world to such an extent that we needed to follow suit. After much deliberation, we have determined that the cart is officially before the horse.”
So, there you have it. Proof is in the fake press release.
Publishers need authors to carry the lion’s share of the marketing and promotional load for their books, so you need to be armed and ready to take on that responsibility at the outset. There are some differences between fiction and non-fiction in the manner you create your author platform, but the basics are the same.
So again, if you really want to write and have a story burning inside you, order a website URL, establish a social media presence and get to work on blogging and building your platform. Spend as much time on your platform as you do writing your book. In fact, maybe spend all your time initially on the platform. Just like you would get training to write, development of the author platform is preparation for the book.
Book publishing is still risky business, be it traditional or indie, but the common thread to success in either is gathering together a group of people who want to buy your book before you publish it.
We can all agree that it seems entirely counter intuitive, but remember, the cart is officially and forever before the horse.
Death, taxes and author platforms…they aren’t going anywhere.