What is Your Platform?
In addition to the quality of the book proposal, the next most important factor in determining a publisher’s interest in a project involves the author’s “platform.” In fact, platform is now the most overused word in the publishing lexicon. It refers to all of the things that an author can do to help sell his or her own book. No author should ever entrust the entire job of selling and marketing his book to the publisher; that is a prescription for failure. In these hyper-competitive, turbulent times, the author’s marketing efforts often mean the difference between success and failure for a book.
So what are some of the key ingredients in an author platform? Here are some, in no particular order:
* How many speeches do you make in a year?: The most successful authors give as many as 80-100 speeches each year and make their book a mandatory part of the author “fee.”
* How many seminars and how much consulting do you do?: Once again, the best authors are very active in training and consulting so that when the book is published, he or she already has a built-in customer base.
* How many copies are you willing to buy: When the author is a C-suite executive in a medium-to-large sized business (or the head of their own small business), he or she will buy, say, 5,000 copies of his or her own book to give to clients/prospective clients. In doing so, an author uses the book as a sophisticated calling card to build the business.
* What is your Web presence?: Once again, the most successful authors, like super-blogger Seth Godin, have a great on-line following. And the sooner the author gets his website—geared to the book—up and running, the better. It often takes years to build traffic on a website. Twitter is also an important marketing tool and is getting hotter by the day.
* How did your last book do? This is also a critical element. If your last book sold, say, 40,000 copies, then booksellers are far more likely to place a big initial order for your new book. The number of copies a book “advances” – the number of pre-orders it garners or “laydown” – is another key to a book’s success.
These are just five keys to an author platform and are among the most important ones. In the weeks ahead I will add to this list and delve into some of the less obvious ones.