building your author platform even if you’re not published yet, part three: find your readers, catch them, bring them back
In my last post about author platforms I came up with the term ‘author wave’ which, to me, is more reflective of my growing understanding of what the process is.
Or maybe an author wave complements an author platform.
Chris Brogan talks about your platform as “a place from which to share ideas”. Literary agent Nathan Bransford – and if you’re an aspiring writer who doesn’t already follow his excellent and informative blog, I might just slap you upside the head and ask what’s wrong with you – defines platform as the ability to command eyeballs at any given time. In this post he underscores how important this is:
Every author is a product of their time and had to deal with the realities and constraints of their publishing industry. Hemingway found his way to publication in part because he knew the right people (namely F. Scott Fitzgerald), and his success owed a great deal to his larger than life stature, a literary self-promotional archetype dating back to Byron and beyond. Herman Melville became famous because he wrote travelogues about far flung locales during a time when technology and trade was opening up the world, then crashed and burned when he tried to write novels about silly things like white whales, which didn’t even sell through its 3,000 print run.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the authors we most associate with seclusion and anonymity became popular in the late ’50s and ’60s, the time when counterculture and anti-establishment sentiment was running highest. …
But setting aside what was true in the past, can an author today expect that they can write in, drop out and leave the publicity to the publisher?
….one of the best ways [a publisher can] get bang for the buck is to start with an author who is doing everything they can to help out with publicity, thus multiplying the publisher’s efforts.
When asked in this interview if he thinks ‘author platform’ is an overused term, he replies:
Sadly no, particularly when the traditional selling tools at publishers’ disposal (such as front bookstore placement, reviews, marketing, etc.) are waning in effectiveness, there’s even more of a premium for the authors who are able to deliver an audience. We’re in an era where platform is hugely important.
Over the years I’ve done marketing campaigns, expensive web sites, signings, conferences, and just about everything except a book tour (I was offered a mini-tour once, but I politely refused because I was a rookie and utterly terrified of the prospect.) None of it worked for me and unfortunately a lot of it worked against me. It cost a huge amount of time, money and effort, and returned little to nothing. It made me miserable. The only measurable success I’ve had is through free and low-cost stuff I’ve tried on my own — my little freebie weblog, my free stories and e-books, and my book giveaways.
Note what Lynn said worked for her: my blog, my free stories and e-books, & my book giveaways. The ‘free and low-cost’ stuff she did online that engaged and connected with the reader – and provided them with real and concrete value.
If your platform is your home base, from which to share ideas, command eyeballs, and gather your tribe, the wave is your author presence: everything you say and do online.
What ‘author wave’ suggests that ‘platform’ does not is that engaging and connecting with readers is an ongoing process. It is dynamic and active. What it is not, is something that you can pay another person to do for you (although you can certainly pay someone to guide you and help you figure things out).
A platform is locked into place – unless it’s on wheels, but even then it’s cumbersome. A wave is fluid and effortless. When you’re a wave, you can sweep out to where your ideal readers congregate in a way that goes beyond Twitter and Facebook. As Open Road Media points out, readers also live on crowd-sourced content sites, social networks, opinion sites, media sites, and where their passions are (cooking sites, craft and art sites, parenting sites, etc.). You can locate them, sweep over them and pull them back to your blog or website…that is, if they’re willing.
Like surfers, they decide which waves are worth catching; they assess them with a practiced eye.
What would make them want to catch you?