The publishing world has been unalterably changed and it is increasingly difficult to be a successful author. Bricks and mortar stores have been closing non stop for several years and in one fell swoop, Borders shut down over 600 stores, leaving fewer and fewer physical locations for publishers to sell books.
The swift rise of digital and e-format books widely available 24/7 on the Internet combined with declining physical outlets highlight the publishing world’s predicament in changing times. These shifts make your job as an author and our job as Agents much more difficult.
Non-fiction authors need to be able to answer some fundamental questions…. “What is the purpose of my book?” “Do I want to use this book to give talks?” “Do I want it to help build my brand or business?” “Do I want my book published so I have more credibility?”.
Whatever your reason for writing a book, becoming a published author today takes a lot of time, money and energy. And writing the book is only your first step in the process. The next critical step is building your own platform, which in truth, should start years before you even start to write your book.
What is a platform you may ask? A platform is basically the number of people following you. This can include unique visitors that come to your website, a large e-mail list, a robust social media following on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, national media, and speaking engagements with large venues that occur on a regular basis.
Having a substantial platform is critical to landing an agent, and ultimately a publisher, for your book.
Publishers of non-fiction books focus on making book deals with authors that have a built-in platform. This helps them guarantee that they will sell a minimum number of books to cover their production and distribution costs. The number of books can range anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 which is necessary just to break even, depending on what they paid for the book. Now 8,000 might not sound like a lot of books, but with such intense competition for shelf space in bookstores today, this is not an easy goal to reach for most authors. In fact, 90% of all books published don’t even sell 1,000 copies.
An author without a platform is truly the chicken and the egg scenario. Having a platform helps you get a book deal, but if you have a book, it will really help you build a platform. By explaining this, I would like to educate authors who come to me with more about how the process works and what is on the minds of the publishers. And because having a platform it is at the top of the list for non-fiction publishers, it’s at the top of our list as agents too.
My hope is that you can ask yourself the questions above. If you are committed and really want to make this your career path, as an author, speaker or media personality, then building your platform is going to be the most critical component of your marketing and self-promotion strategy. If you can do this successfully you may be on the road to becoming a successful author.