Building a Platform through Publishing

Since my last several posts have dealt with self-publishing, you may think I have no interest in traditional publishing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have some future projects in mind that I would love to have the support of a larger traditional publisher. By that I mean one that would give me an advance against royalties in four figures or above, editing and design support, and some effective paid marketing.

So, why not chuck the whole self-publishing bit and spend my time sending out queries to agents (that type of publisher doesn't take queries or unsolicited manuscripts) and writing the great novel that they will just adore? One simple reason: It ain't gonna happen!

Sure when I was in high school, I believed the typical fairy tale you see in the movies of the novice who writes a novel that gets accepted by a major publisher and within a few weeks is on the bestseller list. However, that's just not likely to happen. Publishers, especially large publishers, don't like risking a lot of money on an unproven product. That is why, agents and publishers alike today ask the question that stops many authors dead in their tracks: "What's your platform?"

In a previous post we talked about the importance of platforms. The platform is a group of people that you can influence to buy your book. That can include your circle of family and friends, colleagues at work, social media contacts and any type of public venues that  you work in or through. For instance, a motivational speaker who holds 30 or so workshops a year with 200 or more people per workshop has a platform of 6000 people a year.

However, most of us don't have that type of a platform. So, the other question, they might ask is about your track record as a writer. Of course, this is the old Catch-22. You need to be published to have a track record, but you find it hard to get published if you don't have a track record.

Indie publishing can not only help you make money in the short term and hone your writing skills, it can also be your key to building a platform.

I did a quick check the other day. Since the first of the year, I've had 5800 books downloaded from Kindle. Some of those are free promotions. About a third are actual sales. I figure about 1000 or so downloaded more than one of my books. That's bigger than my social media contacts or my personal friends list by a long shot. It is also my platform.

Since they are buying more than one book by me, that means that they are likely to buy more. At this point, I wouldn't consider that platform large enough to impress an agent. However, in a few months, I'm hoping to grow it to 10,000 downloads and 2000 or more repeat buyers. That is something I can bring to the table in negotiating with a larger publisher.

But Kindle publishing or other book self-publishing venues are not the only sources for building a following by publishing. Another is through blogging. As you know, I'm a bit inconsistent in my blogging. However, many authors blog regularly and have a core of followers who look forward to each post.

Setting up a web site with dynamic content that you change frequently that deals with a topic of interest to people is another way to build a platform. If you write science fiction stories, having a website that posts news of science fiction literature, video and movies can help establish you as a science fiction expert. The traffic to that website becomes your platform.

If you want to break into the big leagues, you have to bring your fan base with you. No, it isn't fair, but that's the reality of today's publishing world. Fortunately, there are many ways to build that platform.


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