More than any other reason, acquisition editors use the lack of an audience platform to reject a book project. They look at more than the numbers of followers, friends, tweeps and subscribers to assess the size of your reading audience. Social media metrics are one indication of an author’s potential customer base. There are many others.

Here’s a list of what an agent or acquisition editor might also look for in your proposal.

  1. Do you have publications in magazines, journals or newsletters?
  2. Do you have previous book publications, and if so, what are the reviews and sales figures?
  3. Have you presented your Work-In-Progress at juried readings or competitive writing workshops?
  4. Do you host a radio or television program or have a syndicated column?
  5. Is your blog syndicated?
  6. Do you have a list of previous media appearances?
  7. Do you have an email list of interested readers?
  8. Have you prepared a list of previous speaking engagements and keynote addresses?
  9. Do you have endorsements for your manuscript from opinion leaders and social influencers?
  10. Are you a member or a leader in national organizations?
  11. Which professional guilds or trade associations do you belong to?
  12. Do you participate as a volunteer with a community or non-profit organization?
  13. What clubs, hobby groups, alumni associations, sports and athletic teams do you belong?
  14. What religious, social, or fraternal organizations count you as a member?
  15. Have you won any awards or competitions for your writing?

Social media offer tools to leverage your face-to-face relationships by expanding the reach of your writing with exposure to new readers: the friends of your friends. It is not a substitute for real relationships with people. The technology permits a person to stay in more frequent contact with associates and meet new friends you would not otherwise, due to barriers of time and distance. So keep the social in your social media marketing strategy.

Here’s an immediate action plan for a more effective use of your time using social media..The answers to the questions above will drive your efforts.

1. Do you have links on your website to all of your previous publications in magazines, journals, and articles? Have you connected with these editors and publishers with whom you have previously worked? [LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook Page, Google +]

2. Do you have an Amazon Author Page? If you have previously published, you should have one. Make it work for you. While publishers and celebrity authors continue to complain about Amazon, there is this one upside for authors. You can track your own sales and have access to that data in time to respond instead of 6 month later in a royalty report.

3. If you haven’t been doing some beta-testing with readers and audiences, you’re not ready to submit your manuscript. Look for opportunities to present your work by connecting online with your local bookstores, public libraries, and writing centers.

4. If you’re not already a celebrity journalist, perhaps you can interest a syndicated columnist like Cheryl Strayed to endorse your efforts. Which syndicated columnists do you follow? Leave comments and your electronic footprint behind.

5. Post your blogs where your readers frequently visit online. Facebook Groups, hashtag discussions on Twitter, Groups in LinkedIn, or in a network of blogs.

6. Do you have links on your site and blog to your previous media appearances? Do you continue to follow the reporters who took the time to cover the stories?

7. Building your email list early is important. Once a week, ask three people you haven’t already to subscribe to your blog and build your list.

8. How many of these organizations, agencies, colleagues, and connections have you friended, followed, liked, or included in your electronic network?

9. What opinion leaders and social influencers do you follow online? Add one or two once a month.

10. Join organizations where you will meet opinion leaders and social influencers. Figure out one new organization to join, but research several online and cultivate new online connections.

You get the idea. If you want to build an audience platform organically then you must expand your social life, not just increase the number of likes, shares, retweets, and connect buttons you push.

Non-fiction writers are subject specialists. Join an organization with members devoted to the subject in which you specialize. Attend conferences and workshops and volunteer for a leadership position. Start with connecting online with these various associations, organizations, and groups online.

Buying Twitter followers isn’t building an audience platform. Neither is identifying the millions of people who are potential readers because they are affected by your subject in your book proposal. Your audience members are those with whom you engage authentically about the subject of your book. Platform means public name recognition. Platform means you have a social reputation that is larger than the circle of those who do know you face to face. Building good friendships and professional relationships in person is the best basis for a solid foundation to your platform.

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