If you are not J.K. Rowling, or perhaps especially if you are J.K., you need to recognize the power of name recognition and work on building the value of your brand as an author online. The merits of your writing only take you so far in today’s publishing environment. How will readers find your writing if they don’t already know you? Before you’re finished with your manuscript or written a book proposal, start to build your audience platform.
The questions below are ones every author needs to be ready to answer before they can expect to get a contract for publication. Before you put your work-in-progress out there prematurely, review this checklist:
- Do you have a business card? Face to face relationships are the basis of building any kind of audience platform. Engage with people and gather their business cards as you introduce yourself as an author. Tagline? Logo? You’ll want to present your brand as an author in a consistent fashion across print and electronic formats.
- Do you have a pitch? What’s your elevator speech? When someone asks you what kind of book you are writing and what it is about, what is your response?
- Does your book have a premise? How does it compare to what’s new or in the news? What is your hook?
- Do you have any easy-to-remember professional email address based on your author name?
- Do you have an email list of individuals interested in the publication of your book manuscript?
- Do you have a website? If so, is the domain URL the same as your author name?
- Do you blog regularly? Once a week? Once a month? Do you make it easy for visitors to subscribe to your blog updates?
- Do you have an account on GoodReads? or LibraryThing?
- Do you have a personal Facebook profile or an author Page? (If you have a Page for the title of your unpublished book, you may want to reconsider your time investment.)
- Do you have a Twitter account? Pinterest? Tumblr?
- Do you collect social media metric data with Google Analytics?
- Do you know your Klout score? Moz rank?
- Do you plan to hire a publicist?
- Do you have a list of influencers who will endorse your book and give blurbs?
- Do you have a plan to expand your audience platform in the next 9-12 months?
In my capacity as a literary representative for a select clientele of non-fiction and memoir clients, I am privy to the sorts of concerns a potential publisher has in considering a project. The list of questions above includes those I am often asked by acquisition editors. Nine out of ten reasons a publisher passes on a client’s book project is the lack of platform. DO NOT wait until you are ready to send your query, proposal and manuscript to begin building your brand. DO NOT think you can wait until the book is out to start blogging. Those writers who demonstrate they already have a platform in place are the authors who secure publishing contracts.
There are many good book manuscripts out there and for readers it’s like finding needles in haystacks. Publishers are primarily interested in manuscripts that are magnetic : the ones that pull readers effortlessly. Indeed, J.K. Rowling succeeded in selling 1,500 copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling on the magnetic pull of a good mystery story. No one knew Robert Galbraith. The author was an unknown brand and his superior product yielded acceptable sales, but not profitable. This should be a wake up call to writers. Can you deliver a buying audience to a publisher’s door with your platform? The power of an author’s brand can no longer be underestimated in the decisions of what gets published and what does not. How will you draw readers to follow, friend, subscribe, and like you?