By Wendy Lawton
Okay, confession time: Here at Books & Such I’m known as the platform denier. The skeptic. Card-carrying member of the Book Marketing Flat Earth Society. Yes, I know that an author’s platform can be a powerful thing, but just because it has worked for some (Duck Dynasty, Joanna Gaines, for instance) doesn’t mean it will work for all. And it cannot be quantified as some publishers are wont to do.
Take this recent article from Fox News. Beauty vloggers are known to be style-setters and mega product movers. This angry young Instagram sensation blamed her viewers for the fact that she was not able to sell the requisite 36 t-shirts to her 2.6 million subscribers. She couldn’t get .000014% of her loyal audience to fork over a few bucks! Yet she has a platform that would make most publishers drool.
I’m constantly pondering the question, do those who follow an author on social media buy books? I’m thinking that some do and some don’t. If most of your followers are in the publishing industry or fellow authors, they are not likely to buy your books. If your followers are there because you post wonderful memes, chances are they prefer collecting great one-liners instead of great books. If your persona on social media is all about crafting, and you publish a novel, you’ll have an uphill climb to convert them to book buyers. If you give all your content away for free on social media, why would anyone pay for it?
What makes a valuable platform?
- A life well-lived, shared transparently on social media. Followers tend to be strongly invested in those who do this well. A great example of this is The Frey Life. They are a young You Tube couple. The husband is a pastor and the wife battles Cystic Fibrosis. They started their blog to raise awareness for this disease, but it has morphed into so much more. They don’t talk about their faith to their 260,000 subscribers, they just live it. Check out the engagement in the comments. Their “merch” sales (merchandise) are staggering. (And yes, I’m hoping to get a book from them.)
- A well-crafted brand that extends seamlessly to your books. Take someone like Pioneer Woman. Her books and her brand are perfectly aligned, and her books add to what she shares on television and social media instead of duplicating.
- Meeting a felt need in social media and continuing to meet that need in a book that extends that help–not just rehashes what you’ve already shared on social media.
- A vigorous speaking platform, especially when you collect attendees’ names and email addresses and add them to your database for newsletters and e-blasts. Those are the people who gave up time and traveled to hear what you have to say. They may have even paid for the opportunity.
- We could go on and on, but can you see it’s not the gross number of Twitter followers you have?
How does one demonstrate engagement?
- Significant engagement through comments. When your social media is a conversation, your subscribers are more likely to buy in.
- The names or email addresses you are able to collect for your personal database. When a follower gives you his name and/or address, it demonstrates serious engagement. And you can contact those followers each time a new book launches or if you are going to be speaking or doing a book signing in their area.
- If you have a Patreon community (where your avid followers pay anywhere from $2 – $50 per month for extra content and even a call with you) that helps to quantify committed influencers.
- If your social media site sells a serious amount of “merch,” that’s a great indication of how willing followers are to fork out money for content. Check out Zak George Dog Training Revolution on You Tube, to see someone using sponsorships, Patreon and “merch” to the max.
There are many with more significant platforms, but you can see that they are not easy to access with raw numbers. One almost needs to be a member of the community to observe how viable a platform really is.
And then there are those with no name recognition, no platform at all when they started, like Ann Voskamp or Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling. So when editors shy away from someone because of a modest platform or get starry-eyed because of amazing numbers, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
How about you. Do you have any thoughts about the importance of platform? Or the fact that I may be the only Platform Denier in the industry?