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The unfortunate answer to this question is, “Yes.” Yet, sometimes, “Obstacles can be turned into opportunities,” as my friend Patricia Raskin is fond of saying.
I sent an e-mail to an agent two days ago for a very exciting how-to book, with a clear audience, from a first time author with some regional (but not national) platform. Platform refers to your current audience–the people who are on your mailing list, reading your articles, coming to your talks or workshops, reading your blog, etc.
The agent wrote back that she “LOVES” (and, yes, she used capital letters) the book concept, but doesn’t think she could sell it unless the author has a national, or otherwise significant, platform. The author decided to beef up her platform before showing the proposal to agents.
What does this mean for you? The lessons here are:
1. If you want to find a traditional publisher, you need to be working on your platform. A great book concept, sample chapters, and even a killer promotion plan, may not be enough to get you a contract nowadays.
2. The good news is that this makes the competition narrower. If you can beef up your platform, you have less competition.
3. In addition, the work you do now on creating a platform will make it much easier to sell many books when your book is published.
You don’t have to do everything when expanding your platform–blogging, making and posting viral videos, public speaking, teaching workshops, writing national magazine articles, interviewing on TV, radio, and newspapers, syndicating a column, creating your own internet radio show, social networking, social marketing, pay per click advertising, website SEO…
You can pick a couple of areas to focus on and grow your platform in those areas. At the same time, you may not want to put all your eggs in one basket. Pick two or three areas for best success.
Be strategic about your activities. So many people on the internet want to sell you a single tactic for book sales or platform growth–sit back and develop a strategy that matches your strengths and goals.
Once you’ve created a strategy, find an expert, mentor or class to help you implement effectively, efficiently and successfully.
And, yes, self-publishing is a viable option, too. But if you want to sell books, whether your book is self published or traditionally published, you’ll still need that platform for book sales. You’ll be glad you developed it when you have that book in your hands and you’re ready to get it into the hands of readers everywhere.