Author Marketing & Platform

numbers

*It’s All About the Numbers*

When we (agents) submit proposals to publishers, we pay special attention to the part of the proposal that explains who the author is and what makes up their platform. And what publishers want to see is your platform expressed in numbers. So from the beginning, you as an author should be thinking this way:

  • You don’t have a “popular blog.” You’ve had a blog for X number of months/years, with X monthly page views and X monthly unique visitors.
  • You don’t “speak frequently to large groups.” Instead, your proposal lists every speaking engagement for the last year, and every speaking engagement already booked for the future, including the date, the event, and the NUMBER of people you spoke to.
  • We want to know your Klout score, your number of Twitter followers, number of LinkedIn contacts, number of Facebook friends or fans on your profile page. We want to know how many visitors view your YouTube channel each month. If you use Facebook ads, Google Ad Words, or Wiki Book Summaries, we want the number of monthly impressions.
  • If you’re regularly on radio, what’s your audience size according to Arbitron? If you write for a regular newsletter or journal, what’s the circulation? And yes, if you’ve previously published books, how many did you sell?

All publisher marketing is metric-driven these days. That’s one of the beauties of Internet marketing—everything is quantifiable.

If you don’t yet have anything impressive to share, don’t worry, everyone’s got to start somewhere. And if you’re just beginning, the important thing is not the hard numbers but rather a strong pattern of growth. Every platform takes time to build, and you should be tracking your numbers from the start so that you can see what spurs your growth and learn how to keep your platform growing. You’re going to need this information whether you’re seeking traditional publication or indie/self-pub.

When you’re putting together a proposal or pitch, don’t make up numbers or try to fake it! But if possible, try to find anything that expresses—in numbers—your salability as an author.

Are you keeping stats that give you an idea of your own potential in the marketplace? If you haven’t started yet, what’s holding you back? If you’re already doing this, what are you learning from it?

 

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  • http://melissapearl.blogspot.com/ Melissa Pearl

    Wow – that’s really cool. I hadn’t thought about it like that before. I’m still REALLY small fry, but I’m steadily getting more views on my blog and building up a tiny following.

    It’s funny you mentioned tracking changes. I posted a book review the other day and it got heaps of attention. I’ve decided to include more book reviews in my repertoire. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to little things like that.

    Thanks for making me think about it. I always find your posts SO helpful – like you’re really looking out for us writers.

    Thanks for your effort :)

    • Alan Kurland

      Sounds good, but is it as important for fiction writers? I know we need a platform and do our own marketing, but??

  • http://www.janesteen.com Jane Steen

    I’m slowly ramping up as I feel myself getting closer to publication – and stats are very much on my mind. (I have earned more than one Klout Addict badge.)

    I don’t have the time to work on everything at once so I work in cycles. Right now I’m focusing on growing my Twitter following and Klout score. Next I plan to take steps to improve my blog’s reach, and turn it into a website ready to receive news about my first book :D

    It’s tough doing all this while freelancing and working on my fiction. But I am learning that all the hard work shows measurable results very fast! Definitely worth it.

  • http://www.melissaknorris.com Melissa K. Norris

    I’m learning what my audience (still feels funny to say that), responds to. Then I can taylor my posts/tweets to what they want. It’s all about the reader after all.

  • http://tossingitout.blogspot.com Arlee Bird

    I still don’t understand a lot about the stats. I think I’ve got some pretty good ones, but I honestly don’t check that often and when I do I’m not sure what I’m looking at. It seems like I’ve got one heck of an internet presence though when I google my name.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Please see my guest post at:
    So You Want to be a Writer?

  • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

    I’m learning that increasing my numbers, i.e. creating that tribe, takes time. And I have to know who I am as a writer–and stay true to that.
    And I can’t stay on Twitter and FB and the Internet going from blog to blog to blog in hopes of increasing my numbers … that’s just not reality.
    But that doesn’t mean I can ignore the necessity to do social media … and to learn how to do it better and better.

  • http://patsy-collins.blogspot.com/ Patsy Collins

    Thanks.

    Yes, I see that quoting actual figures will give agents and publishers a much clearer idea of our platform size.

  • http://Taylornapolsky.com Taylor Napolsky

    does anyone else find this blog post intimidating?

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      My hand is raised in positive reponse to your question, Taylor! =^)

      It is a bit intimidating…

    • Elizabeth

      Yes, I was hoping Rachelle was talking about non fiction writers. Aaargh.

    • http://annemartinfletcher.wordpress.com/ Anne Martin Fletcher

      Taylor, this is completely intimidating, and I’m a Rachelle client!!! I thought I did well in my proposal (rachelle even said she likes it), giving circulation numbers of print trade magazines who will list my book and my growing number of blog hits. But I haven’t figured out how to add ads, or what a Klout score is, and I laugh at my students with 3478 FB friends (guess I better start sending them friend requests). PANIC, PANIC. Rachelle, how do I prioritize? Shouldn’t I get the manuscript finished as my primary goal?
      And yet, in one of my THREE speaking engagements this month, I did recommend that another writer work on increasing her blog stats before submitting a query letter. Being a writer/speaker/PR/marketer is so complicated.

  • http://markwilliamsinternational.com mark williams international

    Has publishing *really* become a beauty contest between SMP freaks?

    How on Earth did publiihers choose what to publish in the old days?

    A week or so back you were asserting new authors needed 15,000 blog hits a month to get a publisher.

    Is it any wonder writers are turning to self-publishing if these ridiculous demands are being bandied about?

    A good writer only needs one platform: a good book.

    • http://kathrineroid.wordpress.com Kathrine Roid

      Correction: In 10 Tidbits About Author Platform, Rachelle said “For first-time novelists, publishers still make their decisions based on the book itself, but they’ll expect you to have a head start on some kind of online platform, and they’ll expect you to step it up once you have a contract.” Emphasis hers.

      Later she said, “Nobody can to tell you exactly what to shoot for in terms of Facebook followers or blog visitors, because there are so many variables.” She suggested 15,000 as a benchmark to shoot for, but stressed steady grown as more important. BTW, 15k per month is only about 500 a day, not a ridiculous number at all. Yeah, I’m not near that number yet. But I’m growing.

      She said nothing about needing a certain number before getting published.

      Remember Rachelle also takes nonfiction. Platform numbers are crucial to decide whether or not this person actually knows anything about what they’re writing.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Mark – Saying you might as well self-publish misses the point entirely. First, as Katherine pointed out, I’ve never said that there are specific numbers you must hit before a publisher will look at you. Second and most crucially, all of this applies even more for those who are self-publishing.

      How can you possibly expect to sell a book if you don’t have an audience out there who is listening to you? How can you – as a businessperson trying to sell your book – make any kind of projections about your potential sales if you’re not tracking your influence (by the numbers)? And if you’re not tracking, and consequently learning along the way what your audience responds to, how will you grow your audience?

      This is not just publishers being unrealistic and demanding. It’s a simple fact of today’s world. You, as an individual, need to find a way to be heard above all the noise. MANY people are doing it. Many people have 500 blog hits a day. Many are slowly but surely growing their platforms over time. It can be done, I assure you!

  • http://www.peterdehaan.name/ Peter DeHaan

    I’m blogging, tweeting, on Facebook and Linked In; I have multiple websites and am building traffic and developing a following. I hope that when it comes time to write a proposal, I will have enough numbers to catch someone’s attention.

    Unfortunately, all this platform building takes time away from writing, so effective time-management is critical.

  • http://doubtingwriter.blogspot.com/ Jeffo

    I can’t help but think that the tail is wagging the dog.

  • http://www.wizardofotin.blogspot.com otin

    I guess it’s back to blogging for me. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406018102 Vincenzo

      Bah la grafica certo non qluela di NFS:Shift, per lo stile “tamarro” delle machine mi piace molto, e se la giocabilit buona, esce un bel gioco!Per come la vedo io ovviamente^^

  • http://4broadminds.blogspot.com/ carol brill

    great question…what’s holding me back? I agree with Beth, “I have to know who I am as a writer–and stay true to that.”
    What challenges me (besides finding time) is creating my brand. I write comtemporary women’s fiction. Branding seems easier to me with non-fiction where you’re an expert on something. How do you do that with fiction?

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Carol, I advise you to STOP thinking about branding. Instead, focus on identifying your target audience. Who are you writing books for? Identify ONE PERSON in your life who represents your audience in terms of age, gender, lifestyle. Blog for her. Talk about the things both you and she are interested in. That’s how you’ll develop your brand. You’ll never develop your brand by thinking about a “brand.”

      • http://whyiya.blogspot.com/ demetrabrodsky

        Does this all apply to the writer who does not yet have an agent? For example, I currently have linkedin, blogspot, facebook, twitter, klout, tumblr and goodreads going, and somehow I still find time to write, though it never seems like enough time. It can all become very distracting, especially when there are so many posts about blog burnout and getting back to what’s important—writing. Without something to sell (ms, published book), it does feel like a futile attempt.

        What should the aspiring author strive for?

        Thanks! : )

      • http://www.4broadminds.blogspot.com carol brill

        thanks Rachelle, your keep it simple reply is really encouraging and sane advice – makes me feel my new blog is exactly on track

  • http://www.sillystoryideas.blogspot.com Walter Dinjos

    I’m a singer and have thirty songs written in the POVs of the characters in my novel, and I intend to publish a song on my blog every month, discussing the situations that would make each of my characters sing such a song. But for me to start publishing the songs, I need to have gotten a publisher first. Do you think this is a viable platform?

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Walter, it’s a good idea and it’s part of a platform, but it’s not itself a platform. It’s a good blog topic that will interest the readers of your book, once you have readers.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I’ve learned to sharpen my focus and to clarify who my readers are.

  • http://flowerpatchfarmgirl.blogspot.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

    I’m confused by writers who view blogging as an unwelcome task. Maybe it’s because I began blogging long before I considered myself a writer, but I love the opportunity to sit down almost every day to sharpen my skills and really identify my voice as a writer. Though my audience has certainly grown, I started off with every one else out there: Just me and my Mama. :) I’m a big believer that good, consistent, honest writing will be latched on to by others. In my readers I find encouragement that maybe – MAYBE – people will want to read my novel one day. But until that day, I blog!

    • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

      I’m with you, Farmgirl. I love blogging, and I love the relationships I’ve developed through it.

    • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

      I follow your blog and would definitely be willing to read any novel you write.

      I hope someday someone(s) will say the same about me. I am new to blogging but seem to have a steady increase in my traffic and followers. I’m encouraged, but would love to see it all take off more. In God’s time I know, not mine! Too bad I can get a bit impatient!

  • http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com Stephen King

    Another good post. Many of the writers I’ve met are a little bit put off or intimidated by numbers. The numbers are important, though. As I’ve built my platform slowly over the past few months it’s been fun watching the numbers grow.

  • http://www.sarahforgrave.com/blog Sarah Forgrave

    Very helpful post, Rachelle! I just had a similar discussion with my agent, which prompted me to be intentional with some changes. I want to be as ready for success as possible if the opportunity comes! :)

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  • http://blog.karenjordan.net/ Karen Jordan

    Thanks for the info. I’m working on a nonfiction book proposal right now. I also liked what you said about identifying your target audience: “Identify ONE PERSON in your life who represents your audience in terms of age, gender, lifestyle. Blog for her. Talk about the things both you and she are interested in.” Great tips!

  • http://www.bydavidklein.com David Klein

    Publishers expect numbers from authors and expect authors to market themselves, but they don’t give any numbers in return. As an author, I’d be much more willing to invest $ to grow my platform and audience if I knew from publishers how my book sold week in and week out. Is it worth running that Facebook promotion? Do Google Ads work? Should I plan an event tour around Boston? If I could see the weekly impact on sales of each of these campaigns, I’d be more willing to do it. As it is now, my publisher sends royalty statements every six months, covering a period that ended more than three months ago. Not helpful.

  • Vera Soroka

    I’m just starting up a website. I had to decide what I wanted to do with it. I enjoy reading author blogs and aspiring writers blogs but I did not want to write about my writing journey. So I’ve decided to make up a website that would feature my short stories,flash fiction and my art. The audience that I want to attract are readers and artists.Does that sound like a plan?

  • http://www.fallible.com Katy McKenna

    Rachelle, Thank you for the info on the numbers publishers are currently watching. I’m wondering if they are also interested in numbers showing an author’s interaction with her followers, or the comments generated by her tweets, facebook posts, and blog entries. One of the ways I’m trying to build an audience is by gauging the number of responses I get (let’s say, to a specific type of facebook post…) and then writing more of the type that generates energetic interaction. I’ve learned to stay away from partisan politics and stock market tips, haha.

  • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

    I don’t know if this sounds crazy or just a normal phase, but I’m at a point right now where I am trying hard not to even THINK about the numbers.

    Thinking about numbers and growth is just too depressing, right now. Every time I start to think I’m seeing some growth, or seeing a pattern of increased website hits, the graph drops off the end of the world again.

    More importantly, thinking about the numbers takes my focus off of the primary goal, which is to minister to people. So, rather than obsessively checking daily hits, I am making a conscious decision to focus, instead, on the few people who have mentioned how blessed they were by a sepcific post, or by reading my book.

    Those are the people I’m writing for!

    Anyone else finding themselves in a similar position right now?

    • http://MarjiLaine.blogspot.com Marji Laine

      I’m with you, Joe. My blog is only a few months old and though I post daily, my following only trickles a little higher only to fall for no apparent reason the next week.

      Not a complaint; just a frustration. But I like blogging and I love the people I’m meeting online, so I’ll keep it up and hope when the time comes that my story will make the difference.

  • http://www.colindsmith.com/blog Colin Smith

    While, like most aspiring novelists, I blog to help build an audience for my (hopefully, one day) forthcoming novel(s), I also enjoy the opportunity it affords to share my life and talk about things that are on my mind. But without feedback in terms of followers, comments, and hits, I start to feel “what’s the point?” If no-one’s listening to what I have to say, then why bother speaking? So building an audience is more than just gathering impressive numbers for an agent or publisher; it’s about knowing people are interested in what I have to say, and are willing to come back for more. And in many ways, for me the latter is more important.

  • http://crowproductions.com joan Cimyotte

    I’ve got a lot of work to do!

  • http://aboutracewriter.blogspot.com/ Dianne Liuzzi Hagan

    My blog is being read in over 12 countries now (I’m about 3 months into it), but I’m not getting 500 hits a day. I only blog once a week, because I won’t put crap out there just to say I’ve done it and it does take precious time and energy away from my other writing as I work full time. Numbers are great because it is a business, but it makes me think twice about it all. I haven’t published my book yet, but agents want to see that I already have an audience. Seems like they won’t take a chance on a good read, they would rather go with something sure. I get it, but that doesn’t change my situation. It does make me think about self-publishing (plan C) because if I have to do the work anyway, I might as well make the money. These are interesting times we live in and flexibility is a must.

    • http://www.colindsmith.com/blog Colin Smith

      I don’t think I’ve ever read an agent say they wouldn’t take a chance on a good read. But I think the point is that agents can only take on so many clients, and if its a choice between great ms A whose author has a small blog/twitter following, and great ms B whose author has a large blog/twitter following, the decision becomes easier. Sure, you could do all the same kind of promotion but self-publish instead. But you’re not guaranteed to make more money. In fact, given that you’ll have to handle all the business side of your career as well as the creative side, your losses in terms of productivity (balancing the books, managing your career vs. actually writing) may not make it as worthwhile.

      But perhaps you’ll be one of the few that make it all work. I would just caution against rushing into self-publishing without fully counting the cost.

      My 2-cents for what it’s worth.

      • http://aboutracewriter.blogspot.com/ Dianne Liuzzi Hagan

        That’s why self-publishing is my plan C. I haven’t given up yet. Thanks for the advice.

  • Janet

    I agree the numbers are important from the marketing perspective. They represent something concrete by which to measure a book’s potential circulation.

    That said, I also concern myself with the quality of my contacts, their level of influence, the relationships I build with them, and what we have to offer each other in terms of support. If I have 15,000 followers on Twitter and none of them ever interact with me or, conversely, I don’t take time to help and support them, what good is that? Are they really going to buy my book? Will they even be willing to help me get the word out about it?

    I am operating under the assumption that if I develop good relationships with even a small network of interesting and interested contacts, the numbers will eventually take care of themselves. Of course, I get that I have to seek out new relationships for that to happen, but I spend far more time actually interacting with those I already have.

    Please, please, please tell me if I need to change that approach!

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    Another great post, Rachelle.

    You said we should be tracking the number of unique visitors per month. What’s the best way to do this?

    Thank you for some great information!

  • http://www.rebastanley.com Reba

    Once again, great post.
    I have not been keeping up with my numbers, but now I see that it is important to do so.
    thank again, Rachelle

  • http://jilldomschot.blogspot.com Jill

    Golly, I’m glad I ate something before I responded to this post because it made me super grumpy on an empty stomach. I hate the idea of being “quantified” this way, feeling like I have to be a “pretty” person or a superstar in order to make it in publishing. On the other hand, I have a blog, a website, a Facebook acct and a Twitter acct. I can’t seem to get into Twitter, but I love Facebook and my blog.

    • http://www.colindsmith.com/blog Colin Smith

      Perhaps it might help to think of it in terms of audience–people that are reading and enjoying your posts. It’s the same difference (I think) between the publisher looking at books sales, and the author looking at readers. Two different perspectives on the same set of numbers. I think that helps make the numbers a bit more personal for us, an less like we’re being “quantified.”

  • Jane Isaac

    As a newbie, I’m only just starting off. I thought I was doing OK with an FB page, blog and starting a twitter following. My website is currently in design. But this piece has demonstrated that I still have a long way to go…
    Thanks for focusing the mind.

  • http://www.friendgrief.com Victoria Noe

    Rachelle -
    Thanks for this, especially while I re-work my non-fiction book proposal.
    I had just gone over the analytics for my blog and stated how many unique visitors I had last month vs. how many I had the first month, to show the steady growth. Sounds like you’re saying that’s a good approach.

  • Rachel Spies

    so helpful – thank you!

  • http://www.melaniespronia.com Melanie S. Pronia

    While I agree with what Rachel says about keeping track of your numbers, as a self-publisher author, I wonder than with all the work the traditionally published authors have to do on their own, what exactly is a literary agent being paid for? The only good answer I can come up with is their contacts in the publishing industry. Futher more, while self-publishing is hard work, so is an excess of 20 years of trying to find a literary agent. Unfortunately, you have to write the ‘perfect’ query letter to gather an ounce of interest. Frankly, I think that it’s your actual writing that should count.

  • http://karenbooth.net Karen B

    Fascinating. I was mentioning blog stats in queries for a while because I average over 1K unique visitors a month. I stopped putting it in queries after I got blasted by two agents who said they didn’t want to know that sort of info. Both said something along the lines of it not being relevant to the pitch.

  • http://kenbakerbooks.blogspot.com Ken Baker

    Rachelle, as always, you present some great and very useful insights. However, as I read your article it made me think with this constant emphasis that publishers and agents place on the author’s self-promotion as opposed to a focus on great writing, it makes me wonder if agents and publishers are steering themselves down a road that will ultimately put them out of business. You inspired me to write about that in my blog today (http://kenbakerbooks.blogspot.com/2011/10/author-platform-friend-or-foe.html) and I would appreciate any comments you have on that aspect of the author platform.

  • http://annerallen.blogspot.com Anne R. Allen

    These expectations are draconian. Most top bloggers barely get 15,000 hits a month. I only do in very good months when I’ve been quoted in Publisher’s Weekly or Writer’s Digest. Roni Loren has a top author blog and she doesn’t always get 15,000 hits month. Neither does Mark Williams, and he has two of the top-selling books in the UK.

    Publishers are increasingly treating their relationship to authors as master/slave. They demand more and more and give less and less. Not a good paradigm.

    It would be good to remember that even the Lord rested on the seventh day.

  • http://ShariLopatin.wordpress.com Shari Lopatin

    I couldn’t agree more! WordPress does not offer stats for unique visitors, though. Which is unfortunate. But I monitor everything else. I’ve only written a few chapters to my book, but I’ve been blogging for a year, tweeting for 9 months, etc. The plan is to have a very solid platform by the time I pitch to an agent.

  • http://latinapen.blogspot.com Mona AlvaradoFrazier

    Your tips took the grim reality of #’s and ‘platform’ and put a positive spin on those nasty stat’s. Distasteful but important.

    Writers, get back to writing but also carve out some time to spend on the various writer ‘accessories.’

    Blogging, for me, is like daily writing exercises. Spend 15-20 min’s on a topic,then put writing away and post your best 2 or 3 times a week. Stay under 500 words. If you want to do more, do it. If not, don’t.
    FB: I use it to post the blog.
    I’m ‘twitterless,’ but if you have a T acct. post an excerpt from your blog.

    I’m nowhere near 1,500 hits more like 800, but I’ve been consistent for the seven months and the #’s are growing.

  • http://reflectionsbykrista.blogspot.com Krista Phillips

    I LOVE LOVE numbers. I don’t keep a historical track, however, I know averages of most of them anyway.

    Just went and looked at Klout today. I’m a 43. Unsure how good/bad that is!

    I guess that’s part of it too, is figuring out what to do with that data, knowing if it is “good” or “bad” or “average.” So right now, I more use the numbers to gauge how I’m doing, and use it to make informative decisions about changes to make in the future. Still figuring it all out though!

  • http://www.jillbarville.com Jill Barville

    Before I began writing my first novel the enormity of the project was almost overwhelming. So I tackled it one scene at a time. That’s the same approach I’m taking toward building a platform.

    I’ve been on Facebook for years but added Twitter this spring when I saw so many agents on it. I follow new people each week who I think might be interested in my work and interact with them as time allows.

    Then came Klout and in a matter of weeks I had a Klout score of 60.

    Finally, I added a website last month and wrote my first blog post yesterday. Within hours it had multiple hits and one comment. Yay.

    My metrics are still small but they grow every week and it’s my hope that by the time book #2 is complete the numbers will be large enough to mention in my query.

  • http://rogerfloyd.wordpress.com Roger Floyd

    It’s really amazing how publishers have abandoned authors. Now we writers are expected to do almost everything. Are the publishers surprised that self-publishing has become so popular? If the author is expected to do the marketing as well as the writing, why surrender part of the royalties to the publisher when you can publish yourself and keep much more of the cash? If those are the real numbers required to publish a book, it doesn’t look as though I’ll ever get published. I get about 10 hits/week on my blog even though I’ve been doing it for over a year, and I have only about 55 Facebook friends. I refuse to do Twitter, I feel it’s a waste of my time to put down 140 characters about what I’m doing several times a day. If publishers want that, let them do the Tweeting (sounds like a bird).

  • http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com CG Blake

    As a writer and relatively new blogger, I understand the importance of what you’re saying. Writers should look at their blogs as part of a mix of marketing tools. Social media, personal appearances, networking and engaging with writers and readers online are also part of the mix. It takes time to draw readership. Stay with it. Hone your blogging style, which is going to be somewhat different than your fiction writing style. My only worry about blogging is that it takes time away from writing, but I can now see it is part of an investment in building a following. Thanks again for great post, Rachelle.

  • Jerry Eckert

    So, the publishers have given up thought and reflection, substituting instead rote numbers counts that can be manipulated by those who generate them, and pushing the marketing responsibility all the way back down to the author. Basically they tell us that we must first write a NYT best seller, we must then prove we (ourselves) can generate sales in the multiple thousands, and then they will spend the time to put a fancy cover on it and run their hallowed presses. This is way more than daunting for the neophyte. It is basically a set of walls and moats around a castle into which most of us will never be admitted. I want to quit.

    • http://bookinamonthmom@blogspot.com Heather Gilbert

      Don’t quit, Jerry! There are plenty of famous authors who didn’t have the “machine” of technology in place, complete w/blogs or twitter. I’m thinking Stephenie Meyer didn’t, and not J.K. Rowling (she started out before Twitter…but not before the internet! ha). Anyway, I think that if you really love writing, you can’t let yourself get discouraged about the seemingly insurmountable “moat walls.” Just keep polishing (critique groups are a great way to take it to the next level), or rewriting, or even switching genres until you fit in your niche.

      But I understand why self-pubbing looks more and more appealing, as agents demand not only a query/sample chapters (not so hard), but a polished proposal/synopsis/brand plan/logline/attendance at expensive conferences/whatever else is trendy at the time.

      Dude, whatever happened to the reclusive writer who wouldn’t make social appearances, a regular hermit from the world, but an understood genius? Those quirky writers of the classics wouldn’t stand a chance today. I don’t think Edgar Allan Poe would’ve made a great first impression. Or Sylvia Plath…

      But keep it up! There are ways to get through those cracks, if you keep trying and you know you can write.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Jerry, see my comments to Jami Gold and TechGuy. I simply can’t believe you are reading all of that into this little post about how to express your platform in numbers.

      Please point out to me where I said publishers don’t care about thought and reflection, or good books for that matter. I can’t remember writing that.

      I am so sorry this little post is being so misunderstood. It’s enough to make me want to give up blogging.

      • Jerry Eckert

        No! No! You can’t quit blogging. 50% of what I know of the publishing and agenting business comes from your blog. You have been in the writing business long enough to recognize a rant when you read one, and not to take it personally. Here’s the deal. You keep going and I will also. OK?

  • http://jamigold.com Jami Gold

    Rachelle, I respect you and your blog. But if this is what publishers care about, they’re doomed.

    *Numbers* alone do not sell books. Advice like this will get your readers blocked for being too pushy and salesman-like.

    Word of mouth about a good book sells books. And people will trust word of mouth more from those who aren’t trumpeting their own wares. We need to get *others* to spread the word of mouth for us.

    How do we do that?

    Number 1: Write a fantastic book that people are dying to tell their friends about.

    Number 2: Have a network of people willing to go above and beyond for us.

    How do we *make* people want to go through that much work for us? By being friends.

    Thousands of people can’t be our close “help bury the body” type of friends. Thousands of people are irrelevant in our network. Even having 20 people who love us and our book can make the difference.

    What Does It Take to Sell Books:
    http://jamigold.com/2011/10/what-does-it-take-to-sell-books/

    Publishers are scrambling and they’re trying to blame the authors. Blogs didn’t exist 20 years ago and yet books sold. Numbers are not the answer.

    • http://rasjacobson.com Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson

      With all due respect, I have to say that I’m with Jami on this one.

      Klout is so new, it is hardly a reliable tool yet.

      Honestly, I am a small blogger, but Klout shows me as having a ridiculously high number.

      Well *pats self on back*, that is lovely for me to believe, but what I know is that when it comes to selling books I will have to write something positively fabulous and then I will have to rely on close friends (and peeps on Facebook and Twitter relationships) to spread the word.

      I may not have 81,000 followers, but I have friends who do!

      I may have a bunch of devoted readers who will buy my books and tell their friends at their book clubs to buy my book.

      But these days having a strong network of friends who will help you promote your book counts for a lot. You don’t need hundreds of followers.

      You just need to be plugged into the “right” people.

      • http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com Roni Loren

        I also agree with Jami. I think it’s so much more about the quality of the connections than it is about the hard numbers. Numbers can be highly misleading. You can buy twitter followers or just go find the follow back people to fluff up your numbers.

        I have a successful blog that took two years to build and has the same number of followers as Jody Hedlund’s, but 15k hits a month would be a rare month for me. However, I can tell you that the people who are stopping by are engaging with the content, leaving comments, retweeting, etc. It’s not random hits because my SEO formula was good and people randomly landed there and stayed 3 seconds. It’s actual personal connection.

        So I understand why big numbers can look enticing, but it often doesn’t show the actual picture or what the marketing effectiveness will actually be. That’s why I think we need to be careful throwing around random stats.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      I’m shocked. SHOCKED. I can’t believe so many people are reading so much into this post. I can’t believe so many people seem to think I’m saying one of the following:

      “If you don’t have HUGE numbers, you’ll never get a publishing deal.”

      “These numbers are the ONLY thing publishers care about when deciding whether to publish your book.”

      “These numbers are more important than your book or your writing.”

      I’m not saying anything of the sort!

      You know that I cover all aspects of publishing on this blog. One post at a time. One topic at a time. This post is one small piece in a much larger puzzle and you all know that. This is literally 1/1000th of my blog. This is NOT the whole picture!

      Jami, you right… and thank you for pointing out these truths. But you’re not saying anything I haven’t said here before.

      I think… I could be wrong but I THINK the title of this post is: “Author Marketing & Platform: It’s All About the Numbers.”

      It is not, unless I am totally reading this wrong, “Book Publishing: It’s All About the Numbers.” Or, “How to Get a Publisher: It’s All About the Numbers.” Or “How Good Is Your Book? It’s All About the Numbers.”

      This post was ever and only about your platform and how to express it in numbers that a publisher will understand. Period. That’s all.

      • http://jamigold.com Jami Gold

        Thank you for your clarification, Rachelle. And I do understand the point you’re making as well. But I fear that new writers will see this post and feel discouraged.

        Also, I fear that this is a symptom of a major problem with publishers and their marketing departments. You said:

        “This post was ever and only about your platform and how to express it in numbers that a publisher will understand.”

        *That* is the tragedy here–that publishers (or their marketing departments) think that ability to sell books (i.e., platform) can be measured by social media numbers. I’ve seen Twitter accounts with 20K followers and zero tweets, and we know that some people subscribe to the follow-everyone-and-hope-they-follow-back philosophy. The follow-back group on Twitter has huge numbers of followers…that don’t listen to or care about them.

        I don’t seek out Twitter followers. The only time I initiate following someone is when they retweet something of mine. In other words, my respectable number of followers is more *engaged* in my message than those who use the follow-back method. But I seriously doubt the marketing departments take that into account, and that’s the problem with relying on numbers alone to form an impression.

        There are more examples of best-selling authors with no big following than of the reverse. There are more examples of authors with huge followings falling flat in their sales than of the reverse.

        In other words, I think the publishers are grasping at straws by thinking that numbers indicate a better chance of success. I don’t blame you for trying to help writers know how to speak their language. However, I do wish that someone would smack those marketing folk upside the head with reality. :)

  • http://www.noveldoctor.com Noveldoctor

    This isn’t a post about how publishers decide what to publish. It’s a post about the role metrics play in that decision. Metrics are just one piece of the puzzle. They always have been. Today’s metrics are different than those of a decade ago, but audience and influence have always mattered, especially with non-fiction.

    I understand the temptation to respond with cries of “publishers are abandoning authors” and “publishers have given up thought and reflection,” but to do so is to make this post into something it’s not.

    Numbers matter. That’s not news. (Great writing matters, too. It’s simply not the topic of this particular post.) But today we can see more clearly what sort of numbers matter. Can they be used for evil intent, to deny worthy authors of brilliant works a chance to be published? Of course. But whereas authors could only guess in the past about how their metrics impacted a publishing decision, at least today we have access to information we can do something about.

    Ten years ago, if you were perceived to have no audience, you’d have had a hard time getting your non-fiction book published. Today, you can build that audience with relative ease (and surprisingly little cost) so you can eventually provide indisputable data, giving publishers one more reason they should publish your book instead of a dozen others that are equally brilliant.

    • Joseph Baran

      I am always surprised at what one writes and what others hear.

      Good writing is the foundation of it all. Without a good story, metrics amount to nothing.

      You are absolutely right about using technology to your advantage, Steve. It’s good to see you throw your “nickle” in. Your passion as a writer surpasses your marketing side.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406008801 Sana

      They sell beanies at Payless in Trinidad for like $100TT. Seriously? That’s like $16. I could get 4 hats for that. No thnkas I’ll wait until I get back to the States. LOL

  • CJ

    So pretty much the publisher wants you to do all the work for only 15% of the profit (from which you have to pay your agent). What’s in it for the writer? If you have to have that good a platform, you may as well self-publish and make a whole lot more money. Publishers need to start asking themselves what they can offer the writer, rather than the other way round, because a writer with a good platform has no incentive to employ a publisher, or an agent.

  • http://tamarapaulin.wordpress.com/ Tamara Paulin

    Publishing is a business, and taking authors with platforms in place is a good method of reducing risk. It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

    As authors, we have limited time, and it’s up to us to decide how to invest our time. Me, I put 99% of my efforts into writing and revising one book after another. That’s my personal choice.

    Once your book is up for sale, the things that matter most are the cover, the description, and the reviews. The reviews will be based on the writing, so, work on the writing.

    Wait, why am I posting on this blog? See, this is me being silly. I don’t even read agent blogs any more (although yours is helpful, Ms. Gardner, and I did appreciate it), but someone sent me this link via twitter. See? Twitter is a nightmare of distraction! BACK TO WRITING, BYE!

  • http://bookinamonthmom@blogspot.com Heather Gilbert

    Rachelle, thanks so much for the advice to quit focusing on “branding,” and just work on identifying ONE person who reads your blog, and blog toward her/him. That helps me tremendously. Developing a brand is something that I, like most writers, am completely clueless about (trying to learn, though). But I do know what I write, and who I’m writing for, so that gives me a good target for the blog.

  • http://techsurgeons.com TechGuy Jay

    So Rachel, you’re saying “it’s the size, not how you use it?”

    I think you’re mistaken.

    -TG

    • Rachelle Gardner

      TechGuy, please explain to me how you got THAT out of what I wrote!

      See my comment below.

      My post was very specific. It was about expressing your platform in numbers, not in generalities.

      I actually didn’t address “how you use it” even slightly.

      Very cute comment, though.

      • http://techsurgeons.com TechGuy Jay

        First, sorry for the misspelling of your name. *writes Rachelle 50 times on paper*

        Obviously I saw a very pithy and humorous comment opportunity and had to jump at it. Glad it brought a chuckle.

        *Puts on his serious TechGuy hacker hat*

        The numbers you’re quoting are all easily hacked. So for publishers to be metric driven when those underlying metrics are easily faked shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Social Media and the Internet.

        They’re grasping at the obvious, not the correct – kinda like airport security.

        If you gave me a week and $2500, I could:

        Add 50-500K daily hits to a web site, YouTube channel, etc from locations all over the world that would be good enough to fool most reporting systems.

        Pay a service to run up Twitter / Facebook numbers with fairly lame followers / friends.

        Or better, I could hire an office in India for a week to post real blog comments, set up hundreds of fake accounts, and do enough cross communication to make them all seem real. Those accounts could be used to run up Klout, RT comments, follow me, talk to me. And at the end of the contract, I’d have all the account credentials so that I could use my faked community to maintain the illusion of popularity.

        Yes, I should be banned from online contests.

        My issue with your post is you’re advancing the correctness of the publishers’ incorrect assumptions on metrics and inadvertently pressuring and scaring folks with less of a platform.

        I’ve not yet seen a good study showing correlation between sales numbers and the size of a content creator’s platform.

        Having a platform which attracts the target audience is an advantage. I want to see more authors build their platform – especially since I sell web hosting services.

        However, I’d like to hope the best path to publishing nirvana is still a well-edited quality story and not metrics.

        Thanks for listening!

        -Jay

  • Rachelle Gardner

    Everyone please note:

    This post is not about how to get a publishing deal. It is not a post on “what publishers care about.” It is not a post about how publishers make decisions.

    This is a post on, as it says right there in the title: “Author Marketing & Platform.” In this post, I am telling you that when it comes to PLATFORM, publishers don’t want vague generalities, they want numbers.

    I did not say that your book is not worthy or won’t get published if you don’t have big numbers. I did not say that publishers don’t want good books, they only want good numbers.

    Again, please read the title of this post: “Author Marketing & Platform: It’s All About the Numbers.”

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon

    Rachelle,
    Thanks for this honest look at the industry. I came away from a writer’s conference very deflated by these kinds of responses from publishing houses. I now see the wisdom in the “numbers game”. It is the new reality, like it or not. Our job, as authors, is to produce compelling and original work that meets the felt need of the reader.
    If I were to need surgery, I’d ask the surgeon how many of these procedures he’s already done. I’d ask my friends if they’d heard of him. I’d check the internet for his references and comments.
    My readers are no different.

  • http://larryhehn.com Larry Hehn

    Gold! I’m working on a book proposal now, and this is very timely advice. Thanks, Rachelle!

  • Jerry Eckert

    P.S. Rachelle, while I admitted to a bit of a rant, there is also more than a little truth in what everyone seems to be reacting to. If we were all to take a deep breath and think this through, I would postulate that many of the metrics you mention are nearly meaningless as to selling a book. Given the ephemerata filling the social networks, who but a fool would buy a book based on a tweet? And, rightly or wrongly, there is a massive perception rampant among us neophyte writers that the publishing industry has become overly dependent on: 1) metrics of questionable relevance, and 2) authors absorbing a major part of the publisher’s job and associated expenses. If these are not largely true, then the publishing industry has developed a really ugly image problem and needs to take overt corrective action soon. Otherwise they drive uas all to e-pub where at least we know one person that we can trust, ourselves.

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  • http://thinkinginchrist.com Russ White

    As if to underscore the point:

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/10/17/1821244/amazon-bypassing-publishers-by-signing-authors-directly?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot+%28Slashdot%29

    Amazon is using their platform to take authors with an existing platform away from the traditional publishers –which underscores the problem traditional publishers have right now. Rachelle, I understand that you’re not making this up yourself, and that you intended to point out what publishers are looking for. And you’re not the first to say this –I’ve seen this on a number of other blogs recently from the publishing industry, and I’ve even heard it from my (current) publisher.

    The point to me is –as someone who’s already successfully published 8 books in one market, and is simply trying to transition markets, what does a publisher bring to the table? If I’m the product, rather than the book, then the point of having an agent is to promote me, not my writing.

    There’s some sort of confusion in the publishing industry over what the product is, and what the product means. If I’m the product, I don’t need a publisher, I need a publicist.

    So my point isn’t to beat up on you, or any other agent, as if you can change things, but to maybe make people think about how the modern world works, not just so they can adapt to it, but also so they can decide where the popularity chase is really a good thing, or whether its time for folks to say, “enough is enough,” and get off this treadmill.

  • http://www.plumagram.com Ksenia Oustiougova

    I’m planning on publishing my non-fiction book online for free and only then, if there is interest, offer a printed copy for sale – for now the blog of how I got to write the book is sitting dormant – so I will make sure to share the results publicly – it’s an experiment.

  • Suzanne

    Numbers scare me. That’s one of the many reasons why I’ve always loved English (and writing). However, there is truth in what you present here.

  • http://davidatodd.com David Todd

    What have I learned from keeping stats?

    I’m a stats man, but:
    - I learned I can’t find out how to determine unique blog visitors. Google analytics doesn’t show it for Blogspot blogs, or if it does I can’t find it. Sitemeter doesn’t show it, or if it does I can’t find it. WordPress stats doesn’t show it, or if it does I can find it.
    - I’ve learned I’m a worse luddite than I thought, because I can’t figure out how to add a “like” or “follow” button to my WordPress blog.
    - I’ve learned that I’m less well informed than I thought I was. What the heck is Klout, and why should I devote more than 60 seconds of valuable time to learning what it is?
    - I’ve learned that book reviews found by Google searches are my most popular blog posts.
    - I’ve learned that building an audience is extremely difficult. After almost four years of blogging on blogspot I still get no more than 400-500 pageviews a month.
    - I’ve learned that the threshhold to publishing is way too high. It’s very close to time to give up.
    - I’ve learned that whenever Rachelle makes a good post I will be tied up in three days of corporate meetings and will be too exhausted with dangerously high blood sugar when I get home, and be able to do no more than watch mindless “reality” shows and stupid talent competitions.

  • Des Leddy

    All the palaver in this blog and elsewhere about ‘platforms & stats’ is just another facet or perhaps it is the very epitome of what is wrong with the publishing world of late.

    What are the publishing world’s wrongs?

    Most if not all continue to publish their established writers work when the said writers works are merely formulist drivel. How many times have you/we read a new novel by an established author (and I don’t mean the chick-lit genre) and thought how on earth did this get into print. No wonder Tony Parsons (a definite drivel of a formulist) is currently composing (in some desperation one assumes and hopes) short stories on and about airport passenger transits. Can you imagine what James Michener, Virginia Wolf, Ernest Hemmingway or Mark Twain would say of these fanciful ideas for a writer’s ‘platform & stats’: a resounding, fuck off!

    When in doubt – and this applies to anything – when in doubt get back to basics, and for the publishing world that is the quality of the story and writing, it is a simple as that.

    If you can get 15,000 hits a month on your fanzine then why not go the self-publishing route and to hell with the literary agents and publishing houses!

  • http://girlseeksplace.wordpress.com Brianna

    I started out this year tracking my blog stats consistently and then fell off the wagon pretty early on. I’ve tailored my goals for 2012 to enable me to be better about stat tracking. I’ll also start using Klout to track the influence I’m having on my readers.

  • http://www.literating.wordpress.com lancelot

    I’m not sure why this is so terrifying to so many people, but it makes perfect sense to me after doing some academic book proposals. Those publishers don’t want to know merely what types of classes might use the academic book being proposed, they want to know the specific titles of the classes and which universities regularly schedule them on the roster. Not only this, they want numbers on how many people attend college in that field, where they live, etc.

    I see this post as saying, “Do research on your own statistics.” If research for the metrics on subjects I’ve never studied took no more than two hours, why would research on myself take any longer? This is nothing to fear. This is empowering.

    Thanks, Rachelle. And gorgeous site, btw.

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  • http://www.meghanward.com/blog Meghan Ward

    I’ve lost all faith in Klout. I was a big proponent until they changed their algorithm last week. First my score took a 9 point dive, then today is suddenly dropped another 36 points. I have to assume it’s a bug, but what if I had been querying agents this week? I’d have been in a panic. I think it’s important to look at a lot of different metrics and not rely on just one.

  • http://mysite.verizon.net/vzewy245/ Susan Foy

    I sent a proposal to an editor and received a reply saying that she wants the complete manuscript (which I have), and also marketing info (which I really don’t have). I don’t have a blog and until recently didn’t even realize that this was a required part of getting published. Should I admit this to the editor when I reply, or will this kill my chances? I assume that starting up a blog now won’t matter much to this particular editor.

  • http://lynneconnolly.com Lynne Connolly

    I am not a number, I am a free person! (to paraphrase The Prisoner)

    I’m a marketing professional, or I was, and this tends to confirm the MBA way of thinking (I’m an MBA, too, but I don’t usually admit to it). Over the years I’ve come to believe that numbers, when they relate to something as intangible and erratic as creative endeavor can harm as much as they can help.
    Although I used to write copy for tins of beans and labels on beer bottles, I don’t do it any more.

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  • Kip Sloan

    Thanks , I’ve just been looking for information about this subject for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

  • http://www.dailymarketingblog.com Matt Law

    Fantastic post. You guys complaining about the publishing industry are missing the boat. Self publish or grow your platform. I have been studying the publishing industry for a year and yes what publishers want is shockingly painful. Not what new writers think it will be at all.

    But better to know, prepare, do the work and get published than complain about how life is unfair. Yes, platform building takes work, but there are enough blogs, help and resources online to make it very doable if we shut up and get to work.

    I am just glad I know what they want before pitching an agent so I can do the needful.

    Great post even though I am late to comment.

  • Jess

    How is a first time author supposed to market their fiction book before they know if it will get published? When some fiction book proposal guidelines ask for an author marketing plan, how exactly is an author supposed to invest in marketing before they know they have a publish-worthy book?

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  • http://iouart.blogspot.com/ Rebecca

    You cut right to the point. I see this sort of thing happening all the time. I personally just want to help people get connected to those that care about the quality and not just the qualification.

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