Are Author Platforms Worth It?

Whether you are an indie or traditionally published author, we all feel the pressure to be online, producing content, and cultivating relationships with our audience.

Most traditional publishers will want to know what your numbers are, and if you don’t have a public author profile, they’ll want you to set one up.

I have seen examples of traditionally published authors who’s social media accounts are run by the publisher or that are totally inactive (created as a way to safeguard against posers), but these examples are rare and it’s likely that these writers have only been able to get away with this behaviour because their books are best sellers — but how did they become best sellers?

Because the publisher ran a massive marketing campaign.

Of course, there are examples of heavily marketed books that ‘failed’ despite the big backing (and big budget) of a major publishing house, and there are examples of indie authors who went from obscurity to lucrative full-time earnings solely because their platform suddenly took off.

Social media can be powerful and it can work for you, but there is no guarantee — and the same goes for traditional marketing.

We’re attracted to building a social media platform because it’s in our control and we’re attracted to traditional publishers because they offer support, experience, reach and a network. (NB: Sometimes ALL that still isn’t enough for a book to be ‘successful’).

What sucks though is when traditional publishers ask their new or mid-list authors to develop a platform. Because here’s the thing: it’s actually not that easy to build a big, engaged audience, AND it’s a massive time suck.

Looking for content to repost on Twitter with a summary sentence or witty comment, replying to comments, creating Instagram stories, and finding your balance between 80% sharing and 20% promotion (the ‘magic ratio’ according to some person on the internet) — all takes time and energy.

The same two resources we need to write, which is the activity that lead to the product we’re trying to sell in the first place!

And let’s be honest, if you don’t have a public author page by now, it’s probably because you don’t want one and if you don’t want one, but feel pressured to have one, you probably won’t do a very good job.

Alternatively, some indie authors have only been able to survive because of their platforms (for e.g. Jenna Moreci).

However, if you speak to the booksellers of brick and mortar stores, they’ll say their customers’ purchases are based off recommendations in the newspaper, radio interviews, or because of a friend.

Now, this may be because the bulk of buyers who still go to physical bookstores consume these type of media, whereas the bulk of people who buy online look to podcasts, YouTube videos, or social media profiles for recommendations. Who knows?

It’s very difficult to track how many followers convert into buyers online, but I’ve heard other writers say that for every 40, 000 followers they’ll make 2,000 sales (during a launch). But again, every platform and artist is different.

The one thing that all those business marketing courses, free videos, and blogs fail to tell you is that convincing a stranger on the internet to buy your stuff is hard.

You can work on your know, like, and trust factors, put in a funnel, develop an email campaign, and every other step recommended out there on the interwebs and there is still no guarantee.

You can do everything you’re supposed to do and not achieve the results you had hoped for, but that’s not to say you won’t ever achieve success, you just need to find the model that works for you, and sometimes, you simply have to give something more time.

The whole point of this post is not to arrive at one tidy conclusion backed by a step by step action plan, but to show that there is no guarantee of failure or success no matter which way you go.

Social media is one way to promote your books and yourself as an author, but it’s not the only way.

The best way to approach this aspect of the writing life is to have an experimental attitude and to find the methods that work best for you.

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