You’re now working on your book… and that’s amazing! Seriously. I’m proud of you for getting started (or for whatever stage you’re at!). But let me be clear right now, that the number of people who will read your book has very little to do with how great it turns out and far more to do with how you’ve been building your platform as a thought leader.
So let’s take some time to get you moving down the path of platform building, and later in this piece, I’ll share the main secret to platform growth.
First, what makes up the elements of your platform:
- Your Opt-In Email List
- Unique Monthly Visitors
- Social Media Followers (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc)
- Joint Venture Partners
- Previous and Future Speaking Engagements
- Media Appearances
Let’s take these one at a time.
Unique Monthly Visitors
This is another key piece of measurable data you want to be working on. Gaining visitors obviously requires a web presence of some sort, and growing your viewership to an impressive number is hugely important. No one can buy your book if they don’t know about it. And only a percentage of those who know about it will purchase it. This is all a numbers game and the larger the number of unique visitors, the better your odds of those smaller numbers converting to sales. Unique monthly visitors are typically the entry point to your funnel and an opportunity to convert people to the next item on the list: your opt-in email list.
Your Opt-In Email List
Without a doubt, this list is your most powerful asset. Why? Because these people have invited you into their inbox. The inbox is still the most intimate of internet vehicles. We don’t see every post on the various social media platforms, but we typically look through every email we receive in our inbox. We might not read every one, but we see every one. And that is the key. Building this list will be imperative for your growth as a thought leader. If visiting your website is the entry point to your funnel, this is step 2, which is capturing their information so you can build your relationship with them over time by adding value to their life (and occasionally selling to them!).
Writing for reputable sources will be important for your platform. Whether that is a major business outlet, Huffington Post, or a major Mommy site, you want your readers to know that a viable outlet has endorsed you by saying your work is representative of their quality. You can also use your space on their site to drive traffic back to your own site and continue to grow your overall following. You might need to start smaller, or even find a backdoor to creating your first byline. Similar to the path of an actor, you don’t typically just start as a lead in a feature film. You hustle for work as an extra, and then a co-star and then a guest-star and then a leading role. On this path, you might write for smaller outlets, eventually get your first article on a major site, and then over time find your way to writing a regular column for a large publication.
Social Media Followers (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc)
Social media follows are tricky. Do they look good? Sure. Do they actually convert business? It’s harder to say. I found that once I had more than a thousand Twitter followers, I was taken more seriously in that space. Too few and people think you’re either a newbie or a spammer. On Facebook, just because you have tons of fans, doesn’t mean people are seeing your content (Facebook recently changed the algorithm so that people have to pay to ensure their fans see their content). All of this is a moving target as social continues to evolve and that’s why I agree with some others that the email opt in list (above) is still king.
Your rolodex is a key piece of your platform. Who you know matters. And typically your connections are going to be created through meeting people in person, impressing key people with exceptional work, and through kindness. The best way to build your rolodex is to do brilliant work and be nice to everyone you come across. Cultivate that list of people. Down the road, they might become joint venture partners in helping release your book.
Previous and Future Speaking Engagements
Years ago, renowned agent Michael Larsen taught me how to write a book proposal and shared with me that a publishing house will assume that 20% of your audiences will purchase your book at the back of the room. So your speaking schedule is incredibly valuable. Because they are seeing and experiencing you in person, they are also the best available introduction to your funnel (get them signed up for your email list!). If you’re not yet speaking, but you see it as a valuable piece of your future, start immediately. You don’t learn to be an incredible speaker by doing anything but practicing in public. So get out there and start booking future engagements.
The media is another great way to generate credibility. There used to be a time that a morning news show helped you sell a gazillion books, but that time has ended. I had a client on the front page of the New York Times who didn’t move many units. But media does still bring value in that you can use media appearances over and over again in the future (on your website) to help people quickly feel comfortable with your brand. Frequent media can also drive up your value (speaking engagements!).
And so what’s the secret to platform growth? I heard a quote once that the best time to start growing your platform was twenty years ago. The second best time is today. Seriously, the secret to growing your platform is consistency.
Consistently collecting emails through your funnel system.
Consistently using social media.
Some of this can be automated--like your email capture landing pages--and left to run without needing constant attention from you. Other pieces of the puzzle need much more of your regular energy (speaking!). Ultimately, a platform grows over time, not in a heartbeat. So get started in advance of your book--way in advance if possible. I’ve got projects that I’m helping platform build around that won’t launch for another 18 months. And I’m so excited for projects I will launch a decade from now, because I know the strength of the audience I’m continually building now will be invaluable.
Yes, your book has to be awesome. In fact, it has to exceed expectations. But your platform will determine how many people become early adopters, and those folks will kick start everything you want to accomplish.
So get building.
As always, let me know if you have any questions about writing and publishing that I can answer by replying to this email. I’m here to help you!
With love in writing,