Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
I’m sure you’ve been in this position: You’re sitting across from an agent or editor. And despite their attempts at making it a comfortable meeting, you’re experiencing a range of emotion. Panic. Confidence. Fear. Hope. Anxiety. Not to mention the shaking. Or the muddled thoughts. Or the ohmygosh she didn’t even look at my one-sheet.
And then the bomb drops…the agent/editor asks about platform.
If you have a massive platform, then chances are you totally nailed this. But if your platform is anything less than massive, then things don’t go as well as planned. You’ve been preparing for this moment, but you quickly realize that your rehearsed platform monologue isn’t working. And then the questions come, and you find that you don’t have the answers. Or maybe you do, but they’re not coming out as confidently as you’d hoped. And regardless of whether you come away with a rejection or a request to send the proposal, if you’re like me, you’re thinking about what went wrong. How things could be better. And what the heck do these people want from me?!
5 Things Agents or Editors DON’T Want to Hear When Asking About Author Platform
1. Yearly stats. When your blog numbers aren’t that impressive, it’s understandable that you’d want to try and put them in the best light. The primary way authors do this is by communicating yearly blog or website numbers as opposed to monthly. So, instead of 500 unique visitors every month, they would say something like 6000 unique visitors…and leave it at that. The problem is that we WILL ask for clarification. Yearly blog or web stats mean nothing to agents and editors. It’s all about the monthly stats, because books aren’t necessarily promoted year-round by publishers. They have a 4-month (or so) window. So it’s all about MONTHLY stats. And it’s so very helpful when authors understand this and then give us the information we need up front. Even if it makes their blog look smaller.
2. Page Views. Another way to make a blog seem more trafficked is to talk about page views as opposed to unique visitors. The unique visitor stats track individuals that frequent the website on a monthly basis. Each person (or IP address) gets counted once. Each time a person clicks a new page on the site, that gets tracked with the page views. Therefore page view stats are always higher than unique visitors, and it’s tempting to focus on the bigger number when trying to impress. Please don’t! In the industry, we talk in terms of unique visitors. We’re only interested in page views if you can prove that a majority of people who come to your site are spending lots of time on each page (5 or more minutes) and clicking around a lot. Then you’d mention those stats as a sidenote.
3. International stats. I’ve noticed that those with smaller blogs and website presences will almost always say something like “there are people in Russia reading my blog! And China!” I realize it’s exciting to think that you have an international readership. But having a handful of non-US readers doesn’t mean anything to an agent or editor. In fact, those readers are probably robots or scammers who are out to flood your site with spam. So, only bring up international readers if you have sizable following in a particular country. “Sizable” is relative, but we can say 15-20% is a good rule of thumb.
4. What your fans are saying. I get this a lot from published authors…when talking about platform, they want to include their fanbase (which is great!). But they tend to focus on the handful of emails they’ve received in which fans have requested sequels or spin-offs. And the authors present this to me as though it’s evidence that said sequels and spin-offs will do well! Unless you have thousands of people requesting the same type of book, this data isn’t worth mentioning. You are welcome to talk about how much fan mail you get, provided it’s a decent number (a few hundred emails/letters/notes per month), but please avoid using a few fan emails as evidence of a large following.
5. Look at my website. It’s common for authors who aren’t sure what to say, or how to communicate their platform, to want to pull up their website and social media to show it to me. They may even want to show me their analytics or the prototype for their new site. While your online platform may be pretty to look at and well-done, it doesn’t sell your platform. And I also don’t want to work with someone who will simply give me their Analytics login and tell me to “have at it.” Now rest assured, we ABSOLUTELY look at websites and online presence. But we do so on our own when we’re evaluating whether or not we’d be a fit. Or, we do so if the conversation naturally progresses in that direction. So don’t feel as though you need to show us those spaces in order to get us to look at them. We’ll do so on our own. And remember to have a general idea of your stats going into the meeting. Last week’s exercise on focusing your book marketing efforts would be a handy tool in this case.
5 Things Agents or Editors DO Want to Hear When Asking About Author Platform
1. The truth. If you have a small platform, own it. If you need to grow your platform, say so. This prevents us from wasting valuable time with you trying to “fool” me, for lack of a better word, and then me telling you that your platform isn’t big enough. It will help us cut to the chase and focus on your BOOK as well as your ideas for growing your presence.
2. Your goals. Where do you want to be? What social media outlet do you plan to grow? Having a clear set of goals will tell us that you know where you’re headed. It helps us feel as though you have a handle on this platform thing even if your numbers aren’t impressive.
3. Your strategies. In addition to sharing your goals, talk about strategy! So few fiction authors ever talk about this and I think it’s to the detriment of their career. Show me a fiction author who has a tiny platform but LOTS of ideas and strategies for HOW to grow it, and I’m immediately interested. This is really a way for fiction authors to stand out!
4. What’s working. Sure, your stats may be slim, but if you’ve been working on platform for any length of time, you have to be seeing SOME success. Tell me about that. Tell me about the instances in which you obtained 100 new Facebook likes in a few days. Or when you had a Tweet or video see tons more traction than usual. Talk about what has gone WELL and how you plan to replicate that or build on it. It shows you have a mind for marketing and thats always an impressive characteristic.
5. A clear sense of understanding what platform is all about. By simply talking knowledgeably about platform, you will put yourself in a favorable light. Having your stats ready, knowing your goals and strategies, knowing what doesn’t work for you and what does, knowing what the experts are saying and also what others in your genre are doing. Being EDUCATED on platform shows us that you really have a chance at making this work and it makes you that much more appealing.
You Can Do It!
Talking about your platform doesn’t have to be hard or embarrassing or awkward. Even authors with the smallest of platforms can make a big splash if they pay attention to these do’s and don’ts. And DON’T FORGET to include those do’s in your proposals!
Have you struggled with communicating your platform? Or maybe you found a way to present it in a really favorable light? Share your stories!