Regardless of the publishing path you choose, I encourage you to prepare your author platform for sharing your writing or publishing a book way before you think you need it. Like, years before. Today I want to talk about why that is.
Preparation is great when you consider this from a business standpoint: how to encourage success for establishing your presence as a writer, developing a network, selling your book, and growing your career as a writer. Preparation is also great for mental health as you work through all of this — you aren’t rushing to do everything at the last moment.
Recently I received a note from a writer who has been following my work for awhile. She’s read my book and been following my advice shared here in this newsletter. A year ago, she decided to take action on developing her author platform. This is while her book was still being edited, before she found a publisher. Recently, things began moving very fast for her manuscript: a publisher was interested and sent her an author questionnaire to fill out, which asked all about her platform as a writer, her marketing plans, how she will talk to readers about her book, etc.
Was she a deer in headlights trying to figure all this out? Nope. She was prepared.
She simply copied and pasted from the work she had already been doing in developing her platform. But even more, she said she felt total confidence in this because she had taken the time to figure it all out. She wasn’t guessing or hoping, she knew. I mean, just imagine having that feeling in the moment where you sense that you are on the cusp of your writing goals becoming a reality.
Last week on Twitter I saw a literary agent who was opening to queries on September 1st. A day later she posted this:
“I may have to make adjustments to my response timeline – I received 403 queries today, and there are still a couple hours or so left in the day. 🥰
Normally, I think that number of queries is what an average agent sees in a month! Thank you all for querying me!”
And another day later she updated:
“An update on my query inbox – I’ve received a total of 564 queries since Sep 1st. I’ve answered 107. I’ve read amazing queries and pages and it is hard passing on so many great projects. I’m impressed by all and having to make really hard decisions. My plan was to sign one client this year (possibly two by the end of the year). That’s why this is so tough and why the decisions are so hard. I have several in my “maybe” pile that I need to read again and think about more. I’ve only sent two full requests so far, more to come.“
One author replied back:
“It is important for me to understand what I am up against. We hear how big the slush pile can be and can now see how hard it is to make an impression. Thank you.“
Of course, what matters most in this process is that you write a good book, and that it resonates with anyone you hope to reach, which may (or may not depending on your publishing path) include a literary agent.
It is useful to see the actual numbers. This agent’s goal is to sign one new client, and with days she has hundreds of requests. Even if you are pursuing a different publishing path, perhaps going hybrid or indie, the scale of numbers still applies. If your book is released on a random Tuesday, there may be hundreds of other books published that day, and bunch in your specific genre or topic. And let’s not even multiply that by how many others are published in the days before and after.
Now, I am not in any way shape or form trying to discourage you from creating and sharing. I’ve recently been revisiting why I do the work I do, helping writers share what they create and ensure their work connects with readers. And it’s this: I deeply believe that every single person can create and share their voice. I love — LOVE — that we live in an age that anyone anywhere has the option to write and have that work distributed to others. That what they publish reflects what they want to see in the world, whether that is fiction, memoir, nonfiction, poetry, etc.
This is why I focus so much on having a system for you to communicate and develop your author platform. It’s why I wrote Be the Gateway, why I developed Human-Centered Marketing (read more here and here), the Creative Success Pyramid, and why I continue to add to these systems every single week through the work I do with writers. It’s also why I’ve sent this email newsletter every single week for more than 15 years. See the archives here.
The other day I was speaking with a writer who has published many books for years, and when talking about her next book and how she will reach readers, she said to me: “This all feels daunting. This is my last ditch effort to reach people who want to read my books.”
This work that we do — writing and sharing — isn’t easy. It asks so much of you to share what matters most to you. To put it out there for others to see. To try to connect it in a meaningful way to another human being. But I am reminded, this is not work we have to do, it’s work we get to do. I grew up as an artist and my wife is an artist, and believe that what you create does not have to be shared. There is immense value in you creating just for yourself. In you simply immersing yourself in the creative process for its own sake.
But if you want to share. If you feel compelled to share for any reason, I encourage you to start early. Way earlier than you think. Develop a system for how you will communicate what you create and why, and how you will develop a sense of trust with others.
I want to end this message with a special moment that one writer is experiencing. This week I taught an online workshop and at some point within it I mentioned that people tend to really respond when you post a selfie on social media. That you will often get more engagement when people can see you. Well, author Diane Byington, Ph.D. emailed me the following morning saying this:
“You said something about how people respond better to personal things like photos, so I took a picture of myself and posted it on Twitter. I’ve now passed two thousand likes and nearly a thousand comments, and things are still going strong. I can’t believe that the response has been so big. Thanks for the encouragement. This is great!”
The results as of this morning? 22,000 likes, 7,000 comments, 1,000 people resharing her message. Here is the post:
She has also picked up hundreds and hundreds of new followers because of this update. What happened? We aren’t 100% sure yet, but clearly Twitter is recommending it to people. Her message and image obviously resonates with people, as does the prompt to wish her happy birthday.
The more you prepare, the more you are ready for these moments when they happen. To keep engaging those new followers. To continue your journey of sharing your writing, your message, and filling your life with conversations and experiences around the themes and ideas that matter to you.