Monday, May 6, 2013

How Big Should Your Platform Be? by Literary Agent Amanda Luedeke

Today, it's my pleasure to welcome Amanda Luedeke back to Chiseled in Rock!  A literary agent with MacGregor Literary, we last interviewed Amanda on April 9, 2012, but today she's talking about platform (yes, that dreaded platform!) and her new book, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform

~ Janet Fogg

How Big Should Your Platform Be?

by Amanda Luedeke

You’ve heard it before that if you really want to impress an agent or publisher, make sure you have three things: a great idea, great writing, and a great platform.

But let’s be honest, either you’re born with a knack for words or you’re not.

Either a great idea drops into your head one day, or it doesn’t.

But platform doesn’t happen by chance. Platform is all about hard work.

It’s funny that we dedicate entire conferences, workshops, and critique groups to the very components that we have the least control over, but the third component—the one that really can be taught into existence—gets constantly ignored.

My background is in marketing. For some years I worked as social media marketer and copywriter for an agency outside of Chicago. I launched corporate Facebook pages, YouTube channels, blogs and more—all on behalf of some pretty major clients. So when I transitioned to publishing, marketing wasn’t scary at all. It was doable. It was conquerable. So, I started blogging about it on our agency blog. And from that, a book was born.

The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform is jam-packed with tips, tricks, rules, and tools for developing a platform, whether you’re published or not (!). I cover Facebook, Twitter, websites, blogs, Pinterest, and more.


To give a taste of some of the insight I provide in the book, here’s an excerpt:

The Numbers

Solid author platforms come in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

Let’s get more specific.

If you have a website or blog, your monthly unique visitor count should be at least 30,000.

If you have a Twitter account, your followers should be at least 5,000.

If you have a Facebook group, your following should be pushing 5,000.

If you’re a public speaker, you should speak at least 30 times a year, and you should shoot for a total audience number of at least 10,000.

If you write for e-zines and e-publications on a regular basis, you should have your words in front of at least 100,000 readers per month.

If you write for print publications on a regular basis, you should have your words in front of at least 100,000 readers per quarter.

If you’ve e-published, your sales in the first year should be in the hundreds of thousands for a $0.99 e-book and in the tens or hundreds of thousands for a $2.99 e-book.

If you’ve POD (print on demand) published, your sales within the first year should be at least 5,000 copies.

Intimidated yet? I know I am. These numbers aren’t easy to achieve.

The time and effort required to grow such a following might have you envisioning yourself with an impressive platform sometime in the year 2030. You may even be thinking about how you don’t have a single sales bone in your body. You’re an artist, after all, and an introverted artist at that. Those qualities don’t always make for the most sociable, friendly, outgoing, spin-doctoring bunch.

So, what’s the secret? How can these numbers be achieved?

Before you delete all the Word documents containing your manuscripts and then jump off a cliff, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Platform is a grand total. Add up all of your numbers in each of the listed categories and see what you have. If you’re nearing the tens of thousands, you’re off to a great start, even if your Twitter numbers are pathetic and you haven’t attempted half of the things on the list. The idea isn’t that you have to do all of these things extremely well. You don’t even have to do all of these things. You can achieve success by doing a few of them really well or all of them somewhat well.

2. Fiction authors could cut these numbers in half. Fiction is a different ball game. An impressive debut novelist can have a Twitter following of 2,500 and a blog readership of 10,000 unique visitors per month and still look impressive to the right editor.

3. It’s a process. It takes time to build relationships and garner a following. You’re not doing yourself any favors by getting down on yourself for having only 100 blog readers after blogging religiously for only three months. You need to allow yourself time.

4. There are always exceptions to the rule. BUT, AMANDA!!! I know someone who knows someone who just got a book deal, and they don’t even know what Twitter is! Yes, this happens. And sure, there’s a chance it could happen to you. In fact, I hope it does! But like I said before, having the right story written at the right time and pitched to the right editor or agent involves a lot of luck. Platform is about hard work and creating something that simply cannot be ignored. It really is the one thing that you can control.
When your book sells really well because of the platform you built, and your publisher wants to do even more books with you, all of this will be worth it. Trust me.


What do YOU think about these numbers? Are they doable? Daunting? Energizing? Sound off in the comments below.


Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Her background is in marketing, and her book, The Extroverted Writer, is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Amanda represents romance, literary fiction, speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, paranormal, etc.), YA, and nonfiction. Catch her at BEA, RWA, ACFW, and more.

Thank you, Amanda, for joining us on the Rock!

Janet Fogg
Janet is the author of Soliloquy, an award-winning historical romance, and co-author of the military history bestseller, Fogg in the Cockpit.


Julie Luek said...

I think if most writers wait to attain these numbers they will never write or try. While I think the goal is important to keep in mind I try to remember the advice I received from James Scott Bell on the site The Kill Zone: I think I’d say, don’t stress about the marketing. Don’t start jumping through every hoop every self-promoting author says you have to jump through. Keep the main thing, the main thing at the beginning, which is writing the best book you can and getting better with each one after that.

Susan S said...

Thanks for sharing this information, Amanda. It's really helpful to know where the targets are, so we know how to stretch and grow and what to shoot for. While the numbers are certainly intimidating, it's good to have a goal to work for, so I can see where to focus efforts and how to improve!

j.a. kazimer said...

Thanks Amanda and Janet for sharing the terrible, terrible news that I'm about 1% of social media a great, and helpful post. Of course after reading, I immediately downloaded Amanda's book, and by next week plan to be a bestseller...that's how it works, right?

Theresa said...

Hi Amanda and Janet, It's really good to have some concrete numbers to weigh one's progress by--thanks for that.
I wonder how you got those numbers and if they are for non-fiction books, does that mean your book is geared more towards building a non-fiction platform?

Are there different techniques that work better to build fiction platforms?

Nathan Lowell said...

Thanks for this information Amaonda. It's interesting to see what mainstream is looking at these days.

My basic answer to the platform question is "about a thousend true fans." My goal has always been to cultivate an audience of about a thousand people who will enjoy my
work and tell their friends about it.

I think I may be up to around 3k now.

Lucky for me I'm not looking for either an agent or a publisher. :)

Amanda said...

Thanks all for your input!
Theresa, I got the numbers based on what I've seen as an agent. And honestly, it's easier to quantify what a platform looks like when thinking in terms of nonfiction.

But my book is for both fiction and nonfiction platforms, as there are many rules that apply all around.

As for techniques, the best thing a fiction writer can do is connect emotionally and relationally with their readers :)

Crystal Laine said...

I just slit my wrists. Sigh. (Not life threatening, but bled on my purple keyboard. Pretty....)

I have been thinking about this a lot as I work on a new manuscript. I do have your book. But I think you are right and there is a balance of things. Not sure how to build further because I don't think I'm hitting the right audiences, but I understand what you're saying.

Crystal Laine said...

One more comment before I fade into black and white. (After bleeding all over my keyboard.) I find that my blog attracts few (bad, I know) though I get a lot of traffic to my little hobby blog--the one where I interview writers about their childhoods. I may be missing my own passion? But I am terrible on Twitter, but seem to hold a fair Klout score on Facebook. There is where I seem to find emotional interaction.

So, I don't know what my answers are and I'll keep trying a little while longer. Never give up?

laurakcowan said...

It's nice to see some concrete numbers, but there isn't a single mention of how to get there. Another article on this, please?

Jean Wise said...

Sigh. yes it is daunting and feels impossible. Yes i keep track of my number monthly and summarize them yearly. I could tell an agent I have had a steady growth over the past three years. My platform in growing so I will concentrate on that aspect and not get discouraged about the high numbers out of reach YET!!