This is part one of my interview with Jaguar Bennett the Publicity and Marketing Director for Linden Publishing.
What exactly is an Author's Platform?
Jaguar: A Platform is a general term for everything that the author does that can reach an audience directly.
Why is it important for an author or writer to have one today?
Jaguar: A Platform is an asset you can deliver to a publisher. It is something a publisher is going to be very interested in. It makes you far more attractive as a potential author because it brings down a lot of the barriers of how this book is going to get to an audience.
You can tell the publisher: Here is the audience I have. And here is how this audience connects up to these broader demographics. That makes you much more attractive, and that is why it is important to have it.
An author's platform is publicity that you, yourself control. It is not something that you are dependent on your publisher's publicity department to open doors for you. It's not something where you are dependent on the media to open doors for you. These are barriers that are getting higher and higher because of the constant flood of information.
Once upon a time, I think this might have been back in the nineteenth century. Allegedly, there was a time when you could write a press release, send it out to a newspaper, and they would be immediately interested in it because they were hungry for news.
Nowadays every media channel is flooded. Every reporter gets millions of press releases a day. You can have the greatest story in the world. You can have the greatest book in the world. It doesn't necessarily mean you are going to be able to punch through all the noise in the media and get yourself attention.
Your platform on the other hand, is a combination of all these channels that you personally add to other personal people. It's very one-to-one nowadays. That is publicity that you control and an audience that you can deliver. And it is more than that because any publisher you talk to these days, that is one of the things that they are really going to be very interested in, what you can deliver. Do you have a community of followers behind you? Do you already have fans before you even publish?
If you can turn your hobby into a nonfiction book, and this can be the ideal situation, you have a broad community of let's say Esperanto enthusiasts behind you. They are already interested in what you have to say. They are already more inclined to buy your book, they already know about you.
Does your platform grow with you?
Jaguar: Absolutely. People like to watch...when you are interested in anyone, an author, an actor, your friends, anyone you know. It is very interesting to trace how they develop. How their interests change. Critics devote whole books to individual authors like Dickens. How his social conscience developed and the range of his technique.
One of the curious things about the way this sort of stuff works nowadays, is we spend so much of our lives online you can see this sort of stuff in progress. You can see if you read a writer's blog how her thinking develops. You can see what ideas she comes across. And everything that makes it more interesting is also what makes it more marketable. Interest is really the gold standard these days. Someone far wiser than I put it once:
"Information used to be scare, but now attention is scarce."
Every way you as a writer can develop your passions, you can communicate that to your readership. Your writing is more interesting and you get more interesting. That gets audiences more engaged..
Is there anything an author should avoid when setting up a platform?
Jaguar: Never be fake. This is absolutely the supreme thing. These days people put so much emphasis on sincerity and you know they can smell a fake a mile away. Everyone is very savvy these days. Also, never feel intimidated by either the manner of attention from the public, or from any individual. What people are looking for these days is a sense that an author is someone who is approachable as a human being.
That the author is going to speak honestly to them. What a great many people are looking at especially for a nonfiction writer is someone they can trust. Let's suppose I'm interested in redoing my kitchen cabinets. There are a million sites out there. I could do all this research myself, however, I'm lazy and I don't want to.
What I am looking for is someone I can trust. I'm looking for someone who seems knowledgeable, but also seems trustworthy.
If you communicate honestly with your readers they will feel that trust. Here is somebody who is a straight shooter, that will give you frank advice. If you are trying to communicate and trying to put on a front, that all falls down.
Remember you are talking to human beings. Even though you think you are doing something marketing and impressive. Even though you are putting up a website, think about it in terms of how you are impacting your audience, each one as a person.
Other than that make sure everything is spelled correctly, and that it looks professional. That is the other big rule.
Remember what I said...attention is the scarcest thing these days. When you are asking someone to give their attention in this incredibly distracted world, you are asking for the most precious commodity they have.
So respect your readers, communicate honestly with them. Listen to what they are asking for, what they would like from you. And treat their time as being valuable.
Part 2: Why Do Writers Have to Market Their Books Today?