I’m not sure I ever set out to develop what is now called an author platform. I started to blog partly for fun and also because of an instinct that in the increasingly digital world (this was back in 2007) it would be good to have an online presence. As an unpublished author it was also a way of finding an audience for some of my writing and of celebrating any successes that came along. If I’m honest I’d also say that knowing I could publish a few paragraphs every week bolstered my confidence and gave me a raison d’etre at times when the fiction-writing muse had gone totally AWOL. Similarly Twitter, when it came along, struck me as a fun way to connect with people, especially those like me working in solitary confinement. And despite its distracting effect, it soon became the best place to go panning for the writerly nuggets (tips, comps, chat) we all need.
Then came my publishing deal with Thornberry and I was gratified to find that my author platform (recently bolstered by joining a writers cooperative) as desired by agents and publishers was already in place. In e-publishing terms I could hit the ground running. But as time goes on, and with no royalties/sales feedback to date (these things take time apparently!) I’m beginning to look at it at all with more of a business eye and to wonder how much difference all this blogging and tweeting has actually made in terms of sales.
In the wake of a couple of months fairly frenetic online activity (when I might otherwise have been concentrating on my WIP) this question was already nudging at my brain. Then a writer friend mentioned a book called Making a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear and the question is looming a lot larger.
The author’s thesis is that sales on Amazon are not driven by external promotional activities but by working the Amazon system in terms of how the book is presented on Amazon itself. I haven’t really delved into the technicalities of how to make this happen (most of it pertains to the indie publisher) but what has jumped out at me are his compelling stats on the ‘conversion rate’ of blog visitors who actually go on to make a purchase, claiming that 10,000 visitors a month (no mean feat!) would yield on average 1.2 sales. Well he could be wrong (I hope!) and obviously the whole blog tour concept is about going beyond your own audience to find new readers, but I have to agree that my own blog visiting is more likely to be for the purpose of getting information or entertainment than actually making a purchase.
Well arguably I didn’t set out to make a killing exactly, and whatever platform I have has grown organically and at my own pace, but it would be good to think I was doing something to help sales along rather than the reverse and although some of his ‘guerilla’ tactics seem a bit extreme, I’ll certainly be looking closely (or asking my publisher to do so) at some of his other ideas, including his advice on titles and pitches as well as the more complex areas of SEO.
So what about the author platform? Well maybe I’ve already made my first million and they just haven’t told me. If not, I don’t think I’m likely to dispappear from t’internet completely (I mean I know how much you all love my presence here!) but I can see that marketing an e-book is possibly not the same proposition as attracting the attention of an agent or publisher in the first place and maybe some further research is required into what actually pays off.