How Big Does Your Author Platform Need to Be?

This post is a blogged draft excerpt from The Author Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014). Read the previous blogged excerpt, here.

Authors need a platformPublishing houses look at the size and elements that make up your author platform to determine if they want to offer you a book contract. They use this information, including how many fans and followers you have, to calculate your advance on book sales. But do you need four million followers, like bestselling-author-of-12-books Guy Kawasaki, to land a book deal and a huge advance? Do you need that large a following on social networks to successfully self-publish, like Kawasaki and bestselling-author-of-14-books Seth Godin (who self-published his last book, The Icarus Deception) to go indie and succeed?

In fact, you may not need a huge number of followers to land a deal or to produce a successful self-published book. It might help sell books…or not. Yet, mid-sized and large book publishes still look for a large—often five-figure—engaged platform.

The “Million Follower Fallacy”

What they don’t realize, but that you should know especially if you plan to self-publish—is that a small engaged platform could serve you just as well—if not better. In 2009, researchers showed that large numbers of followers on social networks did not always equate to “influence,” or sales. For years marketers have touted the idea that the more fans and followers you garner on social networks, the higher likelihood you have of actually selling something—in this case your book. Today, this is called “The Million Follower Fallacy.” More researchers have gone on to study social networking behavior and have corroborated the fact that those with the most followers don’t always have the most influence. They awarded greater influence to those social networkers whose:

  • status updates got shared
  • were mentioned by their followers

The researchers concluded that “influence is not gained spontaneously or accidentally but through concerted effort. In order to gain and maintain influence, users need to keep great personal involvement.” (To read this study, click here.) Take note. That means you need to work tenaciously at building platform.

Readers Buy “Value”

An author platform also equates to how many people know and associate you and your name with something of value to them. Remember Step #4: Make Sure You Write a Unique and Necessary Book? And Step#2: Know Exactly What Your Book’s About and Why Someone Would Want to Read (Buy) It? You created a list of benefits.You made sure they were benefits your market wanted and needed and that no other authors had previously provided.This ties into authority—your expertise and credentials. According to a survey of book-buyer influence conducted by the American Booksellers Association (ABA), readers decide what books to buy based upon:

  1. Author reputation
  2. Personal recommendations
Readers Buy from Those They Know Like and Trust

Readers purchase books because they know and trust the author and associate value with that author. They don’t purchase because the author has four million followers. Content marketing, which includes giving your work away for free, and social media are based upon the idea of getting people to know, like and trust you. That’s engagement. The ABA survey speaks to this.

“Enough” is a Subjective Evaluation

When it comes down to the wire, “enough platform” remains a subjective decision, and again each publisher will have a different opinion or set of criteria. As Georgia Hughes, editorial director of New World Library, said, “If a proposal is really solid, even if the author has very little in the way of ‘followers,’ we might still be interested. And, no matter the number of ‘followers’ or celebrity endorsers, if the proposal doesn’t have something to say that we feel is fresh and useful for the reader, we aren’t interested. There’s no formula—still a very subjective process. Yes, certain types of things can make a big difference, but we need an overall sense of 1) is there a market; 2) does the author have something important to say; 3) does the author have a grasp of how to reach that market. It’s a tricky business.”

The Author Training ManualNote: You can read additional blogged draft excerpts from my new book, The Author Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014) here. Only select pieces from the manuscript, a “working draft,” were posted—not the complete manuscript. Read the next post in the The Author Training Manual blogged-book series by clicking here. Purchase the book on, or at

LeaLearn how to become a successful authorrn how to create a successful book—one that sells to publishers and to readers—by developing an AUTHOR ATTITUDE and writing a BUSINESS PLAN for a MARKETABLE BOOK. Register for the AUTHOR TRAINING 101 Home-Study Course, and go from aspiring to successful published author! This course is based on The Author Training Manual. If you like what you’ve read here, you’ll love the course.

Photo courtesy of  smarnad |


  1. Marlene Cullen says:

    Good information. Makes sense. A relief to not worry about number of followers. Love Georgia’s quote.

Speak Your Mind