I recently saw this basic question asked in a LinkedIn discussion: What do all my social media stats—blog readers and social networking followers—mean to an agent or a publisher?
My response: “They mean a lot.” They mean you have platform. And platform equates to you being someone with whom an agent or a publisher wants to go into business.
More specifically, these numbers let them know whether or not you have any potential readers for the book you are proposing—or for any book you might write in the future. They also tell the agent or publisher if you are a good business partner—a writer committed to promoting himself and his work.
Remember, publishers do not want writers who only have good ideas and can write well—at least not when it comes to nonfiction. They want writers with good ideas and writing that at least has been edited into good writing who know how to promote their work. That means someone who knows that publishing is, indeed, a business. It’s the business of selling books. If you can prove that you have done or are doing what it takes to ensure you can sell your book when it is released, you become a more attractive writer/business partner for a publisher. And this will, in turn, make you attractive to an agent, who will have a better chance of selling your nonfiction book. (However, a fiction writer with a platform becomes more attractive to a publisher a well.)
As for how large your numbers need to be, I’ve had an agent who only sells books to the largest publishing houses criticize me for saying that you can land a deal with just a few hundred blog readers a day. (I sold my book to Writer’s Digest Books and I do not have more than a few hundred readers a day to any of my blogs, but I do have four active blogs.) If you do have upwards of 1,000 unique visitors to your blog per day, and more than 4,000 unique visitors/month, that’s super! (Do not count hits. These do not matter. Visitors are not relevant either. You want to look at unique visitors.)
Couple these stats with a decent number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Google+, or even just two of these networks, and a publisher will begin to be impressed. I had built up over 1,000 Twitter followers, over 500 LinkedIn followers and over 500 Facebook followers when I landed my book deal. Not super impressive, but something to show for my efforts.
I did have a #1 Google ranking for my website, www.howtoblogabook.com and most related search terms (after any related advertisements).
All that said, I had a few more impressive platform elements, like being on a podcast with a large listenership for two years (which now has stopped airing new shows) and currently being on a radio show weekly as the writing and publishing expert (www.dresserafterdark.com). I had founded Write Nonfiction in November, which also helped; it’s not NaNoWriMo, but a lot of people know about it. I also was already doing some speaking in my niche, even at some conferences.
Also, I bumped my numbers up by asking people I know who have a larger fan base to help promote the book when it comes out to their lists. I was able to say I could promote the book to 50,000 or so people.
It took me a long time to build my platform, and it’s not huge by any means. I made a lot of mistakes. I think I diluted what I did in a lot of ways, and I’m getting way more focused now. I know more than I did about platform building when I started.
But I didn’t wait to propose my books. And my agent (and a publisher) saw that I was a good business partner–someone willing to do the work of promoting my book and building a platform. That’s what publishers are looking for.
No matter how you look at it, though, building platform takes time. You can’t start when you decide to approach an agent or publisher. I started after I submitted my first proposal about 10 or more years ago; that was the first time I heard the word “platform.” I was turned down because I didn’t have one—not because my idea wasn’t a good one or because I couldn’t write. I simply wasn’t a good enough business partner for an agent or a publisher.
So, what do those social media stats mean to an agent or publisher? I’ll reiterate. A lot. They mean you have platform. And platform equates to you being someone with whom they want to go into business.
If you’d like to share with other aspiring writers the details of your social media stats when you landed a book deal, please leave a comment below. Hopefully, this will give them more insight and encouragement. Thanks.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for my 4-part “Blog Your Way to a Book Deal” teleclass starting Feb. 7. Save $30! Find out how and get the details here: http://bit.ly/BlogaBookTeleclassOffer