You have a unique idea for a nonfiction book, and you’re writing a compelling proposal that you’re certain will knock the socks off an agent and then a publisher. And then you get to the part where you illustrate author platform, including your social media footprint.
Your Platform as a Nonfiction Author
If you’re confused about what you should include in your proposal to illustrate your platform, you’re not alone.
Every book proposal is a little different because every author and every publisher is different, but the bottom line is that publishers want to know you can sell books. They want to partner with writers who have authority, who are experts in their field, and who are visible to their target readers. Platform means, among other things, your professional presence and network. It means your ability to sell books because of your connections and influence—in other words: who you are, who you know, and who you can reach.
Show Your Influence Through Your Social Media Connections
Publishers consider an author’s visibility to the book’s potential audience when they’re reviewing a nonfiction book proposal … but simply being an extrovert or having numerous social media accounts isn’t what gives you the type of visibility they are looking for. Being authentic through social media (which I’ll discuss below) creates genuine social connection, and that is what interests publishers. How you present your social media numbers in your proposal is where “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” By that I mean that a strong connection with a few influencers can be more valuable for your platform than having a casual presence through multiple social media accounts.
Remember the “Social” Part of Social Media
Developing an audience is a long game. Although you might be tempted to buy Twitter connections or connect with everyone who will accept your invitation on LinkedIn, don’t do it. Instead, spend a little time every day interacting authentically with people in your sphere of influence.
Authenticity means being a person who builds relationships. It means commenting on and sharing blogs and articles written by others, especially when the subject is in your area of expertise. It means writing about what you’re passionate about, which will attract others who are passionate about the same thing. Eventually those others will include influencers in your field, big names who other people turn to with confidence for their information.
Strong connections with influencers requires interaction, and it builds relationships—relationships whose potential you can exploit in your book proposal.
Having accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others doesn’t mean you’re actually interacting with anyone, so just listing numbers of connections in your proposal isn’t going to mean much to a publisher.
In a series of articles I wrote for my website, I offered an example for how to showcase the connection numbers you do have in a way that will show your potential reach to a publisher.
List the hundreds—perhaps thousands—of potential readers you’re already connected with through your website, blog, and other social media. Instead of writing “I have 5,385 blog followers, use specifics like this:
I’ll offer a contest to win free books to the 5,385 men and women who subscribe to my weekly blog posts about dancing for health, and the additional 2,711 who subscribe to my monthly newsletter that is focused on the health benefits of dancing and related subjects.
You’ve presented these 8,096 followers from across two of your social media platforms as readers who are looking for more of your valuable content—which you will deliver in your book. What’s not to love about that?
What Else Are Publishers Looking For?
Two important sections of your nonfiction book proposal go hand in hand: Target Readers, where you list who you’ll market to, and Marketing and Promotion, where you’ll include who you know and how you’ll market to them. These vary significantly from author to author, but as you’re constructing these sections of your proposal, consider how you might leverage the following:
- author website
- guest posts on influencer blogs
- Facebook author page
- LinkedIn discussion groups
- Twitter discussions and lists
No one person has the time or energy to actively participate on every social media platform, so choose those you enjoy and will use regularly, and be sure to consider where your readers are likely to be; for example, a 30-something hobbyist may not be on the same social media sites as a 60-something professional.
What’s the Best Way to Showcase Where You Are Today?
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t yet have thousands of followers on social media. The current size of your social media outreach isn’t as important as the quality, and if you’ve just begun building that part of your author platform, in your proposal focus on the growth potential instead.
Publishers want to see that your audience is growing. You might have recently begun blogging and don’t yet have impressive numbers to report, so show them the rates of growth over a period of time. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great vehicles for getting the word out about your latest blog posts, and showing how engaged these followers are another good way to show you’re working hard to grow your influence.
Shine the best light on what you have to work with … and don’t give up because you don’t see instant results. Consistent, long-term, targeted social media activity will result in growth.
“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm ... in the real world all rests on perseverance.”
Building strong social media connections isn’t quick or easy; meaningful, quality relationships take time and effort … but there’s no better time to start building them than today. Having a great idea for a book isn’t enough in today’s publishing world; publishers want to see that you have the ability to sell that book to the people you identify as potential readers. You are responsible for finding and cultivating the audience for your book, and authentically engaging in social media is one of the best ways to do so. Be sure you showcase your hard work in your book proposal.