Ah, yes: "platform." If you're an Indie author you know this term well. It might even be a four-letter word to you. This concept crept into the industry a few decades ago and has now become a major player. Long gone are the days when a new author's merit is based solely on his or her ability to write. Now it's about whom you know, or how many whoms you know. Agents and publishers are looking for built-in sales.
Let's face it; we're living in the age of Kim Kardashian selfie books and gals like Snookie are NYT best-selling authors. And do you think agents and publishers are eager to work with these people because they think one of them might be the next Harper Lee? No, it's because they have a platform.
The $64,000 question for the Indie author, of course, is how do I build a platform without being famous? Sorry; I don't have the answer to this question, hence the title of this article.
Like most Indie authors, I spend my time trying to build my presence on social media. I submerge myself in the wretched political fray, silly fart jokes, and airing of dirty laundry that has become Facebook in hopes of tethering out a few fans of my prose. I tweet, pin, blog, and try to link to as many like-minded authors as I can on Linkedin. It's a daunting task.
And when I finally publish a book, I bore and annoy every one of these contacts with constant promotional blasts as I watch my sales rankings and reviews every hour in the faint hopes of a miracle.
A few months ago, however, something happened. A nice lady on Facebook, who rescues animals, one of which was a little dog named Josh who was born with a cleft palate, asked me to write a book about him. Josh was already a Facebook star with a lot of fans and had already been featured in several magazines and had just won a contest to be on the cover of Modern Dog Magazine. In other words, Josh had a platform.
It was not my usual type of book, or genre, but did I mention "platform?" I accepted the offer and in February I published I'm Not Defective: The Story of Josh. After one week, it became the #1 book on Amazon and Kindle for books about dogs. Amazon even added a banner that read, "#1 Best Seller."
Granted it's not the NYT list, or even the USA Today list, but it was still something none of my previous books had accomplished. And in this short time it has now accumulated more reviews than any of my other books. And more importantly, I am actually making a little money from this book. Wow.
After Josh's book did so well, I have now been contacted by other Facebook doggie moms and dads about possibly writing a book about their little internet stars. I just published my second in the series titled Mr. Fancy Pants: The Story of Munster and it became a #1 Amazon Best Seller the first day. I suspect this book will eventually top 200 reviews.
I still have several novels on the backburner, which I will eventually complete and hopefully publish, but for now I'm enjoying the fact that people are buying my books. I'm ecstatic that I am actually making money from writing.
And while I pat myself on the back for discovering this niche in the market, it is hardly original. I have since met a lot of popular Facebook pet owners who have already been contacted by more successful authors, agents, and publishers about writing a book about their pets. There are a lot on the market already.
So if you're an Indie author struggling with that god-awful task of building a platform, my advice is to look around. Just because you don't have a huge platform, doesn't mean you can't find someone who does, and make that the next subject of your book.
Keep plugging away.