Earlier on this blog I’ve been writing about author platforms — what they are, how to put one together and whether or not you actually need one in order to succeed. I’ve argued that, if your book is attractive enough to get a publisher to invest in it, you can get published without having to fall back on your ‘identity’ via a platform in order to promote it. ‘Quality of manuscript’ and ‘suitability for the current marketplace’ are the senior factors.
However, having a platform is going to help you, if one is built correctly around your work and put in the right place. That’s because it utilises one of three basic selling tools.
Selling something to another is a process of communication. When you write a story, you are effectively trying to ‘sell’ images and ideas to others through the mechanism of words. The ideas and images go from your mind, through the device of the story and through the intervening air, into the minds of your readers. If they like what they see through your book’s cover, blurb, first few pages — the ‘marketing shell’ of your work, if you like — then they part with some money and buy the thing, then they read the words, they understand them, and ‘buy’ them on a mental level. Sold, commercially and conceptually.
Aristotle talked about three main tools used to sell to others: logic, emotion and identity, or Logos, Pathos and Ethos. We can see Pathos being used all the time in book covers, blurbs, posters and so on: images and words are employed to ‘trigger’ an emotional response, and to prompt people to buy, even bypassing logic on occasion. Logos is used in terms of where to place these things and for how long and so on — calculating your ‘audience demographic’, ideal reader and marketing niche all fit in here.
Author platforms are to do with the third tool, Ethos — using your own personality and position to sell something. It’s not about shouting at passers-by or jumping up and down with loud enthusiasm all the time — used properly, it’s about a relaxed authenticity. Ethos is at its most powerful when it is most genuine: people will warm to you and your work when they see that you are a real person, like themselves. So when you build an author platform, you are not trying to twist yourself into the shape of some kind of demon salesperson — quite the contrary, you are presenting yourself at your most legitimate and faithful.
When your potential audience get a glimpse of You, they will find it attractive and listen more to what you have to say.
Some questions have arisen as a result of this series of articles being more widely aired, and I thought I’d try to answer them here.
‘What if you produce varying genres, and not a series? What shape would your author platform take then?'
Consider this in the light of the above. It depends on the genres and the range you operate in. Would it be better to develop separate personas for each field in which you work? Or is there an overall embracive ‘uber-field’ which straddles them all?
Start off by working out who your market is for each genre and sub-genre. Each area in which you work may have a very particular demographic, with very little or no overlap — in which case, separate platforms for each are probably going to be more useful. For example, one writer I know writes science fiction and fantasy, but has also developed a whole set of work in the genre of erotica. While the science fiction and fantasy work has two audiences with a large degree of overlap - something that could probably be sustained by a single author platform — there is little or no common ground between those groups and the erotica public. In her case, this author developed a separate platform for the erotica, even using a pen name.
Which of these platforms is based on the ‘genuine’ her? Well, both can be founded upon fundamentals from her personality without necessarily being contradictory. Each type of book has its own landing page and so forth, kept entirely apart. The author has fun growing her persona in different directions.
Though Ethos can help to ‘sell’ our work to others using elements of our own personality, and though platforms can be developed along many different lines to assist with it all, another question that arises naturally from all this is ‘Is it all about money?’
Is money the only definition of success, in other words?
Of course not.
A writer projects work out into the world for two basic reasons: to get it out as a kind of therapy, and to get something back, as a kind of acknowledgement. The acknowledgement affirms the therapeutic element, if you like. The work flowing out is like light from a lamp; the feedback returning is its reflection. If we could go on radiating out and receiving reflected warmth back ad infinitum, I’m pretty sure we would continue to do so with little thought of anything else. However, unfortunately we live in a universe which demands material existence from us in order to be able to do so — and that means we need money to persist.
So one of the things which we need coming back from readers is cash. It’s annoying and seems superfluous in some way, but at the same time, without the cash we aren’t going to be able to continue ‘radiating’.
When we measure success, then, we tend to focus on measurable quantities. Warm words, glowing feedback and bright reviews are one thing, but hard cash is more easily measured. ‘Success’ is made up of all of these things, but money is the one that confirms it, if you like. Someone has been so attracted to one’s work that they have forked out coins, not just words, in appreciation.
My Author Platform Programme helps you to use Ethos to sell your work by assisting you in isolating your target readership and then presenting an authentic self through a platform as an extension of the work you produce.
As I’ve said before, it takes time. But it’s a meaningful investment in your career as an author. Contact me.