Your tribe, your followers, your rabid fans–the more you have, the more likely you are to sell books. That’s why traditional publishers want to see big numbers when they ask a prospective author about their platform.
But having a platform is even more important for self-published authors because typically, they can’t get the full distribution that comes with a traditional publisher. They don’t have a marketing arm to send out press releases and line up guest spots on TV. Getting the word out about your book is a full-time job for three people and too often, we are one-man bands.
Which is why it’s so important to gather your tribe BEFORE you release your book.
How to Find Your Tribe
Many first-time authors think only in terms of getting their book written; they’re not thinking about who will want their book. But the time to think about the audience is before you start writing. What are their needs? What are they interested in? What do they want to know? What will they pay to know? The book is written for your reader, not for you. (Sorry.)
That means you have to know your target audience intimately. How old are they? What’s their education level? Their income level? Are they married, single, divorced, with or without kids? Dog lovers? Cat servants? (Just making sure you’re reading.) Where does your target market hang out, online and offline?
Once you’ve done a target market analysis and established exactly who it is you want to reach for your business and for your book, you go hang out where they hang out. You speak at conferences that they will attend. If you do holistic healing, you’re probably not going to speak at a Harley Davidson convention. You might ride a Harley, but you’re better off speaking at or even just attending a holistic health conference where everyone there is in sync with what you’re offering.
Go to Meetups and conferences that appeal to your target market. Meet people. Get cards, Give your card out. NETWORK. Yes, even you introverts need to suck it up and go. Then contribute. You don’t have to showboat (everyone hates THAT guy), but help people out. You have knowledge and expertise; when you give people advice or resources, you’re demonstrating that expertise. People notice.
Also participate in groups and forums online. Facebook and LinkedIn have easy to find groups in just about every niche available. Analyze which groups have the most active members and the most members. It’s better to be in an active group of 300 then a dead group of 3,000. Are there going to be some people doing the same thing you do? Yes, of course. But there will also be people who offer services that tie in with what you offer, that complement what you offer. These are possible Joint Venture (JV) partners. More importantly, there will be people who want what you have and who like something about you versus a competitor. Don’t forget, different types of people appeal to different types of people. Even if you have competitors in a group, not everyone is going to mesh well. Think about why you buy one brand over another or go to one restaurant when another, similar restaurant is closer. People will be attracted to you because of who you are. Those are your people.
Bring Your Tribe to You
Social media, blogging, podcasting, YouTube videos – all of these should have one goal: To catch the attention of your target market and bring them to an opt in for your email list. That’s it. Now, you can’t put up social media post after post saying, “Go sign up for my list.” We should be a bit more subtle than that (though many aren’t).
You want to have a mix of solid content that you put out to capture your target market’s attention. You can write articles or blog posts, you can curate and share other people’s information (at a mix of maybe 1:3 or 1:4 or more to your own original content). Your social media posts should be a mix of content, something fun or personal, and an offer. Some marketers like the ratio of offer to content to be higher: maybe a 1:3 ratio (one offer for every three content-oriented posts). Some go with a 1:5 or more ratio. You can experiment and see if you get any pushback from your followers. And yes, I can see I’ll have to do a future blog post on types of content and content to offer ratios.
The amount of selling posts depends partly on the platform. For example, Tweets, which are short, are less likely to be seen because there are so darn many of them and the feed moves quickly. The Facebook algorithm is an exercise in ridiculousness. Your post may last longer on someone’s timeline, but there’s no guarantee that the post will even make it to that follower’s timeline. Unless you’re buying ads, Facebook is a crapshoot these days.
A Kissmetrics article shared a stat from a study cited by Social Samosa. Pay attention: Only 1% of users who “Like” a company’s Facebook page will actually visit that company’s Facebook page.
It’s All About Engagement
So, out of 100 people who click to “Like” your Facebook page, only one will actually visit the page and click around. So, just for fun, let’s make a huge leap and use that same number to extrapolate out for sales. If only 1% of the people who like your page actually take the time to visit your Facebook page, let’s assume that only 1% of those people will buy your book. So, 1% of 1%. If 10,000 people like your page, then 100 people will actually go there, and one will like your book. So to get 1 sale, you’ll need 10,000 likes. To get 100 sales, you’ll need 1,000,000 likes. Yeah. It gets pretty ugly from there.
That’s why engagement with your followers is more important than how many likes you have. Thanking and welcoming people when they like your page. Tagging them when it is something that they specifically will be interested in. Appreciating them by responding to their comments. All the while letting them know that if they sign up to your email list, they can get more and possibly better quality (or more indepth) content.
I receive stats on a number of pages. I have one person’s page with 1,400 followers; another with about 200. In a typical week, the larger page has single digit page visits, under 100 people reached, and 1 or 2 people who engage, meaning they make a comment or share a post. The page with 200 followers typically gets about the same amount of page visits, but the reach is consistently 5 – 10 times that of the larger page. And the engagement is 50 to 100 times more. This is why buying likes (which I suspect the larger page did) doesn’t work out for most businesses.
Do You Need A Huge Platform?
That depends. (Don’t you hate that answer?) If your goal is to make money from selling your book, then you certainly need a large platform and you need to put out a steady stream of books. With a traditional publisher, you might make anywhere from$2.00 to $5.00 per copy sold (average and it varies depending on paperback, hard cover, electronic version, and the deal you cut). If you self publish, your royalties could be anywhere from $0.30 (those $0.99 downloads on Amazon are really for lead generation, not royalties), to an average of $7.00. If you’re selling an ebook from your site, you can make $20 to $50 or more per copy. But even at $20 per copy royalty, if you’re looking for a six figure income (aren’t we all?) from your book, you’ve got to sell a lot of books. Yes, 5,000 copies doesn’t sound like a lot of books to sell. Try selling that many books without a following. And as pointed out above, not everyone who follows you will actually give you money. Not to mention that once someone has bought your book, they are unlikely to buy it again. (Hence the “Makes a Great Gift” campaigns you see.)
But if your goal is to use your book to bring in clients, then you may not need to sell that many books or you may be able to give away your book (Whaaaat? Shut up!) to get in front of your ideal prospects. Depending on the price point of your services, you may be able to make a very nice living with a much smaller platform—as long as it is made up with true fans.
What’s a True Fan?
A true fan is someone who will follow you to the death. Anything you put out, they’ll buy. They are the people who like and share your social media posts. They respond to your automated emails. They comment on your blog. Most importantly, they tell other people about you.
The true fan was popularized by Kevin Kelly in a 2008 blog post that explained how an artist (musician, author, craftsperson, entrepreneur) could make a darn good living with only 1,000 “true” fans. Finding 1,000 true fans is not an overnight game. It takes time but it’s far more do-able than finding a million fans, or 100,000 fans. If you add just one true fan a day, you’ll have 1,000 in about three years. You can build faster if that’s too slow for you. And you can start making an okay living while you’re building that base.
True fans are the lifeblood of many businesses. They need to be nurtured and cultivated. You have to have a direct relationship with them. Does that sound like work? It’s easier than trying to get a million people to like you.
Apply the number of true fans to your upsell—your business services. If a typical client pays you $1,000 for your services, then you only need to sell 100 people on what you offer. That’s about eight or nine per month. Totally do-able. If you have 1,000 true fans, then you have built-in business, especially if you add products or services. And you can add true fans organically rather than jumping on the hamster wheel of “gotta find prospects NOW.” It’s all about the relationship.
Even if you’re thinking, “Oh man, I am so DEAD” remember the Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Start NOW. If you have a Facebook business page (or LinkedIn or Twitter or YouTube or or or), reach out to those people. Ask them questions. Thank them for sharing when they share. Ask them to share. Draw them into a dialogue. Run an open office hours or Q&A hour. Even if no one shows up for the first three times, keep doing it. Plant some seed questions or have a friend ask you a question so you can answer it. Ask your followers what would be helpful for them. Then listen and respond accordingly.
You are far better off with 1,000 or 5,000 responsive followers than 20,000 people who don’t pay attention to you. Yes, traditional publishers want to see big numbers before they’ll consider publishing you. Big numbers start out small. And you may find that you don’t need a traditional publisher to accomplish your goals.