Author Platform: How You Will Make This Book a Success


How to Write a Killer Book Proposal


Lesson Info

Author Platform: How You Will Make This Book a Success

Alright, so, author platform. Now, this is basically a marketing section of your book proposal and this is sort of news that may be new to some of you and not to others. 30 years ago, if you secured a traditional book deal, it's highly possible that they would have paid for you to go on a book tour and set up all sorts of great interviewing opportunities for you and handled a lot of the marketing and promotion of your book. That is not the case any longer. Even if you get a book deal and you get an advance, that is no guarantee that the publishing company is gonna foot the bill for anything. In fact, I have plenty of colleagues, friends, clients who have gotten high power book deals with the big houses, Random House and Penguin and all those guys, and they've had to hire their own publicist. They've sunk tens of thousands of dollars into promoting their own books. The publishing company will undoubtedly email a press release to everybody on their mailing list. Aside from that, you kind...

a can't expect too much. So, authors, especially nonfiction authors, and we're talking nonfiction today, are expected to pitch to the press, we need to organize our own readings, and we have to pay for our own tours. So the author platform section is gonna explain why you are positioned to promote your book and also say what you're going to do to promote that book. This is a marketing plan that you are both assembling and prepared to execute yourself. So, first thing you wanna think about, and this is gonna be into play at various times throughout your author platform section, is if you've got connections, go ahead and tout them here. If you know people in high places, people in the press, include that information here. So if you're talking about, if you know somebody at the Washington Post and you're listing the Washington Post as somewhere you're going to pitch, say, "I am in touch with or I have an existing relationship "with an editor at this publication." And you can talk about any heavy hitters in your network and their social media connections. Like if you have a friend who has a wildly popular podcast, definitely include that here. For press, consider including print and online publications, prominent blogs, T.V., radio, podcasts, the works. Outlets that you have a personal connection to are the best. But you need to aim high, don't necessarily cut out anything just because you feel like it's too lofty. If you write a fashion book, you absolutely should pitch to In Style. Why not? It might not go anywhere but it should be part of your plan because it could and if your pitch is good enough, it might. Legacy media is great, that's the reason why we've got print up here and T.V. and radio but new media can be more effective in some cases. I have a dear friend who wrote a phenomenal book that got an unbelievable write up in the New York Times book review, it just got press out by gangbusters, it was amazing and it didn't sell. So she got all of the coverage that an author would want and it didn't lead to sales. And I have another friend who had a book that got covered on one really, really popular podcast and it sold like hotcakes. And that doesn't mean that you should do new media exclusively. What you wanna do is create a plan that reaches people through as many media as possible, especially if your book is something that appeals to people of various age groups because, as you probably know, the newer media are going to skew towards a younger audience and the older media towards an older audience. So if you wanna talk to people your parents age, you're probably gonna have a better time doing that on a morning news program than you are on a podcast. So, spread your marketing plan far and wide. I always suggest including an events section because that shows that not only are you going to pitch to a variety of media, but you're going to promote the book in a variety of ways. You're not just going to sit comfortably behind your desk and send emails to editors. You're gonna get out into the world, you're gonna talk to people, you're gonna sign copies, you might even read a passage or two from the book that you've written and if you feel like, "Oh, my goodness, where on earth would I ever "have an event for my book?" Any family owned or independent bookstore probably is a good bet. If there's anything in your home town where it's not Barnes and Noble, just call them, see what they say. And then local bookstores and libraries are also a great, great opportunity. I think most major library systems are more than happy to host authors for readings and events. So, bear in mind that although you might like to do a tour of the world and do readings all across Europe, you're gonna have to foot the bill for it. So, while the author platform section can have aspirational content in it, you don't necessarily wanna put anything in there that you literally cannot afford to do. So, keep that in mind. And that, yeah, keep in mind that there's going to be some sort of pie in the sky stuff in your author platform, there should be. You don't necessarily just wanna say, "I'm gonna pitch to my local newspaper "and then maybe a blog and that's it, that'll do." You wanna definitely show that you're willing to do some reaching, you know, push yourself a little bit but you also have to keep it reasonable. You know, there will be some things that aren't set in stone but you need to be prepared to deliver. So, your author platform should be about two pages, maybe 850 words, somewhere in that neighborhood. And if you don't have an existing network of press connections, that's okay. As you are writing the proposal and writing the book, you can get active online. Research and follow prominent websites and podcasts and blogs. Comment on those blogs. Comment sections are not what they used to be but what you can do by commenting is sort of lay the groundwork with someone so that you can pitch to them eventually. What you want to do is sort of low level stalk them for a few months and show that you're interested and you're paying attention and you're involved in their topic. Make yourself a presence and then say, "By the way, I wrote this book. "Would you be interested in interviewing me about it?" So follow relevant hashtags, tag your posts. Consider starting a hashtag if you feel like there's one that's really germane to your particular topic. Seek out online communities to join and be active on them, get your face out there, get your ideas out there. Share articles that are related to your topic on Facebook, everywhere you possibly can. Lay the groundwork for pitches in the future even if you don't have a whole bunch of people on the inside of big, fancy publications just yet. So, let us take a look at what this looks like in practice. So, this is an example for a book, this is our Business Practices for Yogis and Healers book. So, in this section, you wanna give a subheading where you say this is the medium that I am speaking about and then give a little bit of an introduction about why that medium is important, especially if it's new. You probably don't need to tell people, "This is why newspapers are important," but podcasts are still a little bit on the fringe. So, we started out here by saying I'm going to appear on relevant topical podcasts. Podcasts are an ever growing medium and a great way to spread the word about a revolutionary new book, such as mine. I have appeared previously on and would be able to secure future appearances to promote my book on, and then we go into the individual podcasts. So number one is Biz Chix, a weekly podcast for multi-passionate entrepreneurs. The audience for this podcast is the exact audience I want to reach with my book and I believe the women who run it will recognize how perfectly my book would suit their listeners. So, she has a connection here already and is sort of setting it up to be a great pitch. Then, Entrepreneur on Fire, a daily podcast about maximizing time and resources as a business person. Achieved Best of iTunes in 2013 with 7.4 million downloads. A great place to connect with heart-centered business-people looking for revenue-boosting resources, like my book. So I will tell you, as someone who has written dozens of book proposals, that this statistic is very difficult to find if you're looking for podcasts. You can get some information from iTunes or the various platforms that you would listen to podcasts through, but this type of statistic is something that the people who create it are more likely to provide with so check out their websites, do some digging. You may not find anything but you can always use sort of work around language like, "wildly popular," or, "internationally renowned," if you don't have actual hard numbers to put into this section. Alright, and then leverage local and national news media. This is not something that needs as much of a media intro as the podcast because it's just news media, everyone knows what that is. I intend to secure coverage from the following media outlets to promote my book. Yoga Journal, America's number one yoga magazine. Yoga Journal accepts guests submissions for two features per issue and may also be open to reviewing my book for their print or online editions. So, number one Yoga Magazine, nice to have that statistic up there. This highlights something that you're gonna wanna definitely dig into. You can pitch to anywhere you want but if they don't take pitches, it's not gonna do you any good. So before you say that one of the places that you wanna include in your author platform is a particular magazine or podcast or whatever, go to their website and make sure, check out their submission section. See what they take, when, how much, if you have to know someone on the inside because you don't wanna say, "I'm going to secure coverage in Time Magazine," if you aren't. Yoga Magazine, with huge readerships in the U.S. and U.K., this is a great way to circumvent not having actual statistics. Yoga Magazine accepts guest submissions and press releases so would be a great place to query for coverage once my book is released. So, this is a magazine where the author says, "I can both write an article for this publication "and we can send them a press release "to see if they wanna write an article about it." Two fold. Fast Company, this edgy business/leadership magazine loves ethonomics, ethical economics, stories, so a pitch centered on building prosperous business as a healer or helper would likely intrigue its editors. So, this is just a sampling of what would go in your author platform. You're gonna wanna hit more media than just the ones we've done here. So let's look at what that is paragraph by paragraph. I typically like to start with local and national media, including newspapers, magazines, T.V., and radio. The legacy media definitely grab attention so you can lead with that. Then dig into websites and blogs, do your research on who is a heavy hitter in your topic area and see if you can approach them. Podcasts are big these days so definitely include those, do a little research and list them out. Events and readings, including those bookstores and libraries we talked about. Conferences can be good too if it's somewhere that you're going to just attend, you can say that. If you can speak, even better. And then your own social media as appropriate. So, you can do this on a shoestring budget. Promoting a book doesn't have to be something that costs you a bajillion dollars but it can be so you get out of it what you put into it. Keep that in mind but build here an author platform that is actually executable and that you're willing to tackle yourself. This section should be no more than two pages, about 850 words or fewer.

Class Description

You might have an amazing book or idea to sell, but the only way you’ll be able to seal the deal is with a strong, persuasive book proposal. Much more than just an introduction to your book, a proposal gives literary agents and acquiring editors the information they need to make the tough decision to take on your work.

Writer, editor and consultant Sally McGraw will teach you the six essential elements of a solid book proposal and how you can make your case in the most creative and convincing way possible.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Persuade rather than summarize.
  • Figure out your target audience.
  • Create a market analysis and choose comparison titles strategically.
  • Write a bio or have someone else write it for you.
  • Define your author platform and explain what you’ll do to make your book a success.
  • Create a chapter-by-chapter outline.
  • Write a short, sweet and attention-grabbing query letter.


Beth Howard

Sally's presentation was excellent. She is articulate, professional and informative. I learned some great tips about adding statistics (and how/where to find them.) I especially appreciated her guest speakers, two seasoned literary agents who added helpful perspective. More classes from her, please!

Lee-Sean Huang

I am currently in the process of preparing my own book proposal. Sally's class is concise and super helpful in breaking down the elements and considerations needed to be awesome. I feel like I will be coming back to re-watch this while I prepare my proposal.