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How Big Do Those Platform Numbers Need to Be? Bigger Than You Think

Because we’re also, respectively, a ghostwriter and a publisher as well as book marketers, not a week goes by that we don’t talk to an author who’s really fired up about the prospects for getting a book deal with a major New York publisher. Unfortunately, that also means that we’re often in the position of breaking the bad news that the author simply doesn’t have the marketing platform to get any interest from major publishing imprints.

Let’s back up for a second. Just what do we mean by major publisher? That refers to the five large international publishing companies with offices in New York City—HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan and Hachette—as well as a collection of second-tier but still large publishers like Norton, Workman, Hyperion and Sourcebooks. Large publishers like these demand substantial marketing platforms in order to be willing to turn over large sums of money in the form of advances to authors.

That brings us back to the issue of authors who are salivating at the idea of the big book deal. You may have heard that large publishers like to see substantial social media followings, large email lists, and large blog readerships when they read the platform section of a book proposal. What many authors don’t realize as they get ready to shop their books to agents for publishers is that the numbers that most acquisitions editors are looking for are quite a bit higher than most authors have accumulated. That can lead to a great deal of shock and disappointment when a new author, who thought he or she had a book deal in the bag, gets a whole bunch of “no thank yous” from the publishing world.

So, how many followers, email addresses, or blog readers do you need to have in order to capture the interest of big New York publishers? Of course, the answer varies depending on the type of book you’re shopping—and this only applies to nonfiction—but these are some good numbers to go by if you’re looking for a deal from what as euphemistically known as the Big Five:

  • Twitter and Instagram followers: 100,000
  • Facebook friends: 50,000
  • Email addresses (real, not dead): 50,000
  • Blog readers or subscribers: 25,000

Those are serious totals that take time and work to build. Now, are we saying that if you don’t have those numbers that you can’t hope to get a book deal? No. You might have the advantage of a high media profile, a lot of speaking engagements, your own radio show, an extremely topical book idea, or an agent with a publisher who owes her a favor. But in general, if you want to increase your odds of getting a deal, take 12-18 months and do whatever you can to maximize these numbers. You’ll benefit in more ways than just making yourself attractive to publishers.

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