Why you need an audience waiting for your book

One of my “Book Marketing 101: How to Build Book Buzz” students shared her frustration today about the need to have a fan base in place to get a traditional book publishing contract. She had read in Writer’s Digest that publishers want authors to have a minimum of 20,000 monthly blog page views, 5,000 newsletter subscribers, and 5,000 Twitter followers.

She wondered how a “newcomer” could accomplish all of this while also trying to write a book.

What she didn’t say, but what’s also important, is that many people working on books have other jobs that pay the bills while they write, too. How do you fit it all in?

Building a following

Who can blame her — and you — for being frustrated with these new publishing “rules?” On the other hand, I completely understand why publishers want an audience in place before they offer a contract. It’s smart.

Let’s face it: You need an audience waiting for your book even if you’re self-publishing.

It’s nearly impossible to start from ground zero with a book and sell enough copies to make it worth your while financially (and emotionally) if you don’t have some kind of following in place already, whether you refer to it as your fans, followers, or tribe (publishers refer to it as your “platform“).

The solution?

Don’t wait until you’re writing to find your audience. Start building your platform well before you start writing your book. In fact, author and marketing expert Seth Godin advises authors to start creating that fan base three years before the book is available.

Who’s in your tribe?

Your built-in audience for your book can take the form of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram connections; YouTube channel subscribers; media connections; blog subscribers; or subscribers to your newsletter.

A list, a blog, and a strong social media presence will give you many ways to reach your fans, your followers, your tribe.

Build that audience even if your book is already out. It will take time to create a fan base, but don’t let that discourage you. Your reward will come through fewer boxes of books stored in your home, more money in your e-book retailer accounts, and messages from readers thanking you for helping them.

How did you build your audience?

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Thank you for explaining “platform” in a way that someone who is not totally internet literate can relate to. I have written several books, none published as yet as for me, when I began writing it was all about getting the ideas out of my head and onto the paper, (later computer), story written and the end finally reached.
    Then came the self doubts and complete lack of confidence in the thought that anyone else would be the slightest bit interested in anything I had to say.
    So of course the thought of self promoting became the hill I could not climb.
    Through being involved, even mostly in lurkdom, with LinkedIn, I am finding the thought less intimidating, so again I say a big
    Thank you for your post.

    1. Hi Hilary,

      I’m so glad this was helpful! Yes, we all hear “platform” a lot and it’s rarely followed by an explanation or definition. It’s basically the audience you bring to your book project — who is ready and waiting to buy your book?

      As for your situation, in addition to the support you’re getting through LinkedIn, perhaps sharing some of your work with a group of writers you trust to be honest and gentle will help give you the confidence you need.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.


  2. I am not concerned about the people waiting for the first book but will need to consider that for the next book, I have started setting up a web page and will get a blog set up, then link that to my Twitter and Face Book accounts.

  3. Most authors, whether they are self, indie or traditionally published, probably wish the whole self-promoting and marketing problem would go away. And, as one of the commenters said, the anticipation of climbing that hill was an obstacle that stood in the way of completing her work and seeing it get out there. The BEST advice I could give anyone in this situation is to gain as much knowledge as possible and then proceed step by step. I took Sandy’s Build Book Buzz course…it was a beacon of guiding light as I traversed that difficult and unknown road. Writers…take heart…it can be done.:)
    Vivian Kirkfield
    “Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking”

    1. Thank you, Vivian. I always love when you comment because you offer so much wisdom. AND, you have accomplished so much with your book — your success is truly impressive.

      Yes, take it one step at a time. If you spread those steps over many, many months, it’s all more doable.


  4. This is solid advice that I, too, have taken to heart. I have a following now as a freelance writer, though it doesn’t have nearly the numbers listed in the first paragraph of your article. I think, however, that three years is a good timeframe to get there and the trick to engaging an audience is to get creative. Make it fun and you are more likely to stick with it as well. My latest idea is to make the main character of my novel-in-progress come to life with her own Facebook page and blog. Once she has won the hearts and minds of “friends” and “followers” who are wrapped into her world, I’m hoping those same people might be interested in reading more about her life.

    1. I love your attitude and approach, Kimberly! I just advised a novelist client I’m working with to create a Facebook page for her main character, too, and she embraced the idea because it would be more fun for her than focusing on herself. Let people get to know the star of your book so they feel connected to her/him when the story is finally available.

      Thank you!


  5. Hi Sandra!

    I’m always curious — does this go for novels as well? I’ve been thinking about setting up a Facebook page for my fiction, maybe a Pinterest account as well. I have to say that while I’m connected to a lot of indie writers on Twitter — I get annoyed with their promotion. I did buy one young writer’s first novel, but she had an agent and was published “the old fashioned way.” And we connected on Twitter before her book came out. She’s local, so we’ve even had coffee. Bit off track here from my original question…

    1. Absolutely, Marci. It’s even more important for novelists. As for Facebook fan pages, see my response to Kimberly — maybe that approach would work for you? Also, whether or not Pinterest (or any other social network) is a good fit depends on your target audience and whether they’re using the site.

      Unfortunately, many self-published authors don’t quite understand how to use Twitter and other social networking sites. They’re told, “Oh, you have to be on Twitter!” so they open an account and basically keep tweeting promotional messages about their book. Bad! It’s all about connecting and building relationships, not selling. : (


  6. Sandra,
    I have just finished a proposal for a business book and am now looking to get that fan platform. My concern is having a blog or newsletter that is valuable and within the scope of by book topic, without giving away all of the information that would prompt them to buy the book when it comes out. How do you decide what content to include in your blog/twitter/Linkedin/etc. that captures a fan base without giving away everything your book offers?

    1. Dana,

      The situation you’re referring to is a blog issue more than anything else, but it doesn’t have to be an issue, really.

      Some thoughts:
      1. Many, MANY people have turned their blog postings into books and done very well with sales.
      2. It’s through your blog that you will show that you know enough about your topic to write a useful, helpful, informative book.
      3. Anybody who thinks it’s easier/smarter/more affordable to get what they need about your topic by clicking through all of your blog postings will soon give up on that idea. Plus, blog postings related to book topics don’t usually follow a linear format — they offer bits of topics, not complete explanations, and they hop all over the place. They don’t, in other words, follow a great table of contents.

      Finally, I really encourage authors-to-be to adopt an attitude of abundance. Give, and you will receive. It sounds a little woo-woo, I know, and I am not a woo-woo type of gal, but that’s what I recommend.

      Does any of this work for you?


  7. Very helpful post, Sandy. My own story is that I had a mailing list of 7,000 subscribers in 2006 that I just let die because I felt I was changing to journalism, didn’t have the time to maintain it, etc, and now I’m having to build up from scratch again. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    The good news is that you never lose that experience and that skill, so it’s all points in the bank. I’ve been able to add 500 subscribers almost immediately to my new newsletter (for writers). (http://www.mridukhullar.com/journal/ebook-queries/).

    My question is, how do you manage to stay on top of all social media without repeating yourself all over the place. Why should I follow someone on Twitter if I’m already on their FB and they’re posting the same thing repeatedly? But on the other hand, all this is time-consuming. So how do you keep that balance? Do you focus on one thing at a time?

    Thanks for sharing all your wisdom. It’s much appreciated.

    1. Mridu, if you’ve shifted to a new topic, that list of 7,000 won’t help anyway, right?

      Honestly, while I know that people I’m connected to often have the same content on Twitter and Facebook, I don’t see it twice. Heck, I rarely even see it once. And it wouldn’t bother me to see it twice. We all have our own goals with social media, but I use Twitter to learn, so I follow people who can teach me something. I’m on Facebook to connect, because in my experience, there’s more interaction there. Plus, I actually KNOW a lot of my FB friends, which makes the interactions more interesting and enjoyable for me.

      Social media IS time-consuming, and most of us don’t have a lot of time for it. I recommend testing a few sites, and using the results to help you decide where to put your time. I’m experimenting with Pinterest right now. I like it for personal reasons — I use it to curate recipes, for example — but it has a professional purpose, too. If I discover over time that it’s not driving traffic to my site, I won’t put much effort into the business application of it.

      Make sense?


    1. True, Vivian. In an ideal world, your target audience is using those social networks that you feel most comfortable with. You are an amazing and dedicated blogger and Moms are reading blogs, so this works out well for you. : )


  8. This is spot on. You need to start banging your drum right in the beginning. You will feel inspired to continue the hard work because people will want to know how you are getting on. Your word is your commitment. Go for it!

    1. Thanks for that endorsement, Charmane! That’s a great point about being inspired by the people “following” you.


  9. I am working on building my tribe! My tribe is anyone interested in pregnancy, birth, and the first year of life — in making it safer. I started a FB page for the book I have coming out in 11 days. Wish I had followed Seth’s advice and started it three years ago (how?!). It is here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Business-of-Baby/317063605077912 (yes, I know. It should have a customized URL but I can’t get FB to allow me to do so. Oy.)

    1. It can feel like a slow process, Jennifer, so don’t get discouraged. And the connections you make around this book will stay with you for the next one, too.


    2. Jennifer…I know exactly what you mean…my book came out in Sept of 2010…and the month before, I started a blog, website, FB, Twitter, LinkedIn…YIKES! Yes, it is better if one starts years before…but it is what it is. 🙂
      About the FB page…have you gone to your profile or set up page…I’m thinking that when I set up my FB page for my book, I had the opportunity to choose the simple URL…without all the numbers and junk. Unless they have new rules now…perhaps you have to get a certain number of ‘likes’. I’ll go over and like your page right now. 🙂 Best of luck!

  10. This is a very valuable essay on book promotion. I will try to keep the advice in mind. It seems like a lofty goal to have traffic of over 20,000 a month to my website. However, I will do what I can to build my fan base.

    Thank you.

  11. Thank you for pointing out that we need an audience before publishing. Sounds great. But how do we do it? I already have three books in publication by reputable publishers,and I’m working on a third. People on my Facebook know I write, but I can’t just keep yammering about my books to people who are my personal friends and co-workers in the entertainment industry. It sounds like constant boasting. Many of these friends are prominent actors, directors, writers, singers, etc., who are would quickly tire of such demonstrations. I don’t blog, and I don’t Tweet. I’m not interested in following someone’s blog or Tweet; I find it pretentious; moreover what can I say that my friends haven’t heard before? I’ve done speaking engagements, but the attendees are always writers looking for advice on how to get their work published. Help!

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