3 Smart Questions to Ask to Discover Your Ideal Reader

No matter if you’re a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

Ideal Reader

What is an ideal reader?

This is a fictional persona to whom your writing will most appeal. While this is not a scientific process, creating a profile helps you write with purpose and enables you to craft elements into your writing that surprises and delights this person.

Your ideal reader represents who you are writing to. It’s one person, not many people. This is a specific process and if you do it right, your ideal reader will come alive in your mind.

What this means is you need to figure out who your ideal reader is, what his or her interests are, and why your ideal reader reads.

Your most important question is why will your ideal reader be interested in your book?

Whatever the why, all readers have one and it’s your job to discover it for your ideal reader.


Discover Your Ideal Readers Worksheet

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Your ideal reader is your biggest fan

When you know who you’re writing to it gives your writing purpose and direction. This may seem like a strange exercise to go through but trust me, it’s a key step.

Even if it’s a loose definition, think about the person (real or fictional) who would most be interested in reading your work.

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS

  • What does this person tend to focus on?
  • On social media, what does your ideal reader like sharing about?
  • From what you can gather, what does he/she most need/want/desire?

Once you know the answers to those initial questions answer this one: what problem are you solving for your ideal reader through your writing?

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Through thinking about your ideal reader you should have a few words and phrases jotted down. Take a look and add a few more words to the page.

This time, write down things about your ideal reader. Noting things like hopes, dreams, challenges or family dynamics can help you paint a picture.

It can be vague or specific, long or short. Just jot down as much as you can think of in a five-minute period.

Look at the list you came up with and compare it to your first one—are you seeing a character emerge? Write a biography for this person—whatever comes to mind with as much detail as you can include.

Remember, this is a creative exercise. You’re trying to imagine who the person is who can’t wait to read what you write. The more human you can make this person, the better.

No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

Here are a few marketing applications

In essence, marketing your writing is simple—put your writing in front of the people who will love it. If you have an idea of who your ideal reader is then finding those (real life) people is a lot easier. The more you know, the better.

  • What stores do they shop in? Now you know where to sell your work
  • Where do they hang out? Now you know where to hold workshops or readings
  • What is their favourite social media platform? Now you know where you need to be online
  • What are their biggest fears? Now you know how to help them
  • What do they care most about? Now you know how to relate to them
  • What type of marketing will they best respond to? Now you know what you need to do

There are a lot of ways you can find your ideal reader (or book buyer, or ideal client, etc.) so it’s important not just to parrot what you see others doing online but to find something that works for you and feels natural.

free fillable worksheet discover your ideal reader

Don’t forget to download your free worksheets for this training

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Other helpful articles

No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets (like the worksheet from today’s training!) and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.
No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

How to Write a Query Letter

My writing life focuses heavier on pitching articles than querying agents but I get asked how to write a query letter more than you’d think. So, if you’re writing a query letter I hope this helps!

how to write a query letter writing a query letter tips

How to write a query letter

For people who have a book in their head (or on their hard drive) and want to know how to get it to an agent or a publisher, you are asking the right question.

If you want to publish you need to know how to write a query letter. And yes, I’ll help you figure out how.

Today I’m focusing on querying book ideas to agents or editors but much of this applies to querying article ideas and guest posts to magazines or websites.

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But first, a story

In 2017 I had a goal of querying an agent with my non-fiction book idea so I had to get started writing a query letter. While this isn’t my first query letter it is one I’m pretty happy with and will continue using.

I brought my query letter with me to a writing conference I attended but ended up giving verbal pitches rather than passing out my letter.

This is normal, by the way, which leads me to my first tip.

Tip 1: When you meet with agents or editors you pitch. When you email agents or editors you query. There’s a difference

This is your first lesson: you need a query letter and a pitch. But before you stress out I have good news, the pitch is part of the query. Hooray!

Writing a query letter means you’re leaving the safe daydream world of being a published author and entering into the scary real world of selling your work.

This is where you need to step back and start looking at your work as a product. Which leads me to my second tip.

Tip 2: You can’t be precious about your writing or your ideas. This is a tough industry

Writing is personal but professional writers learn how to let go of their work and let it take on a life of its own.

They grow thick skin.

They aren’t threatened when their ideas are rejected or their writing is shredded by critique groups or editors. Getting shredded, while painful, is good for you. It improves your writing. Because—news flash—you can always improve.

Don’t approach the query process thinking your book is 100 per cent finished and perfect as is. If you do you will have a ROUGH time out there in the real world.

  • So get past that sooner rather than later
  • Be open to edits
  • Be open to critique
  • And be open to improving
Writer's Statement Worksheet

By the way, if you can get clear on why you’re writing, composing your query letter will become MUCH easier.

I have created a worksheet to help—this is a free download but you’ll need a password to access it in my resource library. Just pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send you the password!

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “Create a Writer’s Statement Worksheet.”

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OK let’s get on with the writing a query letter advice

There’s a lot of advice out there for writing query letters. What I’m outlining today is what I’ve found to be the most effective format for query letters and what I’ve heard the most agents ask for.

Want to know how to write a query letter? Think of a it as a one-page business letter with three paragraphs

  • Your first paragraph is intro. You’ll list what category your work falls under, its title, and estimated word count. You’ll also explain what your work is about. Keep it brief!
  • Your second paragraph is your pitch. Here you’ll deliver a clear and immediate gist of what your work is about. The goal? Make the agent or editor want more. This is sales, razzle-dazzle, back-cover book copy magic. This is your BEST writing
  • Your third paragraph is about you. Who you are, why you’re qualified to write the book, and what you have going for you. Yes it may feel a bit braggy but if you have 1,000,000 Instagram followers who will buy your book once it’s published…you want people to know

Your query letter has one purpose: to get the agent or editor to request your work. Keep it tight, keep it simple and keep it focused on selling your work.

While this is a great formula for how to write a query letter, you can’t just one-and-done it. Which brings me to my third point.

Tip 3: Before you send your query letter, do some research

While you can create a general query letter, and you should, you should do some research on the agents and editors you’re querying before you send it to them. I have two reasons why.

Reason one: Many agents have specific submission guidelines and you should follow them.

You can find these guidelines on their website—so do yourself a favour and put in a few extra minutes of research before hitting send.

Reason two: Not all agents or editors are looking for the same things. They list what genres they’re interested in on their websites. And they Tweet what they’re searching for (#MSWL).

Sometimes they’ll tell you to your face if they think it will sell. If you’re pitching a non-fiction book to an agent looking for paranormal romance…there is no point. You don’t have a chance.

Increase your odds by finding agents and editors who are picking up what you’re putting down. Respect them by paying attention and doing some research ahead of time.

query letter writing

One More Story before we wrap up this how to write a query letter training

At the last writing conference I attended, there was one literary agent I wanted to meet. I’ve followed her on Twitter for years and didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

So I did my research. I paid attention to what she was talking about on social media in the months leading up to the conference.

I tailored my pitch to the exact metrics listed on her literary agency’s website (side note, this is a great template), and I researched other authors the agency represented in case there were any similarities to what I was pitching.

Pitch Templates

Want to kick-start your pitch? Make sure to download my four pitch templates. (Because pitching applies to much more than book queries…like MAGAZINE writing!)

These are free downloads but you’ll need a password to access them in my resource library. Just pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send you the password.

Once you’re in the resource library, navigate to the freelancing section and look for “Pitch Templates.”

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When I arrived at my pitch appointment I was ready. I had researched, I had personalized my pitch, and I gave it my best shot.

Was it a lot of work? Not really, although it sounds like it when I list it all here. Mostly it just meant me paying attention and putting the work in rather than mindless scrolling and wishing.

Could I do this for all the agents at the conference?

No. So you want to choose with care.

  • Which agents are the best fit for you?
  • Which ones are looking for what you’re writing?
  • And which ones do you believe will help your career gain momentum?

Pay attention to those ones.

Put yourself in their shoes

Imagine if you were the agent getting 100 pitches thrown at you at a writing conference. Yes, you’re looking for new titles and new authors but not 100.

You have 200 more queries waiting for you when you get home with more arriving every day.

You’re looking for reasons to say no. So who will you say yes to?

  • The authors who make it easy
  • The ones who make it personal to you
  • The ones who have done their research and are a great fit
  • And, most important, the ones whose books you think you can sell

I hope you feel a little less confused about writing a query letter.

There is other advice out there and if you find something that works better for you, all good! But whatever you do, do your research and don’t get precious.

And have fun!

My writing life focuses heavier on pitching articles than querying agents but I get asked how to write a query letter more than you'd think.

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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My writing life focuses heavier on pitching articles than querying agents but I get asked how to write a query letter more than you'd think.
My writing life focuses heavier on pitching articles than querying agents but I get asked how to write a query letter more than you'd think.

How Long Should My Book Be? How to Determine Novel Wordcounts

Have you ever asked how long should my book be?

How Long Should My Book Be Guide to Word Count

Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question!

Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

Would you like free writing tips? Sign up for my weekly tips & tricks, from one writer to another at robynroste.com/writing-tips.
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How long should my book be?

When you’re planning a book (even if you’re a pantser) it’s important to know a few things about your genre ahead of time—things like, well, what genre it is.

And what the theme is. And how many words it will be. Yeah. Even word count should be pre-planned.

And I know how weird that sounds if this is the first time you’re hearing it.

How to write an outline worksheet

Wondering how to structure an outline? It will help you plan your book!

I’ve created a PDF worksheet walking you through the broad strokes of creating an outline. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “How to Write an Outline for Anything Worksheet.”

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What!? There’s a word count for novels!? Yup.

And it’s kind of one of those things you should abide by unless you’re crazy-famous and/or already a successful author (because obvs these guidelines don’t apply to you) or you don’t care about selling books.

Because word count matters. And the rules change for every genre.

So, your first task is to figure out what genre your book is in. After that, check the list below to find the answer to your question how long should my book be?

General guidelines: How long should my book be?

Fiction

  • Middle Grade—20,000 to 50,000 words
  • Young Adult—45,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novels—50,000 to 120,000 words
    • Paranormal Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Category Romance—55,000 to 75,000 words
    • Cozy Mysteries—65,000 to 90,000 words
    • Horror—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Western—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Light Paranormal Mysteries/Hobby Mysteries—75,000 to 90,000 words
    • Historical Mysteries/Noir—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Thrillers/Crime—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Chick Lit—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Literary—65,000 to 100,000 words
    • Science Fiction—90,000 to 110,000 words
    • Romantic Science Fiction—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Space Opera—90,000 to 120,000 words
    • Contemporary Fantasy—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Other Fantasy—90,000 to 120,000 words
You've decided to write a book worksheet

Do you want to write a book? Start here

I’ve created a PDF fillable worksheet walking you through four important steps to take BEFORE you start writing. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “You’ve Decided to Write a Book Worksheet.”

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Non-Fiction

  • Devotional—30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Self-Help—40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Memoir—50,000 to 90,000 words
  • Narrative Non-Fiction—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Biography—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Prescriptive/How-To—50,000 to 150,000

Of course these guidelines are only just that—guidelines. And there are WAY more genres and sub-genres (e.g. new weird and slipstream…what now!?) so it’s best to do your own research.

But do pay attention and at least be aware of publisher AND reader expectations. Because you still have to list your word count in your query letter or book proposal!

Sources: The Swivet, Jerry Jenkins, Books & Such Literary Management

Create a Writing Schedule Worksheet

When you’re ready to write a book and you know the genre and how many words it will be, your next step is to create a writing schedule.

I’ve created a PDF worksheet to help you realistic schedule. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library navigate to the writing section and look for “Create a Writing Schedule Worksheet.”

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Other posts relating to publishing (although not answering the question how long should my book be but they’re still relevant!)

Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with little thought to structure, plot or word count.
Have you ever asked <em>how long should my book be?</em> Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I’ve learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months of, well, learning how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

How to write a non-fiction book proposal

In the non-fiction world, book publishing starts with writing an amazing query letter. And after that? Send in your book?

Nope.

If you get past the query-letter round in non-fiction publishing you then move on to book proposal.

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How to write a non-fiction book proposal

In 2017 I had a goal of pitching a book to an agent at a writer’s conference. Yes, OK I also wanted to acquire an agent but I knew it was a long shot. In my reading about the industry I knew the path to publishing was a windy road and there was so much I still had to learn.

But I did want to practice pitching (which is something I recommend doing often!) and I did want to get started. Doing it in person added that much more intensity. And live feedback. Yikes.

I knew enough to book appointments with agents who represented non-fiction and I practiced my pitch a few times over so I could deliver it without reading.

My query letter was prepped and printed and I had supplementary ideas and media kits printed off in the event I should need it.

However, I was not prepared for one agent asking me for my book proposal while I was pitching. It threw me off a bit, since in the conference instructions it said to limit my documents to a query letter. Whoops.

A second agent asked me to send my book proposal “in a few months.” In the moment I thought…a few months? I’ll have it ready next week!

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

Months Later

Uh…writing a book proposal takes longer than I thought. And even though it’s not the entire book it’s still a big project.

Here’s what I’ve learned in these months since the conference: a book proposal sells your idea to agents and publishers.

And the most important thing is to avoid outlining what your book is about but instead highlight why you’re writing it, who you’re serving and how your book will benefit your readers.

Oh, OK. So a proposal is like writing a business marketing plan. I can do that

In my research I’ve discovered there are many different ways of putting together a non-fiction book proposal.

While it’s important to craft your proposal to the specs the agent or publisher asks for, there are also common elements you can prepare ahead of time and reshape into each proposal you send out.

Common elements in a non-fiction book proposal

Overview

Your overview describes your idea and what you’re trying to accomplish. You want this to be succinct yet descriptive—in the marketing world it’s your elevator pitch; in the business world it’s your executive summary.

Depending on the agent or publisher, this should be between 500 words and five pages. Yes. That is quite a range. Pay attention to instructions.

elevator pitch templates

Free elevator pitch templates

I’ve added two elevator pitch templates as a free download to my resource library. This is a freebie you’ll need a password to access the library itself. You can get the password by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the “freelancing” section and download “Elevator Pitch Templates.”

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Target markets/audience

It’s tempting to think your book will appeal to everyone or to the masses in general, but in the marketing world, the more niche, the better.

You want to know who you’re helping and what problems you’re solving. The more specific and detailed you can be, the better.

The goal of this section is to outline who will purchase your book so don’t hold back from diving into the world of your target reader.

Promotion/marketing plan

I’ve heard other authors describe this as the most important part of your proposal. Although it would be nice to sit back and let someone else be in charge of your marketing the truth is you need to champion your book like your book deal depends on it.

Cause, well, it does. This is the place where you call in every favour and think of any and every way to get publicity.

Overview your marketing plan with confidence and with as many actual numbers as you can. Outline your platform, present your numbers, and list every media type you can think of and how you plan to get coverage.

Competing works

Drawing attention other books just like yours may seem counter-intuitive but competition shows there’s a market for your work. In your competitive analysis list three to 10 successful titles published within the past few years and demonstrate how your book is different from these titles, without trashing them.

You want to create a case for a solid readership waiting for your work, which will complement other books already published in the genre.

About the author

You can repurpose your bio from your query letter and add a bit of flourish. Here you want to demonstrate why and how you are the right author to write your book.

Highlight any relevant experience, expertise and credentials. Answer the implied question, how are you qualified to write this book? Why should you write it rather than anyone else? Where are you already active?

Table of contents and chapter outline

Although you don’t have to have your book written yet, you do need to know how the book is going to look when it’s done.

This is like a map of your book and should include chapter names, section titles, subtitles and any other relevant information.

Outline each chapter by writing a brief summary. The big idea here is to help the agent or publisher know what to expect from your final product.

Writing sample

In this section you want to include between one and three of your strongest chapters, which will give the agent or publisher a good sense of your writing style and the overall book structure.

Remember, your non-fiction book proposal is what your agent will use to sell your book to publishers. You’re building a case for your book to be published.

You’re selling an idea, what you’ll do to promote and support it and enough of a writing sample to showcase your talent and skill.

No problem.

Other helpful posts on how to write a non-fiction book proposal

There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I've learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I've learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months.
In the non-fiction world, if you get past the query-letter round then move on to book proposal. There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I've learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months of, well, learning how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

How to Create a Solid Stress-Free Author Platform

If you Google “What is an author platform?” you’ll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn’t a simple question. But I’m still going to try and answer it.

What is an Author Platform

What is an author platform?

In a nutshell, a platform is the sum total of ways you, the author, can sell your book.

But…what does that mean? What is an author platform? That answer doesn’t tell me anything!

Hah! I know. And people in general assume a platform is how many social media followers you have, and maybe at one point that was it, but since you can buy followers you can still have loads of followers and not sell any books. So that can’t be the only thing that makes up your platform.

I mean, it will make some of it.

Want to discover your ideal reader? This worksheet will help!

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Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

It kind of makes sense, right? When you pitch an agent or publisher they need to know you can motivate your existing readers, reach new readers and build strong relationships with your readers.

Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

- Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
- Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
- Personality and follow through—25%
- Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

A common follow-up question to what is an author platform is: does this apply to all authors?

Hah! Kind of? I know this isn’t quite how you pictured an author platform to look

From my research I’ve learned while almost all non-fiction authors need a platform, not all fiction authors do.

Although it’s overwhelming to think about building a thriving team of superfans when it’s hard enough to get words on the page the more I think about it the more I understand why it’s necessary.

Publishing a book isn’t the hard part (although, like, that’s not simple)—selling your book is.

Think about it this way: let’s say you’re putting together a workshop and you’re partnering with a local venue as the host. Well, is it 100% up to the venue to sell the thing out?

No, of course not.

What is an Author Platform?

Sure they can help by spreading the word to their customers but it’s up to you to bring in your friends and fans. The ability to draw people in shows the strength of your platform. So make it strong.

One other thing to think about when asking what is an author platform is to consider everything you do as a contribution to your platform.

In-person connections are often stronger than online ones so don’t take those for granted. Think about the associations you’re a member of, the clubs you participate in and the hobbies you have.

If you think those could be channels to sell books then make sure they’re strong connections. Contribute to them and make yourself a valuable member.

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Wondering how to grow your platform?

Here are a few ideas from Writer’s Digest.

  • Find out what your target audience is reading and publish articles or blogs in those outlets
  • Publish a body of work on your topic in a blog, newsletter, podcast, video blog, etc. to grow organic followers and fans over time and help you build authority in your niche
  • Attending events (or speaking at these events if possible) where you can expand your network
  • Find meaningful ways to connect with your target audience—put on events, run challenges, have promotions, etc.
  • Partner with people in your niche (either peers or influencers) to grow your reach and pick up new fans

Other posts about platform building and non-fiction writing

Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

- Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
- Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
- Personality and follow through—25%
- Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

- Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
- Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
- Personality and follow through—25%
- Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%
If you Google What is an author platform? you'll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn't a simple question. But I'm still going to try and answer it.