Sunday, March 15, 2009

Platform, Part 1

In a previous post, I said I would write something about platform building ideas I have.

First, though, for non-writers who might stumble by and read this blog, I'd better explain what I mean by platform. This is what publishers would call a writer being able to bring a ready-made audience waiting to buy the writer's book(s). For non-fiction, it could be credentials. For fiction, it could be a fan base developed through notoriety not related to writing. Think of someone like Bill O'Reilly, who can get any book published he wants, good or bad, because of his huge fan base and ability to promote is book to that fan base. His writing may be good or not; having never read any of his books or columns I don't know. But publishers will enter bidding auctions on his books because of his platforms.

Other examples are Jewell and Paul McCartney for their poetry. Do they write good poetry? I don't know. But people will buy their poetry books simply because of who they are. Or consider Joel Osteen and his books. A church of 5,000 people (or more) and a television ministry provides him with a ready made fan base. And those are tremendous places for him to sell his books.

Most agents or editors, when considering the book of a first time author, will ask (even for fiction), "What is your platform? Do you speak before large groups? Do you have a web site with lots of traffic? Do you have special credentials? How many potential buyers can you bring to the publishing house?"

Now, I don't know that that is particularly fair to expect of a potential new author. But my not liking it is not going to change it.

Can a new author break in without a platform? Sure, but the odds are really against it. So, being an unpublished author, I can enhance my abilities to break in by establishing a platform. But what to do? I have no speaking ministry, and am unlikely to begin one. Indeed, with a full time job I'm unable to begin one. I have no special credentials for religious or political non-fiction books, so that would seems to be out.

One possibility is to review my idea of Documenting America, my newspaper column. I've been thinking about this for a long time, as the second post to this blog attests. On several other occasions I wrote about this, even coming very close to saying I was going to do it, until circumstances in life made me decide not to.

But, if I could do it, and get a few papers to carry it (if all newspapers don't die in the next year or so), it would be a platform-building possibility. I need to revisit my decision to cast this idea aside. I'll take a couple to critique group on Thursday and see what reaction they get.

In a future post, I'll write about another platform-building idea I have.

No comments: