Monday, April 21, 2008

Having a Platform for your Book

One thing that agents and acquiring editors look for, especially nowadays, is whether the author has a platform.

Exactly what a platform is can cause people to stutter while trying to explain the term. Some say it means you have a cause. Your book is about curing cancer. Or your protagonist is a recovering alcoholic. Or … you have something to talk about that might get your publicity. Even more so, if you yourself have conquered cancer or been sober for twenty years.

Some think it means that your book touches on a topic that is hot, like the politics in the Middle East or the two lovers end up together because of their work on global warming. Because those topics are relevant, you could get on talk shows.

Although all of that would most likely be a help in promoting your book and can be part of a platform, it’s not really THE platform.

Your platform is your ability to get publicity and sell your book. You are already a well-known speaker with an active line-up of appearances. You’re an established expert in the field you’re writing about. You’re a celebrity who could get on TV for blowing your nose. Everyone knows your name because you have a radio show or you’re a columnist at a major paper. Or you have contacts. Lots of contacts.

Like Sloane Crossley, publicist at Vintage Books, who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, has used her fat black book of networking contacts to get
an avalanche of press for her first book, the kind of press most first-time authors would kill to get. Names like David Sedaris and Dorothy Parker get tossed around in reference to Crosley, national publications like Entertainment Weekly and Details have reviewed the book (as well as newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and The Chronicle), and essays timed to the book's release have appeared in GQ and Salon.

Sara Nelson, editor of Publisher’s Weekly, has also used her contacts to promote her book.
"Publishing people are often secretly or not-so-secretly trying to write books," she says, speaking from a traffic jam in London. "It makes perfect sense."

Now, you and I may not have these kinds of contacts in our black books (or PDAs), but writers can start trying to build a database of people they could turn to for blurbs, help, recommendations, or promotion. And the time to start is before you publish that book.


  1. Great posting. Now do you suggest for children's books the same thing? It seems a bit less credible for adults to give the review blurbs for children's books but I guess if it works it would be be right to do. I can't wait to start getting some reviews on mine.

    I'll have to work on that - I think I have some author names I can get to do the reviews. I'll have to keep all this in mind. E :)

  2. If it's a cover blurb that goes on the book, then it works best if it's a name the bookstore browser would recognize and respect. That means, in most cases, a writer who publishes in the same genre that you're writing (and therefore, the reader who reads in that genre, in your case children's books, would know of).

    If it's a review up on a bookseller's website, like Amazon or B&N, I don't think it makes that much difference who it is. The caveat to that would be if the reviewer has a solid reputation for giving truthful and informative reviews and the person looking at the review knows that. And that would hold true if the review was, for example, in a newspaper or magazine that the reader looks to for advice on books.


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