Thinking of trying to land a non-fiction book contract with a publishing house? Here’s food for thought from an interview with New York literary agent Harvey Klinger (www.harveyklinger.com), featured on mediabistro.com’s GalleyCat for March 31, 2010:
“I realize that it’s very tough to sell a non-fiction project unless the person already has something of a national forum or platform for his/her work. Many would-be authors talk about what they’ll do once their book is published. Publishers want to know what you’re doing now to create a name for yourself in advance of a book’s publication.” (Read the full interview with Harvey Klinger here: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/agents/lit_agent_harvey_klinger_wants_strong_womens_fiction_155437.asp)
What does that mean for you and your non-fiction book project? Simple: Be sure you’re building your platform as you are crafting your book proposal or developing your book manuscript. What’s a platform? Your platform is about your visibility and what you’re doing to increase it. Are you already building an audience for your book through your current work with clients, media mentions, blog, published articles, speaking engagements and association leadership? Your platform includes your credibility on your book’s topic (why are you the right person to write this book?), your existing “fan base,” and your ability to become more visible to a larger audience of potential fans. These platform elements are a crucial part of any non-fiction book proposal.
For another take on the concept of “platform” as it relates to publishing, read Mark Barrett’s amusing post on Ditchwalk (http://www.ditchwalk.com/2010/01/11/your-publishing-platform-defined/), and his take on the “celebrity” = “platform” equation. He also reminds writers (especially those considering the self-publishing route) that attention to craft and excellent writing shouldn’t take a back seat to platform considerations. Amen to that – but I’ll add that on the non-fiction side especially, a book – even a beautifully crafted one — won’t find an audience unless readers are aware the book exists.
How are you building your platform?