by Annette Lyon
The most important element of your book package, aside from the quality of the writing, is your platform.
Sadly, in the case of non-fiction books, platform can be far more important in convincing a publisher to take you on than having a quality manuscript.
So what is a platform?
Your platform is everything about you that helps to sell your book. Each item that makes up your platform is a "plank":
- Credentials and expertise (If you wrote a book about diet and exercise, it helps if you have a Ph.D. in, say, exercise physiology.)
- Publicity connections (Do you have an "in" with a popular radio personality? Can you get a review in a prestigious newspaper?)
- Chances for speaking engagements (Can you get into schools, community organizations, etc. to speak and promote your work?)
- Organizations you belong to (Nonprofit, hobby, etc. It helps if these relate to your book in some way; if you belong to a hiking and camping club and wrote a survival novel, you may already have potential buyers through your club.)
- Professional organizations and networks you belong to.
- Your general visibility (Do you have a newspaper column of your own? Do you appear semi-regularly as a contributor of a TV show?)
In those cases, really, who's kidding who? Those books aren't generally penned by the celebrity. They're ghost-written, first and foremost because celebrities are actors or singers or whatever else. They aren't writers.
But when it comes down to it, what's between the covers of those books doesn't matter all that much, because the public is already willing to plunk down $24.95 to read about Mr. Hollywood.
On the other hand, a "nobody" who has a drop-dead amazing memoir to tell may or may not be picked up simply because the marketing department will have to work so much harder to convince the public to buy the book.
Consider: Who has the better shot at getting onto the Today show: Joe Writer or Paris Hilton, who can barely spell her own name, let alone actually "author" a book?
Paris, by a mile. And she has been on that show promoting something she supposedly wrote.
That doesn't feel fair, but it's the reality. Think ahead to what your platform consists of and could consist of, because almost as important as the connections and possibilties that are in your platform now are the things you're willing to do to grow your platform.
When you submit your book propsoal, whether it's for fiction or non-fiction, write up your current platform plus your marketing plans for growing it.
If an editor loves your work, she'll have to sell it to those who hold the strings to the money bags. She'll have to convince them that they won't lose money by giving your piece shot, and that instead they'll turn a profit.
The stronger your platform, the easier it is to sell your piece to the final decision makers and to readers.
Build it plank by plank.