Authors, Platforms, Fame

Famous Writers and How Platforms Secure Their Book Deals

A literary agent discusses the changing landscape of book publishing with its emphasis on celebrity and how this affects sales.

When we market an author to a book publisher these days, here is the first question we are likely to be asked:

“Does your client have a platform?”

Increasingly, having a strong platform is a requirement for writers to be accepted not only at the major publishing houses, but also at the good independents. It is a significant change from my early years in book publishing when the major concern was to locate and develop a talented writer with a viable topic. Although writing ability and a good subject are still important ingredients, without a platform, an unknown author is likely to get rejected these days.

Platform vrs. Substance

Senior-level publishing officials have confided in me that they’d never have gone into publishing had they known it would turn out like this. They love books and authors. They look with dismay at the necessary emphasis on platform, sometimes over substance.

Celebrity Sells

But the reality is that books from people with big platforms out-perform those from unknowns. The public is crazy about celebrities; the media is celebrity-friendly. It’s a simple equation: if you are famous, your book will sell.

Publishing is a business; like any other business, it is necessary to generate a profit. What better way to minimize the financial risk than to acquire books from people with platforms?

This does not come as good news to writers who want to think that after getting a book deal, the publisher’s promotion efforts will create their platform. Instead, publishers want unpublished writers to come with platforms already in place.

Our discussion of writer’s platforms starts by considering famous authors. Later, we’ll discuss what you can do if you aren’t famous.

Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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