Friday, October 10, 2008

How Can I Build a Platform?

An author writes a non-fiction book and sends it to an agent. The agent sends back a reply, You have made the subject easy to understand, but I am unable to offer representation at this time because your platform is weak. The author looks at this response and asks, what is a platform and how do I get one?

Many authors go at this process backwards. A platform is not something you need to build if you hope to sell a book you have already written. The platform is what gives you the authority to write the book in the first place. It also makes it a whole lot easier to write the book.

Let’s look at an extreme example. Suppose a fourteen-year-old student writes a book about how to drive a car. True, the student may have some very good thoughts on the subject, but without having ever driven a car, he isn’t going to have the experience that someone like the current NASCAR points leader has. The guy from NASCAR has a platform. The student has opinions.

We develop platforms in many ways. Sometimes we develop a platform without trying. Other times we spend years learning a subject. Once we have developed a platform, we can sit down at a computer and record what we know for the benefit of others. When people ask us why they should listen to us, we can point to our experience and say, “Because I have lived it.”

Some people complain about celebrity books, but the fact is that celebrities have a platform. My pastor loves to say, “when you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you can be sure that sucker didn’t get their by himself.” People don’t gain celebrity status without first living a life that put them in that position. That life is their platform to talk to people who wish they were celebrities too.

If you want to write a book on a subject, go out and study the subject, try your theories and learn from your mistakes. After you have done that, go back and decide what people need to learn from your experience. Don’t write your opinions and then try to make it look like you know what you are talking about.