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Why do authors need a platform? The Platform Requirement by Rick Frishman

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Why do aspiring authors and published authors need to have a platform? Because there have been major changes in the world of publishing.  And, with a bigger platform authors can reach more people and it boosts the chances of finding a big-name publisher for book #2 and subsequent books!

I am going to Author101 University event later this month. My first  book, The Antianxiety Food Solution, was published by New Harbinger in 2011, but even though I am a published author I know I need to continue to learn how to build my platform so  can serve more people with my food mood message. 

Rick Frishman, host of Author101 University, shares “The Platform Requirement” for authors:  

One of the most significant changes in publishing in the past decade has been the shifting by publishers of the responsibility for promoting authors’ books from themselves to the authors. In the past, publishing houses actively publicized their authors’ books. They operated large, active, in-house publicity departments that were fully engaged in promoting the titles on their lists. Most notable authors were sent on extensive, nationwide book tours, for which the houses picked up the tab.

Now, with the exception of the biggest, bestselling, and celebrity authors, those tours are a memory, and whatever tours are booked are far less extensive than those of the past. Somewhere along the line, publishers made the unilateral decision to shift the publicity burden from themselves to their authors. Now, they consider authors their “promotional partners,” which means that the authors are expected to do most of the work. Authors are expected to vigorously promote their books and to do so at their own expense. In-house publicity departments have been pared to the bone and are now manned by a few overworked publicists who struggle constantly to keep up.

In addition, publishers have erected a substantial new barrier that has made it difficult for many writers to get their nonfiction books published.

Publishers call it the platform requirement, which essentially means that publishers want authors who have continuing national visibility and an established following. In short, publishers generally won’t publish business, psychology, parenting, relationship, and other books for authors who don’t have national platforms. Today, publishers want authors who can sell their books because they make frequent speaking engagements; regularly write articles or columns; and have strong media and Internet presences, large mailing lists, government posts, faculty positions, or professional affiliations.

To further narrow the field, many publishers have extended the platform requirement to previously published writers.  “The bar for platforms has been raised to almost absurd heights,” Encino, California, agent Sharlene Martin, of Martin Literary Management, explains. “A whole plethora of good writing is being ignored because it doesn’t have the promotional hooks that publishers are now demanding.”

When writers who don’t have platforms come to Martin, she tells them that “they’re not ready; that they’re before their time.” She explains that writing a great book is just a part of the package and that they have to build their platform.

Agent Richard Curtis offers some encouragement. “The bar in publishing has been raised extremely high, but not impossibly high,” he says. “A good book will still rise to the surface if it’s a really good book.” It’s important to impress on publishers that you’re willing to vigorously promote your book. Work to build your platform.

Reprinted from “Rick Frishman’s Sunday Tips”
Subscribe at http://www.rickfrishman.comand receive Rick’s “Million Dollar Rolodex” which is 141 pages long.


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14 Responses so far.

  1. Sue Painter says:

    This is why I would more than likely never bother with a publisher to begin with. I guess the argument is that it gives you some credibility – that credibility being that at least one other person thinks that what you write has value. But that’s negligible to me. I’ve read so many excellent self-published books and so many horrible books published by big houses that I don’t judge by publisher credentials anymore.

    • Trudy Scott says:

      You have an interesting take on this topic! While I agree with you to some extent – there are many excellent self-published books and many bad traditionally published books – I do feel that you need a platform whichever way you decide to publish. If you’re self-publishing this is even more imperative because you need to have that loyal tribe to buy your book/s!

      Although it seems unfair that even if you have an incredible topic and book, you can only get in with a big publisher if you do have a big platform. But that’s the name of the game and is why I encourage my authors and aspiring authors to work on building their platform through speaking and the media. It’s a win for the publisher, a win for you and a win for all those people you get to reach with your message!


  2. “Platform” is not a new idea by any means. It is important even if you don’t want to publish a book — if you want to play on a national or international scale, you need that kind of platform. If you want to play on a local scale or in a particular niche, you need a different platform. Platforms are not one-size-fits-all. Determine what is right for you and your biz, and go after that Platform (aka “market”).



    Katherine C. H. E.
    Author, Be True Rich

  3. Jessica says:

    My speaking platform has been my greatest tool for promoting my book!

  4. I agree, whether you decide to self-publish or go the traditional route, it is up to you to promote your book. And as you have so wonderfully pointed out, Trudy, it is never too early to get started building your platform.

  5. I suppose that cream always does rise to the top. Can’t wait to hear all about your writer’s event.

  6. Lisa Manyon says:

    Thanks for the insightful post. It seems that just like marketing, the publishing world is always shifting and changing. I really appreciate you sharing this information and look forward to more.
    Write on!~
    Lisa Manyon

    • Trudy Scott says:

      Yes Lisa – we need to keep up to date with all the changes if we hope to be successful in the world of writing and publishing! (and marketing too)

  7. Mitch Tublin says:

    The publishing world, similar to bookstores – think Borders, media stores – think Tower Records, and other businesses are changing because they are almost in a state of not being relevant. The school book publishing world from younger school age children through Universities to Grad school has been where the real money resided. This is changing too.
    If someone has a huge following and they are being asked to conduct the entire marketing campaign, self publishing is the easiest way to go and the end product will be professionally created and delivered.

    • Trudy Scott says:

      Although you can now create a professional and top-notch self-published book, traditionally published books are still perceived as being the ‘real deal” by many people. I just got back from the Author101 event and was having a conversation with someone about my book, The Antianxiety Food Solution. She looked at it VERY briefly and we continued talking. A few minutes later it came up that it had been published by New Harbinger and her reaction was astounding. She said “Wow, a real publisher! Gee, this makes me think about your book in a totally different way! I’m even surprised how different it feels to me…can I look at your book again?” She proceeded to look at the TOC, the testimonials and some of the chapters and congratulated me profusely.

      I know this doesn’t relate to the platform topic. Either way, as an author, you still need a platform. But I just found it very interesting and so did she!

      I do think it’s good to be aware of the perceptions of your potential buyers too!

      And since this is an ever-changing industry this may well change too but for now it’s still the reality for many people.


  8. Heidi Alexandra says:

    I’m with Mitch the world of publishing like many other fields is changing and where once we would go to the store and buy a product many of these products are now available online and even for free. Take open university courses for example that are now available online for free – the reason they work again and the reason the company can afford to do so is because of their platform.
    Heidi Alexandra Pollard
    UQ Power