A really brilliant writer and literary agent, Amanda Luedeke, wrote a blog post recently for another brilliant writer and literary agent, Chip MacGregor. You should read it if you are a non-fiction writer or thinking about becoming one.
The post didn’t discourage new writers from writing non-fiction, per se, but Amanda was definitely clear about non-fiction authors having to have a well-established platform. Without one, it’s going to be very difficult to sell books which will make it very difficult for new writers who are trying to break into the industry to get a publisher to pick up their work. If Madonna wants to write non-fiction, she should do it since she could literally go to bed one night and wake up a best-selling author on every possible list. The sweet little lady down the street, however, who wants to write a book about her garden is certainly welcome to do so – and it would be a sweet memorandum for her children to enjoy after she’s gone – but she’s not likely to break into the market with any kind of an impact. She simply has no platform.
I’m that sweet little lady down the street, a non-fiction writer, and trust me when I tell you, that having to build a platform from complete and total obscurity is like lugging a boulder up a mountain. It’s hard. It takes work and a lot of it.
But as the song goes, I wouldn’t trade nuthin’ for my journey now…
I wrote a memoir – my life’s work, really. It’s called Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside. I did have trouble getting it published, but that’s to be expected, right? The publisher who ultimately put my book out rejected my proposal at first. (Book proposals are the devil – they’re harder to write than your book!) When I was able to convince him to give me a second chance, he was really smitten with my work, and I ended up being his #1 top selling author in 2012. I worked hard (and continue to work hard) to build my platform – and, no, I didn’t quit my day job. For me, all this hard work continues to pay off, and my platform continues to grow. That’s why I feel pretty comfortable writing a second non-fiction book – Hope Givers: Hope is Here. With a good business plan that includes solid strategies as to how to get it “out there,” I know that I can be Christopher Matthews Publishing’s #1 top selling author in 2015 (or ’16) again.
You can’t merely write a book – unless you don’t want to sell any.
You have to build a platform.
There is much that goes into building your platform and getting your name out there:
- You must have an online presence
- You must have a website. You have to have a blog and write continually.
- You must have an author’s page on Amazon and your publisher’s website.
- You must have a large social media presence. It really helps if you are witty, clever, intelligent, and eloquent.
- Non-fiction writers have to speak to their target markets. Hopefully, one of your phobias is not public speaking. If so, you might be in trouble. If you are writing that book on gardening, you’d better figure out how you’re going to get in front of people who garden and then have something to say – and say it well.
- Working with a charity is not a bad idea – you get exposure and make the world a better place at the same time. I have three charities that I work with who love me and I love them. Since my memoir includes domestic violence and sexual abuse, being able to work with Advocates Against Family Violence (here in Idaho) and the City Impact Center (in Las Vegas) dovetailed seamlessly since I make them visible and they make me visible.
These are just three critical components of building a platform. Start there. Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid. And above all else, if you truly want to do this…
… Don’t ever quit!
Daisy writes every Saturday on her blog, daisyrainmartin.com. She is also the founder and editor of RAIN Magazine, a magazine that both promotes up-and-coming authors and raises funds for select charities.