Building a Platform

It all started with TEDx. Alright, so really, it started with a minor meltdown about the line-up of dominoes that make up my book's fairly complicated research, usually fun writing, and seemingly impossible "author platform."

For the uninitiated, the author platform is the portion of a book proposal that comprises experiences, networks, published works, public appearances, and other self-driven pseudo-marketing initiatives. A nonfiction writer must build a platform for a potential publisher to take her (or him) seriously.

Being a marketing type, I get it. A book stands little to no chance of succeeding if the author doesn't have the chops to get out there and work it. Own it, you might say. (Are you hearing Kit, from Pretty Woman, catcalling Vivian as she stalks toward Edward's borrowed Lotus? You should be.)

Publishers generally buy nonfiction books on proposal. That differs from fiction books, which are often purchased on completion. Do you see the challenge? 

Yep. A nonfiction writer has to make the connections and take the actions to build out a platform before he or she has written the book. Even before research is complete, in many cases. If you suspect this can be something of a catch-22, you're entirely correct.

Social networks, not so hard to engage. Articles? They can be written and pitched as long as the research has come along far enough. Public appearances, blurbs, and anything involving endorsement by other humans in real life, however ... not so much, at least for a first-time author. Those things go a long way toward snagging a publisher's attention. At the same time, getting the book signed with a publisher (or, jeepers, at least an agent) goes a long way toward landing speaking gigs, blurbs, and attention from influential folk. 

Ergo, I was quite excited when I realized that a former colleague's agency is hosting one of the local(ish) TEDx events. I was equally excited that I had not missed the date to attend, as I seem to do with all other useful shindigs. So, this year I'll go and watch, with the intention of pitching a talk soon. Maybe next year. Maybe in a different location. I'll see as the rest of my platform comes together.

TED talks aren't just lectures. They're focused presentations that share unfamiliar information, spark contagious emotion, and trigger global thinking. Funny. I've got just that kind of story in mind.