What’s a Platform?

I haven’t said much about the book since my publishing dilemma. At that time, I doubted my ability to launch this book on my own and decided to find a literary agent. Well, after querying fifteen agents in three months, I have my answer: no.

At first, I was surprised. I thought if any book had a shot it would be short, funny, satirical and sometimes thought-provoking read on one of the hottest topics around. One distributor turned it down stating only two reasons:

  1. Content
  2. Sales Potential

Content? Sales Potential? C’mon! A funny book about dieting? What could have more sales potential than that? I was a bit flummoxed (if not downright befuddled) for a while over this assessment. However, it all became clear when I read one of my very last agent rejections. She wrote:

These days publishers have figured out that unless you are a celebrity or big brand that they can’t afford to MAKE a book, so they look for authors with media ties and PR opportunities, corporate support, media affialiations, and speaking tours. The author needs to be able to get the word out, not an “I will, I’ve kinda” thing.

In other words, “It doesn’t matter how well you write. Unless you’re famous and/or have very deep pockets, we don’t want to hear from you.” This is what’s known as having a platform and now that I know what that is, I can clearly see that I ain’t got one.

Frankly, though, as much as I’d like to believe simply having a good book is all it takes, this does make a lot of sense. Think about it. There are two hundred thousand books published every year. Bookstore shelf space has nearly doubled in the last ten years (as the big box stores have grown) and yet sales have fallen by ten percent (as our time and attention is spread across an ever-increasing number of media outlets). In short: too many books, too little time.

Two hundred thousand books! Assuming a 97% rejection rate this means that upwards of seven million manuscripts are being written every year. (Or about one manuscript for every fifty people in the US. That’s a lot of wannabe authors.)

So I’m not surprised at all how this turned out. What I am surprised at is why it took three months for an agent to finally come out and tell me the truth. So I guess we’re back to Plan A: do it yourself. Wish me luck…