I was thinking about the last batch of queries I caught up on last week, and I was trying to pinpoint why I passed on so many of the nonfiction projects.
On the surface, it’s easy to quantify the most common reason for passing—around 350 of the approximately 500 rejection letters I sent were because the author’s platform wasn’t strong enough yet.
The “yet” is the crucial part of this. I was so happy to see so many well-written queries and proposals with sound market research, unique concepts, and strong sample material. But when I looked at the marketing and publicity section, there were too many instances of “I will do this…” rather than “I have already done this.”
Which leads me to believe that the deeper issue is more about timing and perspective than hard numbers. I think two things are happening:
- Potential authors are looking for book deals too early in the process of their platform-building.
- Potential authors see publishing a book as the best way to launch their platform, when it’s actually a way to grow an already robust platform.
The only solution I see? Patience and prolonged effort. Building a platform is about more than building a website. It’s about building an audience—a tribe of true fans who appreciate what you do. When you focus on creating a conversation with the people you’re trying to help, then the traffic numbers, the social media numbers, and the press hits will happen organically. This takes years, not months. As literary agent Carly Watters explains, the myth of the overnight success is just that: a myth.
So don’t beat yourself up if building your platform is taking a lot longer than you expected. You can bet everyone else is struggling, stress-eating ice cream, and glaring at their stats, too.
If you’re having a hard time opting out of the impatience/comparison game, treat yourself to this gorgeous print by Emily McDowell: