Don’t Count on Your Publisher’s Publicist! Building Your OWN Platform By Rich Mintzer

Trying to get a book deal? Trying to sell copies of your book? It’s not easy. Most publishing houses, even before the economic crisis, began minimizing their publicity departments. While in-house publicists still play a vital role in generating initial attention for the product, they can no longer set the wheels in motion for big marketing campaigns on a budget that typically consists largely of whatever they can pull from under the cushions of the office couch. In essence, unless you’re quite famous, you will need to go out and do your own promotion if you want a successful book. And promotion today begins with the latest buzzwords in publishing, “a platform.” Yes, you need an area in which you excel and in which people want to read what you have to say – and hear about it.

As an author and a ghostwriter, let me share two experiences about creating a platform.

First, last December, I was asked about ghosting a book for a women who had a rather sad story of having overcome several abusive relationships to finally launch her own promotion and marketing business. She’d been through the ringer and back, and came out looking great and sporting a very positive attitude. The problem, however, was that, despite her tragic and touching story, she was neither an expert on how to get out of an abusive relationship, nor was her story any different from the platforms of celebrities and experts who had written and spoken about the same issues.

However, in the midst of our first (and only) meeting, she mentioned that before moving north, she had been wiped out by Katrina. She had to rebuild both her personal life as well as her business down in New Orleans. After leaving her office and starting on my ride home, it dawned on meÖshe had a platform. She was a survivor of Katrina who went through the worst of times and rebounded to get her life and business back on track. This was a platform that would sell the book. Unfortunately, she disappeared as many would-be writers will do. Nonetheless, if she pursued the book, she had an area in which she had a unique platform and expertise, surviving a major hurricane. A platform can be just that, something that you know or have experienced, intentionally or not, that other people want to read about. It’s that edge that can make you quite successful.

As for myself, as an author of a number of books on a wide range of topics, I had never actually found a “platform”. Instead, one found me. Having done my own studies of the environment, I took it upon myself to compile a book called 101 Ways to Make Your Business Greener. The book was published last fall and, thanks to the in-house publicist sending out press releases, it resulted in me being invited to speak at three conferences around the country, and to write several blogs. Finally, my countless hours of studying and researching a topic was paying off as I could now build on my own new founded platform. I wrote a second green book and had found myself a niche.

The point is, even if you are a “generalist,” writing on a various subjects, you can build a platform on a hot topic, one on which you can speak. The key is to gather your articles or use your book as a calling card, plan your presentation carefully, and seek out speaking engagements. You can start at local associations, community groups, YMCAs, YMHAs, senior homes and so on, or contact those in charge of conferences or conventions, which are offered in every field. Tape your speeches (on video or at least audio) and make a short demo. In time, you can sign up for a speaker’s bureau, but be careful since for every legitimate one, there are two out there that will try to sell you on classes, books, videos and everything else in their “how to be a professional speaker” series. Personally, I recommend pitching yourself.

There are also blogs on any subject you can think of. While you won’t make much money as a blogger, you can build and bolster your platform by blogging for websites that may attract your potential readership. Blogging for your best friend’s site may be a kind gesture, but won’t get you much attention. Look for websites that generate hits. You can also write articles for local papers, industry magazines and websites that will pay for your contribution. Display your expertise in as many media outlets as possible. Then, keep track of all of your platform building and promotional activities, so that when you write the marketing section for your next book proposal, you can pack it all in. This is now your platform and will not only result in a better chance of getting a book deal, but can result in a better deal as well.

Rich Mintzer is the author, ghostwriter or co-author of 60 non-fiction books on a wide range of topics, including his latest book, 101 Ways To Make Your Business Greener. He is also a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine’s website and writes for various local publications near his home in Westchester, New York. His latest venture, writing personal biographies for individuals or small companies, teams him with a professional photographer to create these short keepsake books that are ideal for family, friends and self-promotion. Rich can be reached at rsmz -at-