Are memoirists expected to have a 'platform' like other nonfiction?

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AHunter3

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A recurring theme on agents' description of how to query them on nonfiction pieces is to "describe your platform": enumerate your connections within the industry, and with your target audience, what you are willing to do or have already done to help sell your book...
What contacts do you have in your target markets? Have you already created a website or blog to promote yourself as an author, or to promote your book? Are you scheduled for any speaking engagements at bookstores, colleges, libraries, appropriate conferences? What else are you willing to do to sell your book (go on tour, talk shows, radio shows, book signings)?
The Marketing Plan. Yessir, you’re going to sell your own book, and sell it well. The agent wants to see that not only have you built and developed your platform, but that you’ve considered how best to get your book into the hands of readers.
etc etc


Question A) Is this expected of authors of memoirs in the same way that is is expected of other nonfiction authors? Novelists don't seem to be expected to do this! Yeesh... scary stuff...


Question B) Aside from knowing how to start a LiveJournal blog and see if I can get booked as a guest speaker (insofar as my memoir is indeed "on a topic", i.e., illustrates some stuff that a sociology or psychology NF book could be written on), how does one best do this? "Hi, you don't know me, but I'm a person who has led an interesting life and I'm trying to get my memoir published... anyway, I need a platform, so I thought I'd go on tour... can you round up some people who'd like to hear me speak?"
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Some memoirs are published without the author having much of a platform, but it's rare.

As to how to develop a platform, I'm no expert, but the standard ways are to increase your social media standing--facebook, twitter, blogging, etc. You could also try getting short pieces on similar topics published (but not necessarily parts of the book).

Granted all the above, you can also simply say in your proposal: I'm willing to work with a publicist. Which unfortunately means that you may end up spending a hefty part of any advance on publicity.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

T Robinson

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A. Yes

B. Think of it as proving there are people willing to read your book, for whatever reason. That said, it is up to you. Think of it as the marketing plan for your work. Whichever method of publishing you use, you've got to sell it to the reader.

I don't know anything about your work, but here is an example pulled out of the air for a proposal section on marketing. You do have a proposal, right?

Section IV. Marketing

A. Hunter has spoken to The Society for Creative Anachronism at their 2014 annual meeting in New York, with over 14,000 attending the event. He has appeared on the following radio stations for interviews in the Northeast:

KDKA, Pittsburgh on the "New Beginnings" program on September 17, 2013. There were 593 questions on the show or on their associated website

WCBS, New York on the "We are New York" show on March 27, 2014.

He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has spoken to the leadership and will be able to send notifications through their mailing list about his work.

All this is my opinion, but I think you get the idea....There are threads on here that cover various elements of this whole scenario. Look them up. Good luck.
 

AHunter3

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I have a proposal.

I do not, however, have anything corresponding to "a following". This is not good.

So... literary agents I've been querying may be rejecting my book because I don't have a built-in audience? This does not bode well for me :(
 

khobar

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Do you need a platform? Says literary agent Wendy Sherman: “A platform is very important, but if the writing is strong enough and there is a distinctive hook, then the market will be there.” So the answer is, it depends.
 

T Robinson

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Khobar has a valid point and I agree. However, I took your post to mean you were doing a memoir. Non-celebrity memoirs rarely "pick up traction," without the writer doing a great deal of the pushing, in general.
 

tomz563

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From what I understand having a platform is a major plus but not necessarily a requirement. I have a problem blogging/tweeting consistently so my following doesn't really constitute a platform... Working on it though!
 

veinglory

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Your platform is the reason someone would buy your book. It can be as simple as: 'this crazy shit actually happened to me'.

Platform is not synonymous with being some huge social media star. That is just one example from a wide range of things that give a non-fiction author legitimacy.
 

johnrobison

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The publisher expects there to be some way to promote your memoir. Your chances of a good sale are immeasurably improved if you have a big online following, or visibility in the media. It will help if you can show that you look presentable on camera, and sound ok on the radio. You can build those things up before offering a book and it would be wise to do so.
 

memoiries

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Having a platform...is subjective. A lot of agents push that having a platform is important...and it is. But what if your platform is mediocre at best? Like mine was and still is, although it's growing. I sold my memoir with a proposal (followed by the full) directly to my publisher, pushing what I had done and what I was willing to do. I had a little fun with it after I highlighted the main selling points. I said I'd dance on a street corner in France with a frog mask on. Which makes sense (kind of) if you know me. Basically, publishers and agents need to know you're willing and able to do anything to sell yourself. Have you ever done any acting, singing, public speaking? This all goes into the proposal, to point out what John said above. The media is important (I'll be crossing that bridge soon! I hope!) and the work doesn't stop once you have a deal. You really have to put yourself out there. With that said, the hook and the story you are telling are waaaaaaaay more important than having a strong platform. BUT you should be building up a network through Twitter, FB, Pinterest, a blog, etc.

Hey, we can't all be like Snooki-- celebs with a built-in following and book deals in hand.

:)
 

khobar

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$.02

Platforms can either help or hinder your efforts. If you have a natural ability to effectively and constructively communicate through blogging/social media/etc., or at least can learn, then those avenues will be a help to you. But don't start blathering just because you read or were told you need to have a blog or tweet stuff or whatever - you may actually turn off whatever audience you are trying to build.

And sometimes, agents/publishers just want to be reassured that you are aware Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, etc. exist. ;)

As for lectures and radio shows, etc., it's sometimes not so much how wide an audience you reached but merely that you exposed yourself to the public that matters most.

Ultimately, writing should be your top priority, and the quality of writing should be the top priority of any agent. You're writing memoir, not fix-it manuals where you become the goto expert in the field. I mean it's one thing to write a book on Harleys; it's quite another to write one of surviving a murder-suicide or taking your dog on a climbing expedition to the 30 tallest peaks in New Hampshire, or your summer vacation in the French Riviera surrounded by wild-fires.
 

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