Writing Non-Fiction: Building a Platform

I’m contacted by a lot of you aspiring to write non-fiction, so I’ve resolved to start blogging more about my experiences. I have two non-fiction books coming out next year, and I’ve had two very different experiences with my books. My book on collective bargaining in baseball is with a smaller publisher who focuses much of its work on academic texts, while my book on the business of college football is with a large publishing house with many divisions.

Although the experiences have differed to a degree, one thing they have in common is that I had to write a proposal for each. The one aspect of a proposal I think many aspiring non-fiction authors don’t understand is the author platform. In my proposals, this came into play in both the Author Bio and Marketing Plan sections.

These sections are where you prove to the publisher that YOU are the person who should write this book. Not because you’re excited about the subject and really, really want to…but because you are the person most qualified to write this book.

Jessica Faust over at BookEnds, LLC (a literary agency) does a great job of describing the basis of the author bio:

We don’t really care if you went to Harvard or not. We care whether or not you can sell this book to thousands of people. Therefore, who are you and what makes you an expert on this subject, and, most important, what gives you a national platform? Do you give workshops? Presentations? Do you teach at Harvard (much different than having attended)? Have you been featured in national magazines, on TV or radio? Do you have a number of major media contacts interested in your subject?

I can’t tell you how many people email me saying they want to write a non-fiction book on [insert any sports subject here], but who have nothing more than an interest in the subject. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.

That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a platform.

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