I Have Plans to Write That Book

Last week, I talked about a few reasons why I don’t plan to write a nonfiction book on style, mainly because I have no desire to develop a presence or platform as an expert on style.

But what if you want to write a nonfiction book about a topic you know and love? Let’s look at the list, revised from last week, to help you decide if you should:

  • Are you well-known outside of your immediate circle of family, friends, and church, particularly as an expert on your chosen topic? My office receives many proposals from authors who attend or lead large churches. While this is helpful, a megachurch alone usually isn’t enough. An author needs to reach many thousands of people beyond his church who seek information from him on a given topic.
  • Are you sought after by the media? Do people ask you for interviews? How large is their combined audience? Are you often asked to speak on your topic?
  • Do you work in the industry?
  • Do you have specialized training in and knowledge of the industry or topic?
  • Do you have influential friends in the industry? Not only can they help and mentor you, they can also provide effective endorsements for your work.
  • Will your work apply to and help a broad audience? There’s nothing wrong with writing a book of tips for people whose elderly poodles suffer from digestive issues, but a significant publisher will need to anticipate selling your book to many thousands of people.
  • Do you blog about your topic? When people can find your posts where you discuss your issue and they like what they read, they may be willing to buy a book from you where you share more on the topic.
  • Do you have one or more social-media accounts dedicated to your topic? Authors who can show that they have followers looking for their thoughts and advice on dedicated social media have a better chance of publication than those who can’t show a willing and waiting audience.

If you can answer in the affirmative to most of the questions above and you have a genuine desire to write the book, do so and continue to build your platform. Otherwise, know that every part of life doesn’t lend itself to a book. Those parts of life are meant for sheer enjoyment.

Your turn:

Were you able to answer yes to most of the questions? Where do you need improvement?

What is the most fun part of platform-building for you?

What other tips on platform-building can you offer?

17 Responses to I Have Plans to Write That Book

  1. damonjgray November 7, 2019 at 6:07 am #

    It’s been my perception that the term “platform” is something of a curse word among aspiring authors, so it was interesting to read your question asking what our “most fun” part of that build process is.

    It did not take long for me to identify it. The most enjoyable aspect of the agony of platform building is the genuine friendships I am developing. I have met fascinating people from all over the U.S., and even internationally, people I would never have otherwise met, and some of those interactions are growing into genuine friendships that I appreciate and even value.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 7, 2019 at 2:48 pm #

      Your spirit is wonderful, Damon! I hope all our readers follow your example!

  2. Daphne Woodall November 7, 2019 at 6:34 am #

    Tamela, this is an Interesting topic. Great points. The odds are not looking good for me to attempt a nonfiction idea I have based on these questions.

    I do think if someone is passionate about a particular subject they should pursue it and stretch themselves to become an expert if desired. It may mean publishing on a smaller scale; articles, in a blog or a newspaper column.

    Personal experience may lead someone to write about cancer, grief or suicide. I remember reading Dr. Richard Mabry’s book “The Tender Scar” before I knew him. His book was touching and I bought a 2nd copy for my neighbor’s dad; a pharmacist who had lost his wife to cancer. And I was surprised when Richard started writing fiction. But in a way he proved the adage “write what you know”.

    The assigned articles I wrote for our local newspaper required research on my part because my knowledge was limited on cancer, heart disease, history of Christmas Carols etc.

    Competition for shelf space and keeping publishing houses in business is best accomplished as you have outlined. I was a nonfiction junkie until I discovered Christian Fiction existed when gifted “The Canadian West Saga” by Janette Oke in 1993.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 7, 2019 at 2:50 pm #

      Thank you for sharing, Daphne!

  3. mimionlife November 7, 2019 at 7:30 am #

    Building platform can take time. Have patience and enjoy the process. Making contacts at every event or even in every day conversation is helpful. I enjoy exchanging business cards and following up with each person.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 7, 2019 at 2:50 pm #

      Great advice!

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 7, 2019 at 7:48 am #

    My work, now, of nonfiction,
    is of glory rom the skies,
    and will bring the contradiction
    of joyful weeping eyes.
    The rumour of his passing
    was evidentially quite odd.
    The ‘coroners’ were laughing,
    with a wink and then a nod.
    We know that he had many debts,
    and that he was on the run,
    so met the Mother Ship (safe bet!)
    in Area 51.
    He sang the cosmic revival’s birth,
    and now Elvis shall return to Earth.

    • Daphne Woodall November 7, 2019 at 9:53 am #

      Andrew you have a way with words! ? I enjoy seeing your comments.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm #

      Thanks for making me smile, Andrew!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 7, 2019 at 3:03 pm #

        Tamela, the smiles I leave are my greatest, and happiest, legacy.

  5. Lillian November 7, 2019 at 8:40 am #

    Can I be honest? Since I could answer yes to only three of the questions, I find this article extremely discouraging to me and perhaps many other aspiring authors. Some writers will never have a “platform” sufficient to the requirements of publishers and agents. So should they not write or attempt to get their book in print with traditional publishers? Before a platform became part of the gold standard for getting published, manuscripts were accepted, based primarily on their merits. Having a platform assures sales and unfortunately that’s the bottom line.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 7, 2019 at 2:56 pm #

      Thanks for being honest, Lillian. I never mean for my blog posts to be discouraging. However, I feel I would be doing authors of any and all levels a disservice if I were less than honest about the market.

      I wrote books for traditional publication before I became an agent in 2001 and I don’t recall a time when Christian publishing was not a business that had to turn a profit to pay editors, marketing people, and other staff, and…the light bill. Yes, we have a higher calling but the reality is that Local Electric Company will never say, “Well, since you are a Christian business, you don’t have to pay us.”

      As for platform? Around the time you reference, I wrote nonfiction on assignment. I was told exactly what to write and had to meet those requirements. But if I had asked an editor at a major publishing house to publish my life story, I would have received one rejection after another. I had no platform. And I still don’t have an adequate platform to ask a major publisher to publish my memoir.

      Then as now, big league authors have big league platforms. They fill stadiums with people clamoring to hear their words. So the reality hasn’t changed except that with social media making the reclusive author a relic of the past, the author is now expected to partner more heavily with the publisher to get the word out about their books.

      Yes, write your book. You can certainly self-publish and find a willing audience. One great aspect of the present as opposed to the past is that self-publishing is no longer laughed at as a “vanity” book.

      I don’t know your stats, but if you have a good start and can grow your platform, there’s no shame in asking agents and editors where you need to be to have them represent or to publish your meritorious work.

      I hope this helps.

  6. Roberta Sarver November 7, 2019 at 9:35 am #

    Your suggestions caused me to sit up and take notice. Yes, I have a a platform,albeit not shattering the numbers game. I will have to work on some of the others. Thanks for giving us a leg up on this important topic.

  7. Marilyn Thompson Parker November 7, 2019 at 1:43 pm #

    Could you clarify dedicated social media, please? I’m writing a non-fiction book on why Christian women have a responsibility to confront their husbands (respectfully, of course). I write a blog with my daughter on which we teach women about women’s issues. All of our social media is dedicated to the issues we write about on the blog. Do we need social media dedicated to this specific topic? Or is it sufficient to have boards and posts on the topic on our blog’s social media platforms?

    One more thing. Is it impossible to be traditionally published if you don’t have thousands of followers? What about a few hundred followers and growing? Being featured in a secular magazine focused on inspiring people in the city of San Diego (they did seek us out, not us them)? It seems so difficult to get that large of a platform. It almost seems like you need the book to get the platform, not the other way around. We’re putting in the work. Our posts are well written and inspiring by all accounts, and we’re seeing many women encouraged by our writing, but this criteria seems so prohibitive, it’s discouraging. Any tips?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 7, 2019 at 3:07 pm #

      Great questions! Based on what you told me, it sounds as though you are on track regarding your dedicated social media. Some authors are more vigilant about posting nothing but their topic than others. Personally, I don’t mind hearing about the cute antics of your cat or seeing pictures of your garden interspersed with posts about confrontation. In fact, since many women’s issues are tough, a few comical and inspirational items might be welcome to your readers. But if that’s not your personality and you want to stick just to the topic so that each and every post helps women with that issue, that’s fine, too. Not every author wants to share posts about their personal lives and they are better off sticking to the topic.

      As for being traditionally published, the topic can overcome platform if there’s a large, demonstrated need. Also consider that not all traditional publishers are alike. A small traditional publisher may be able to tackle a book they really believe in with an author with a smaller presence, although the book may not, as would be expected, sell quite as many copies as it would with a large house pushing a mega-author. As authors, you can decide what your goals are and when to start looking in earnest for an agent.

      You sound like you’re off and running!

  8. Marilyn Thompson Parker November 7, 2019 at 5:15 pm #

    Thank you! I feel a little better now. I don’t mind going with a smaller publisher. I just want this important
    message to reach those that need it.

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