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Eighteenth-Century Platform-Building

Long before the days of the internet, of author platforms and online community-building, authors used to gauge before
they wrote a word the interest of readers in a project, and only started producing a book when they got enough money from future readers for it.

Now that physical books are on the way to becoming collectable objects, often quite expensive to produce, some publishers are beginning to approach the whole process of creating a book in that old-fashioned 18th-century way: through subscriptions. It was print-on-demand before the electronic, digital age allowed it to become something cost-effective.

The difference is that readers have a sense beforehand of what they’re going to get.

At a newly launched British publishing company, Unbound, prospective authors pitch their books on the company’s website. If readers like what the author is pitching, they pledge a certain sum, which goes toward the eventual publication of the book and, for the person who pledged, a listing in the book. Or more, depending on how much money you are willing to spend on the pitch – for a certain some you get the e-book version, double that gets you the hardback and for another sum you get a signed edition. It’s an interesting development in today’s tumultuous publishing scene.

This places the burden of proof, as it were, on the author.

Just as it should be. Publishers often take a risk on an author only to see the book fizzle for whatever reason. But if authors are upfront about their work, and market their material to potential readers, they are that much more attuned to the marketplace than otherwise. This is a kind of platform-awareness that many authors, regardless of how their books are published, should strive for.

As you gather material for your book, or refine your message using your ongoing conversations with your community of readers you will find from them what works or what doesn’t in your approach. You’ll also get a sense of when to make the leap into writing the book.

Your platform will do that for you and even if in the end you decide to self-publish (or even take the leap into subscription publishing), you’ll know from your audience when the best time is. You don’t have to take a leap in the dark.

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One Response to “Eighteenth-Century Platform-Building”

  1. Kirsten Nelson December 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Sounds like Unbound has their pulse on the marketplace. What a creative way to gauge following and audience interest. More motivation for authors to get out and find what’s real, raw, and relevant to their audiences.

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