Publishing

Platforms to the Rescue

A nonprofit publisher of classic American literature has its first bestseller, thanks to the remarkable strength of
platform
.

The platform in question is that of Andy Borowitz, the humorist with a super-successful site and RSS feed – the borowitzreport.com – and the book, which Borowitz edited, is The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion, published by The Library of America. It actually reached the New York Times bestseller list, an achievement by any measure, and even more of one for a publisher that generally puts out highly regarded editions of classics from Walt Whitman, Willa Cather and Ernest Hemingway, which sell well, but not as well as this recent publication.

This isn’t Borowitz’s first book – his releases include Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO’s Guide to Surviving Prison: The Bernie Madoff Edition, The Republican Playbook and The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers. But this is perhaps his most “traditional” one, coming from a nonprofit publisher devoted to American literary greats. But what Borowitz has, beyond his taste in editing a wide range of American humorists here, is a massively popular website with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, as well as postings that get retweeted constantly, so often that Borowitz has built a tribe of millions who warm to his funny takes on everyday life, from celebrity dunderheads to political nut jobs.

On his site, Borowitz devotes a great deal of space to The 50 Funniest American Writers, and announces the many in-person events he’s lined up to promote it. He’s gotten behind the book he’s edited in such a way that his audience can’t help but embrace it.

I ran into the publisher of Library of America recently, and he told me about The 50 Funniest American Writers, crediting the book’s success to the responsive audience that Borowitz has built for himself thanks to his dynamic online presence. “In publishing, that’s called a platform,” the publisher said with a smile, as if testing this newfound word out.

But it’s true. Building a platform is the best way to ensure making a mark among current and potential readers. Even for a publisher of venerable American authors whose own bestselling days (if ever they had them) are long past. If it can work for American classics, it can work for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and writers like you. All it takes is finding, defining, reaching and communicating with your audience. Thanks to a platform.

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One Response to “Platforms to the Rescue”

  1. Nine Andres December 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    I always get interesting reads and sites from your articles Bob. Thanks for introducing me to the humor that is Mr. Borowitz.It’s true, platform building is the way to go to build a tribe. 

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