Dear Publishers: A Note on the Relentless Emphasis on Platform

Dear Publishers,

I completely understand why you emphasize an author’s platform. Naturally, you would like to publish someone who can guarantee a certain number of sales.

But I suspect that in doing so you will only accelerate the development of self-publishing. We remember a world in which self-publishing meant an inability to secure a publisher. But in the future, the people who self-publish will be the ones with the biggest platforms because they won’t need any help.

Your best route to survival will be to identify big talent early and get their first couple of books. Editorial discernment should be your stock in trade, not shooting fish in a barrel. The value of an editor is not really in judging such things as whether a prospective author has 100,000 twitter followers or can post to a high traffic website.  Rather, the value of a good acquisitions editor should be in picking good books.  

If publishers want to avoid the fate of almost all middlemen in a world which ruthlessly destroys them, they will find a way to make their imprint mean something such as excellence in fiction, religion, history, etc.  Nobody needs them for printing.  No one needs them for distribution.  And the established authors don’t need them for advertising.  

Stop badgering would be authors with applications designed to tease out how large their platforms are and spend more time locating the best manuscripts.  

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