February 5, 2009
Authors need a platform, a group of people with whom authors are already networked who are waiting and wanting to buy the authors' books. I've said that here before, though the idea is not unique to me. But can books by authors who don't have a platform sell well? Actually, I think they can.
I call them concept books. The concept, the idea for the book--if competently executed--is so strong and compelling that people will grab it up willingly even if they have absolutely no idea who the author is.
Examples? The Dummies guides for one. Chicken Soup for the Soul for another. Each had a concept (straightforward handbooks for the non-expert and inspirational stories for those who need hope) and a great title. Who wrote those books? Few have any idea or care.
We've had some of our own concept books here, such as a series of Bible study guides that make anyone an expert small group leader and a series of dictionaries of different parts of the Bible that summarize the best scholarship of recent years. Yes, some big names were included. But mostly people know the series.
Why don't unknown authors write concept books more often? Because they are very difficult to think up. Publishers are actually the best group of people to develop such ideas because of their familiarity with marketplace realities, reading habits and editorial feasibility.
Why don't publishers do concept books more often? Because they are very difficult to think up.