Literary agents want authors with a platform.
That means you have a soapbox of your very own on which to stand, hawking your book. You provide a great deal of your own (free) publicity by using this venue of yours to plug your book and boost sales.
Did NPR host Michele Norris have a particulary interesting life that was worthy of the memoir treatment?
Using the power of the national radio station that employs her, Ms. Norris had fifty-eight minutes over the course of two weeks in which to plug her recollections. She appeared as a guest on four different NPR programs to talk about the book, and that's a tremendous amount of hype that didn't cost the publisher a dime.
For her part, Ms. Norris stands by NPR, in the face of criticism from listeners. They like a variety of topics, apparently, and hearing Ms. Norris tout her prose four times was a bit too much for some.
But Ms. Norris had so much to say that was interesting, said the talk show hosts who hosted her.
Of course she did. My colleagues at work are an interesting bunch as well, but what passes for brilliant conversation among an insular group may not be so brilliant on the outside of the box.
It's a good excuse, of course. Ms. Norris was on so much because her book is the delight of NPR's staffers and they wanted to share. No professional courtesy given, not at all. Not even a subconscious desire to do a favor for a friend. Not at all wrapped up in a colleague's excitement at being published. They're cold as stone there at NPR, cool and collected and introspective and all the rest.
They can tell themselves all they like that they did nothing wrong, but the Chicago Way has infected Washington, D.C., and it's running rampant through the halls of NPR.
It's not what you know that counts, it's who you know, and Michele Norris knows a lot of people with national airtime. She got more because of who she knows, while an equally worthy author doesn't get invited to the party.
Do you think that Pantheon was the least bit disturbed by the preferential treatment given Ms. Norris?
Not unless potential book buyers turn their backs on a purchase because they're upset at a blatant display of favoritism by NPR.