Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Large Platform For A Large Advance

About all you've been hearing about lately is former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' new book.

That is one enormous platform for the author. And that enormous platform is why some authors get big advances.

The book has not been laid down yet, but there is so much buzz being generated that you know it's going to fly off the shelves when it is finally released later this month. Knopf hasn't had to pay a penny for all that publicity, either. It's come about because excerpts have been released, excerpts that play up controversy and feuding and political enmity.
The man on the platform
DUTY is currently #2 on Amazon's list, and that ranking has come about because everyone is talking about the book even though they can only pre-order it. The publisher is merrily printing up copies, confident of a sell-through, because the 24-hour news shows are filling time with discussions of the book or reporters reporting on the book's contents.

Mr. Gates has a considerable platform for an author. He has a long career in Washington, having served under several presidents. That alone would guarantee him a tidy sum for an advance. What expanded the size of his platform was his willingness to reveal what went on behind the scenes during some trying times in the Obama administration, to be open and speak his mind instead of skirting issues that might be controversial.

Maybe he's paying back his enemies, those who aggravated him at the White House. Maybe he wants to set the record straight and point fingers away from him. Better to write the history first than be forced to play defense after your opponent scores.

A boatload of free publicity has constructed a strong platform on which Mr. Gates can pile up his hefty advance and subsequent royalties. He may not be the best writer. His prose may not soar. But it doesn't matter, because the book is going to sell and Knopf is going to make a profit.

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