If your last name is not King or Rowling, and you happen to be a writer in the early twenty first century, you have probably learned about “platform.” Platform is the structure (social media, network, connections, et al) that you use to market your work. I emphasize you use. Even if you’re signed with one of the big six or four or however many big publishing houses there are today, marketing the book falls squarely on the shoulders of the author.
I’m sure there are gregarious, outgoing, people loving writers in the world. Most writers I know, especially including myself, are sullen, neurotic introverts. See a problem already? Even if not of the angst filled artist camp, how many writers have marketing degrees? So, a writer scribbles away, carving time from family and life, bleeds onto the page, and generally installs his soul into a book. They think the heavy lifting is complete. If they are fortunate enough to sell it, they’re then told to go forth and market. Picture Camus hosting a virtual book club to see the challenge here.
Viewing the situation from a strictly business model position, I understand the cost reduction for publishers to offload this substantial component of the sales equation. Conversely, nobody hires a plumber to prepare a banquet. It is about skill sets. That is where platform arrives. I would like to think the writing is always first and foremost in a publisher’s buying decision, but platform is probably a close second. “You’ve written a moving, exciting book. Can you also sell it?”
I was told a lot about platform in grad school. I nodded my head, woozy on the MFA fuel of being, “an artist,” and went on my merry way of “creating art.” Earlier this year a publisher bought my “art,” and I was smacked in the face with the business side of things. So, I’ve been diligently building my platform. I have this blog…which probably just tells people I’m a depressed guy who goes on long hikes and uses the word “fuck” a lot.
I have a website: Boots On
I have a facebook page: Darren R. Leo
I have a twitter account: @D_R_Leo (I think twitter is the dumbest thing since cheese in a spray can.)
I even have a pinterest page: Darren R. Leo (I have no idea what to do with a pinterest page.)
I have platform up the wazoo. The task now is to make it a good platform. Can you imagine Nabokov with a pinterest page? (Think “Lolita” and what related content one might post.) Once you have these things, you have to fill them with interesting, entertaining, enticing content. I recently pimped tshirts to promote my book. I know a New York Times bestselling author who was begging people on FB to support his paperback release.
This is the writing life today…part Saul Bellow, part P.T. Barnum, part juggling bear on a unicycle. Well, I’d be really happy if I were part Saul Bellow or if I could juggle on a unicycle. Ironically, I’ve gone back to the works of Tom Peters and books about brand building to support my writing.
The writer today is not just artist but entrepreneur. The challenge is that the product is the writing in which you invested your soul, and the brand is you. It is much easier to sell widgets or ketchup or mouse traps. I’m thinking that if the writing thing doesn’t work out, I’ll be well prepared to totally rock Amway.
I’m Darren, and I have a platform. Now I need something to say.