When the publisher was evaluating my novel for possible publication, one of the things they noted was that I do not currently have a “platform”. A relatively new publishing buzzword, a “platform” is the means by which an author reaches people; their level of public visibility and the number of people who’ll hopefully be lining up to purchase their work.
Let’s be honest, most publishers are more interested in the size of your platform than the quality of your work. That explains both why it’s so extremely hard for even a talented first-time author to get published and why publishers are lining up to publish the latest literary extrusions of people such as Katie Price and Jeremy Clarkson. They’re famous. They’re gonna sell loads. It’s money. Innit!
When it comes to non-celebrity authors attempting to build platforms, I think all comes down to the their drive and ability to pimp themselves. This comes more easily to some people than it does others. What I’ve noticed from online social media such as Twitter, is that Americans are often far better at it than Brits such as myself. Many of the American writers I’ve seen, self-published or otherwise, are exceedingly confident about themselves and their work and are relentless in their resolve to push their books and get other people to buy them. Some of them are actually like literary Terminators!
Good for them, I say. I’m not that kind of guy myself. I’m automatically turned off by pushy salesmen; any hint of the “hard sell” and I run a mile. I suppose I have a contrarian streak, and when it comes to myself and my work, I’m a bit shy and reserved. I’ve poured my heart and soul into my novel, and I’m immensely proud of it. I believe that people will enjoy reading it. I just can’t see myself ever trying to ‘push’ people into reading it.
I have very little interest in marketing and promotion, but I realise I’m going to have to change that, because I do want my book to sell. There would be no real point in spending years of my life writing something that only five or six people ever read. My books were written to inspire and to generate thought and reflection, to help us question the habitual ways we perceive and respond to ourselves, others and reality. I know that possibly sounds pretentious; it’s hard to write about anything that veers into the realm of philosophy without sounding pretentious. I suppose you just really need to read the book to see what I’m talking about. It works in the context of the book. Honest!
I admit that I’m drawn to the romanticised notion of being an isolated, reclusive author who spends all his time writing and then hands it over to a publisher and publicist, allowing them to do all the promotion and marketing, while perhaps doing the occasional interview.
Alas, that’s just not the reality of the 21st century publishing world. It’s a ridiculously overcrowded market and so very easy to get lost amid the noise and bustle, especially when people’s attention spans have so dramatically decreased these days. I think we’ve gone beyond the information age to an information overload age. It’s little wonder we’re all so busy, stressed and overwhelmed and no surprise that our attention spans are starting to rival those of goldfish.
It often seems that those that get ahead are the ones with the loudest voices and the most confidence and bravado. I was evidently born at least a century too late to get away with being the ‘reclusive, enigmatic writer’ type. Instead they tell me I should just suck it up, build up my Twitter followers and try to get more people to ‘like’ me on Facebook. There’s no avoiding it: if I want this book to sell and to lead to the possibility of further books being published, then it seems I have no option but to get with the times and join the media circus. I can do that. What I intend to do is find ways to do it that feel right to me and that reflect who I am and what I’m about. If I can do that, then I may even start to enjoy it. Wouldn’t that be cool!
Stay tuned. This is all a work in progress 🙂 And if you have any thoughts, comments or advice, don’t hesitate to holler. I’d love to hear from you.