“Megan says you need to be working with an editor,” my husband announced one evening after returning from the park with our two dogs.
“Yes. She says you should already be working with an editor,” he repeated. “And, there’s more.”
I’ve written a book, you see…and now I must think about the process of getting it published.
I am of a generation that believes that getting a book published works like this: you write a story, then find an agent, then sell a book to a big publisher (who provides the editor), then go on book-signing tours while collecting royalties. Given these prejudices, I didn’t understand Megan’s statement at all. How can I need an editor when my book’s not finished (it is now – Embracing the Elephant) ? And what more did I need to be doing at this stage?
According to Megan (who used to work for a couple of big-name publishers in New York), in the last several years the landscape of publishing has undergone a major face-lift.
Even Before the Editor, Build Your Platform
And a couple of weeks later, we invited Megan and her husband for dinner and a Megan-led one-on-one seminar. What? She volunteered!
She started off asking what my goal was for the book. I cocked my head at the question (probably resembling one of our dogs when they are puzzled by something I have done). “Do you want to print it for your family? Do you want to go on book-signing tours? What is your goal?”
Okay, that I understood. When she mentioned the book-signing tour I yelled out “I would LOVE to do that!”
Apparently not everyone wants the notoriety I craved, however – they are satisfied with a family souvenir or a small circle of distribution. Not me! I think I have a story that people will enjoy and I want them to have a chance to read it.
With that, Megan launched into a thorough explanation of how publishing houses were structured. Then she explained the role of agents, offering me a couple of names and an introduction (Yes!). Then we moved to the ever-changing world of self-publishing.
I had some vague knowledge of self-publishing since one of my friends self-published a self-help book for teenagers called Raising Yourself in 2001.
Since 2001, however, Megan said that things had evolved. Self-publication was not just for non-fiction and there were ways to get your book published with minimal monetary investment – something called Print on Demand or POD. An editor and a good jacket designer were crucial to the self-publication process, but everything else was much more pay-as-it-sells. That sounded intriguing – I was listening.
Lots and lots and lots of information (and wine) later, my head was spinning. As if revelations about publishers and agents and make-your-own books wasn’t, there was this little thing called “Your Platform.”
No matter what road an author takes on the way to getting a book published (per Megan), “Platform” is the thing.
“What is that?” I asked innocently when Megan first broached the subject (cue spooky music in the background).
“It is how you build your audience.”
Huh? I thought your agent and publishing house did that. Was Megan telling me that even an agent and a publisher expect authors to actively participate in stirring up buzz for their books?
Yes, that’s exactly what “Your Platform” does. And in today’s publishing world its existence can make or break you.
Unfortunately, the night Megan came to dinner, I was not ready to accept that “Your Platform” was necessary (it’s a generational thing, I swear). When I said I wasn’t any good at self-promotion (and, therefore, didn’t want to take a route that smacked of “Look at me! Oh, PLEASE look at me!”), I’m sure she was cringing inside. She had given me her hard-earned knowledge (for the meager price of a steak dinner) and I had shrugged.
But I didn’t shrug for long.
Within one month, four people had pushed “Platform” as a means for successful book publishing: Megan, a published author, that author’s agent, and my self-published friend. A term I had never heard before in this context was being touted as an imperative.
Okay, okay. I get it. But, what is it?
Well, according to author Christine Katz, “the word platform simply describes all the ways you are visible and appealing to your future, potential, or actual readership.”*
I wanted that. I wanted to be visible and appealing. So, I started a lens on Squidoo (which is now defunct), The Anxiety of Publishing, as my first step along the way to establishing a Platform. A “lens” was a kind of blog, only with more structure and automation.** I had a long way to go and more pieces of the “Platform” puzzle to ascertain and implement, but I had begun. I wanted people interested in my book before publication. That is what Platform is all about.
Okay, I am shouting (can you hear me?): Look at me! Oh, PLEASE, look at me!
Well, the shout is not loud just yet. But I’m working on it.
As of today, My Platform consists of:
- I’m prominently displayed on my publishing site: OnTrack Publishing
- I have a Facebook page for Embracing the Elephant (which is the book series’ name)
- I have a Twitter account: @lhbeninger
* As yet I have not read Ms. Katz’ book Get Known Before the Book Deal, but plan on that next. Also, my self-published friend recommends Mr. Poynter’s book below for the aspiring self-publisher – I am reading that now.
** With the demise of Squidoo, I moved briefly to its successor – but found that inadequate. Thus, this blog and the others listed above.