Okay, so the pig has nothing to do with this except for dramatic effect. Wink wink.
I have been struck lately by this very intimidating word: Platform.
I have watched discussions and and read articles about Platform, and have come up with the following conclusion: I do not have a Platform, or at least one that matters too much.
If I had to describe my Platform: I have 140 followers on Twitter (just yesterday, in emailing an agent and explaining my Platform I inadvertently mentioned the number I’m following instead of the number who are following me) either way, not too impressive when numbers should be in the thousands. Next, is this Blog. Again, to have my Blog be a Platform I would need thousands of people who have signed up for my most interesting Monthly Newsletter. Alas, if I don’t count the miriad of eager illiterate foreign hackers that attempt to join, I don’t have many, or, any (I have just installed a new plugin to remove all the unwanted interest – so that is good news).
I’m searchable though. If you type in my name, you will find me. You’ll find this blog, you’ll find my Twitter feed, you will quickly learn that I’m a writer and you will also see that I work at Just Catamarans (this is a business that my husband and I started in 2004). So there I am, on the ‘interwebs’, summed up in a few links, but I’m there.
I understand why an agent and publisher want Platform. Afterall, it will make the marketing of the book so much easier. From the business side of publishing, it all makes total sense. Books is a business. It seems clear that you stand a better chance of being snatched up by an agent or published if you have a Platform. But I don’t have one of those.
So what does that mean for me? I guess I need to write a story that is so amazing that Platform will follow, and not preceed, my debut book.
Another thought: maybe Platform is better for those who are writing for an older audience, because any Platform that I do have, is not going to reach my audience – they’re between the ages of four and eight…they don’t have social media, they have school, and they are still nicely nestled under their parent’s wings. So does my Platform need to reach the parents of said children? Quite a quandry.
I think back to when I was young and reading a book I liked – I didn’t stop and say: “Wow, I love this story. Who wrote it?” No, I just loved the story and would reach for the book, like a friend, over and over again. Only as I grew much older, did I wonder who wrote it. Did my parents see me enjoy it and buy me more books from the same author? I don’t know. But, I do know, as a parent myself, that if my child enjoys a certain author’s work, and I read and see that it is good, that I will buy more of the author’s books – it’s a no-brainer.
So, back to Platform. I don’t have one yet, because I do not yet have a book that has been published. I feel that until that point, there is no way that I am going to develop or grow a platform of any substance to warrant what agents and publishers are looking for when it comes to Platform. I have this blog (yay) which I intended from the start to be predominantly about my journey towards becoming a Picture Book author and the lessons I learned along the way. And I will continue to post as planned. I will also continue to follow (Twitter) other Picture Book authors and illustrators, agents, editors and publishing houses to stay in the loop with what is happening on a daily basis in the book business. It’s always interesting, encouraging and infomative, and I get to see other author’s dreams coming to reality, which is always fun.
Do I have any borrowed Platforms? Well, I do know some famous people (at least I think they’re famous), but if they were to tweet about my book, it would have no effect because their audience is about travel, not children’s books.
And then, Platform begs the question: Do I want a Platform? Really? As mentioned before, kids reading my stories won’t necessarily care who I am – they care about the story. I actually don’t want to be “famous” and spend my time busy with “famous-people” stuff – whatever that is…I just want to write stories that children will enjoy – and anything taking time away from that will lessen the stories I can tell? Am I completely naive to how this writing business works? Maybe. But I am not naive to the demands of time and energy that creating and sustaining a Platform might be…suddenly writing a story has turned into a huge endeavour! Or am I now only starting to understand the complete writing package? Is this the new normal for writers? I’m guessing that it is and that if I want to make it as a writer, I will need to embrace Platform a little.
When starting the Blog and joining Twitter, the purpose was to present myself to any interested agent, and maybe down the line, as a way for people to find out what kind of a person I was. The only promotional factor was so that people would know who I am, not as a way to generate a following of people who would want to buy my stories. I am in no way fooled – if I were to stop posting on Twitter or my Blog, no one would even notice. It’s difficult enough getting my kids to listen to me at home, with me standing right in front of them, nevermind a world of people who don’t know me from Adam (or Eve). Again, my focus is for my stories to make an impact on a child, not for my name, or my thoughts and opinions, to impress anyone.
I do expect, and am willing, to participate in anything that can be helpful to promote any book that gets published, but that is why I am looking for an agent – is it not their business to present and sell my work? Is it not their job to promote my work as best they can? (and yes, I understand that Platfrom will help immensely). That was why I am choosing to go the Traditional Publishing route – because I understand the value of having people who know what they are doing assist in the business side of publishing a book. And yes, I understand that it is expected for the author to help promote the book, I totally agree and will do what is necessary.
My hope is that, if I write a story to make it out into the world out there, it will not depend on my Platform, but rather, because the words have stirred enough influence over heart and mind to warrant it being presented to children to enjoy, to read, to hear, to feel, to think. That’s all. Will my Platform do that for a child – I’m guessing not. But the illustrator’s pictures mixed wth my words will help them see something they’ve never seen, to understand something incredible.
As a Christian I understand that this task of writing children’s stories is something bigger than myself. I understand that it takes work and perseverance, I understand that I need to do all I need and can do to make this happen. So if it means building a Platform, then I will do that. I will carry on with this blog and write my posts, I will write my stories, I will continue to attend critique group, I will do as much as I can, but I leave the rest to God. He will connect me to the right agent, He will open the right doors at the right time. And that gives me a lot of peace – yes, I will push as much as I can to to get this done, but knowing that he is ultimately in control, I know it will come together, and my Platform, whatever that may look like, will be enough to make the story reach the right child at the right time.
Ultimately though, in my perfect little world, the only Platform I really want to stand on is:
on my book,
on their shelf,
beside their bed,
me and my pig.