Sunday, June 28, 2009

a bit sobering

I've had a good month. A good two months, really. I've sold close to 100 books in Kindle, download, and print forms combined, made a bunch of new contacts, received favorable reviews, and increased traffic to almost every blog on my tour. All good. I met David Sedaris. I've made new friends. Even better. And yet, I read this blog post about authors needing a platform before they're even considered by a publisher or agent, and suddenly all my strides feel like feeble, fumbling baby steps.

"...if you’re not bringing some media vehicle or even lecture circuit audience with you on your way to the publisher, I would highly recommend starting to build some inroads there. Not all at once, don’t get yourself overwhelmed, step by step, effort to start creating your platform.

"That means, what media or other experience do you bring to the fore. And, what are the odds of having that media welcome you back another time. Or, do you have your own radio show, are you a regular columnist for a newspaper or magazine, do you have a blog that has a jillion subscribers? Or, better yet, do you have a radio show, a column AND a killer blog? Not to mention a regular guest spot on one of America’s favorite tv talk shows."

Oy vey!! I thought my guest spot on The Artist's Craft was impressive!

This could be just my feeling overwhelmed at the moment, or sour grapes, or both, but isn't that a lot to ask of an author? Does every author have to be a journalist? Does every author have to have some kind of media experience or background? Does every author have to have submitted a story to Glimmer Train? What if they're not technology-savvy? What if they simply don't have the contacts? What if they're computer software anaylists and by day and single parents by default?

One of my brothers calls me periodically to argue with me, mainly about the destruction of capitalism as we know it. He wants gov't out of education, health care, banking (especially banking), you name it. More and more I'm conceding his point of view (that's another post for another forum), but my point is that he makes a bold claim that no one has to settle for their financial standing or circumstances. In any case, he poses the question: What do you want, and what are you willing to do to get it?

I certainly think the question applies to my own situation. How big a platform do I need in order to be worthy of an agent or publisher's attention? How much more do I need to do? Am I willing to do it?

Add one more question: What excuses are holding me back?

At this very moment, plenty.
- No journalism experience.
- I don't write short stories or "literary" fiction.
- Need to keep teaching in order to pay bills, keep health insurance, etc.
- Don't know Oprah.

And those are the ones off the top of my head. All excuses, though. Underneath all that is just a tightness in my chest: Fear.

How long is it going to take for me to get where I want to be? And what if I never get there? Aren't they going to keep moving back the goalposts? Aren't the platform requirements going to get bigger and bigger and bigger? Say, sell a gazillion copies, start your own social networking site and put Facebook out of business, write unplagiarized articles for the NY Times, get your picture taken w/ Hugh Jackman, and get Oprah to follow you on Twitter.

That's not asking much.

This blog tour has been a blast. It's also been exhausting, like any other tour might be, I would imagine. I'm glad it's coming to an end. But promotion doesn't stop. My platform can't be abandoned. And apparently I don't have a platform as much as just a small stoop. With a pet door.

I'm overwhelmed. The naive dreamer in me thought it was all about the writng.

And yet, I hear a faint voice, striving to be heard in the midst of the panic: Be patient.
Be patient, she says. Step by step. You're doing everything you're supposed to be doing. You're on the right track, and you'll get there simply because you want to and because you can.

In the meantime, what's next? I hear my to-do list calling my name.


Rob said...

You are on the right track. This doubt is just a normal part of being a writer. But not everything in the publishing world demands that people need to be at the top of their game and know everyone to be recognized. Some authors just "get noticed." Like with filmmakers and musicians, it's all about sticking to your guns. Keep writing, filming, recording, promoting yourself. Then, one day, someone comes up to you and will say that they need you for their publishing house. Some will say that you need to have high connections but I disagree. Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Paolini, John Grisham; all of them started out just writing then peddling their books one at a time. So I say, keep it up. You're on the right track.

Elisa said...

Thanks so much for the confidence boost, Rob -- perked me right up! And I believe you're right.