September 26, 2010

A Slice of PIE: “My platform? Wazzat?”

Lately I've been shopping around three of my novels: INVADER'S GUILT, VICTORY OF FISTS, and HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES: EMERALD OF EARTH. I also have a children's chapter book ready to go and I've started rewriting a novel I first posted here as a series of flash fiction stories, THIRTEEN SQUARE MILES.

VICTORY OF FISTS has been out there since December of 2008 (thirteen times, twelve to agents). INVADER’S GUILT since August of 2009 following a major revision (at least seven times to agents, probably more, but I may have started before I kept computer records); HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES has been out four times since May 2010, once in a contest and three times to agents.

So out of twenty-four submissions, there were twenty-one “thanks but no thanks”, one started as one of five thousand and ended up as one of the top fifty submissions in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and twice agents requested partials. Nathan Bransford asked to see the first thirty pages of my initial storyline of INVADER’S GUILT (I’ve since revised it and narrowed it) and Caitlin Blasdell wanted to see the first fifty pages of HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES. Both passed on representation.

Lots and lots of times I sent it out. I never once mentioned my “platform”. What’s a platform – besides a place for the high dive to be taken from?

According to Nathan Bransford, “…platform is one of those nebulous concepts that will result in a thousand different definitions if you ask a thousand different individuals. But here's how I think of it: platform is the number of eyeballs you can summon as you promote your book. A ‘platform’ may be comprised of an Internet or media presence, a very strong reputation in a particular field, a TV show, affiliation with a popular brand, a connection to a popular writing collective, celebrity status, or ownership of the world's largest soapbox. When it comes to platform: publishers want authors to have it, especially for nonfiction, and it doesn't hurt for fiction either. ” ( )

So when I sent HEIRS out this last time, I included the following: “I also travel to two to five Young Author's Conferences each year, teach writing to young people during two or three sessions of summer school and typically coach several writers each year giving me a potential for reaching 200-1000 young people each year. My blog typically gets 70 discrete hits each time I post twice a week.

That tagline is my platform – the place from which I might be able to sell books. At first, I was sort of offended by this idea, but lately I’ve come to see both the wisdom of it and how it can work. I have a ready-made platform. I’m a teacher. Over the years, I’ve had some 150 students I’ve worked with each school year. My career has spanned almost 30 years. The number of kids I’ve connected with? 30 x 150 = 4500. As far as I’ve been led to believe, that’s pretty much a first run of an original paperback science fiction novel. Maybe more, maybe less for a teen book; less than that for a “kids” book. So that’s my platform – the place from which I might sell my book is among people whose lives I have become INVOLVED with. Not strangers whom I’ve never seen and certainly not because of an impersonal advertising square in LOCUS MAGAZINE. I’ve come to understand that while most publishers will HELP with that, it still remains the author’s responsibility to sell his or her own book.

My response to that is: “Well, duh!”

And the connection with faith? What is the platform from which we “sell” our faith in Jesus Christ? In his book, THE PRESENT FUTURE, Reggie McNeal points out that today’s Christian Church has, for the most part, adopted a “build it and they will come” attitude toward their fellowship. While this worked in the 1950s, people are more cynical and less likely to trust institutions in the 21st Century because schools, government, industry, banking and entertainment have disappointed over and over and over again. He advocates a different, "witness within the culture" sort of approach that, I think, still misses the mark by a long shot and creates a new institution sort of like a "Jesus welfare system".

What was the platform from which the apostles and young Christian Church sold faith in Jesus Christ? Sacrifice. They willingly gave up their lives for the cause of Christ and not surprisingly, even Reggie McNeal’s powerful book got that one wrong. Today’s Church, at least most of the American-style one, myself included, hasn’t sacrificed anything for decades…

My response to that is: “Well, duh!”

Maybe I need a new platform; one that will show willingness to die for my faith; and “die” for my writing.



1 comment:

The Coffeehouse Storeroom said...

Hmm. I can't decide what my platform really is. Which is a problem. I have a theme, of course, but this really raises the question of what my story really stands on. Very though provoking.