Mainly I write about relationships because they tell you when you write nonfiction that you have to have a platform and that platform is being an expert in something.
Of course, when they say this about nonfiction they aren’t talking about memoirists, not really. At least not in my opinion. They are talking about people who have carved out a place for themselves in a particular field. They have a Ph.D. in that area. They travel and speak on the topic. People go to them for the latest info on “said” topic. They are thought-leaders. People advancing their industries.
Memoirists, too, have to have a platform, but the equation isn’t as exact. The transfer not as direct.
Like getting an undergraduate degree doesn’t promise you a job in the area that you got the degree in. You are writing a memoir which is nonfiction technically, but the thing you are an expert in is really yourself and your experience. Whatever theme your memoir focuses on.
Your platform is about your brand, and your brand is you. Do you follow? It’s okay if you don’t. I still don’t fully understand it. And some may even argue this idea of building a platform is bullshit altogether.
What complicates this all further is: 1) not having anything published yet and b) not writing in just one genre.
When you don’t yet have a book published, you can’t build a following through your book. You have to build the following without it and before it.
You have to be able to guarantee the editors you’re querying with your proposal that xx number of readers will want to buy your book when it’s done. Long ago are the days of getting the book deal first and then being assigned a publicist. There is no publicist. You are the publicist. You are also a salesman. The writer writes while they promote, and also sells, then also keeps promoting and selling even after they may have found an agent or publisher. And this is if you go the traditional publishing route. If you choose an independent press, independent or self-publishing, you have different moves to make, but they are still yours. No matter the route to publishing, the writer has a tough job.
You have to convince readers of your ability to write the book BEFORE having anything completely written.
Onto the scene comes blogging, one definitive way of getting some words in front of people and hoping like hell they like what you’re putting down. The ultimate goal is that they sign up for your list so you can actually quantify the number of people who are willingly requesting your work. Why? So you can write it in that query letter to that editor who wants to know you know you can sell your book to the xx# people on that list you’ve created out of thin air.
While it’s difficult enough to have nothing yet published – by way of a book, I mean – I have made my own problem worse by not just sticking to one genre or one book project. I have to look at my work collectively and figure out what it is that runs through all of them. Or, I have to narrow my focus on one book project and take it from that angle.
Collectively, I believe the thing that runs through all of my work is bravery to be one’s authentic self. Hence my tag line: Be Brave. Be You. It’s Time. Which I could write a whole separate post about and probably should.
If I focus on my memoir which is the book I’m working on the most right now, then the obvious theme is relationships. Synonyms (for this work): break up; heartache; failure; sex; consent; sexual assault; heteronormative gender roles; self-identity. There you have it, if you’ve been wondering why my blog runs mostly on heartache as America runs on Dunkin, this is why.
I am trying to build a brand and a platform around the main tenets of this memoir and the main tenet is relationships. Good, bad, ugly. Healthy, unhealthy, tragic, or moronic. This is the focus. Me in the context of all that. And so I need to prove to my budding readership that I can tell these types of stories in a way that people find compelling, engaging, engrossing, interesting, or entertaining in hopes that they sign up for the email list; read the blog, and eventually buy the book. You know because one thing automatically leads to another. In theory.
Truthfully, I don’t know what I’m doing even while conceptually knowing what I must.
I’m certain I am not doing it in the way I should. There must be more strategic approaches. More specific actions I should be taking. Right now it feels more like throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. But, it’s better than doing nothing.
Before July of 2018, I had no website. No blog. No social media platform. Now I have over 100 people on Instagram. Close to 30 subscribing to my blog. My LinkedIn profile has gotten more traffic since July then all the years I’ve been on LinkedIn combined. I’ve got analytics I can analyze. Through one of the other blogs I contribute to, my posts sometimes reach over 1K. Real people have written to me individually and told me the impact that my writing (my blog posts) has had on them. All of this in less than a year just by putting in some effort and knowing it’s not perfect. It’s a work in progress.
I have a lot to learn. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Sarah Friedman, a big name in the literary community, started off the same way and now she has over 200,000 followers on Twitter alone. While many may not be quality readers or even her target audience, the point is she also started at 0 at one time. So at least I’ve gotten started. I’m building a brand and a platform. Brick by brick. Post by post. One relationship recount after another. Turning all that heartache, all those relationships, into a platform I can hang my writing on.