My Platform Has a Hole In It
by Mary Ellen Stepanich, Ph.D.
I have a bad habit. I print out and read every item I find online about the subject of book writing, selling, or marketing. Every marketing item I read seems to hammer on one topic – the necessity of building a platform (sometimes called a brand).
When I think about a “platform,” my mind always leaps to the image of the ancient, rickety stepladder that I keep in the garage. I don’t know why I keep it, especially since I’ve been cautioned by my cardiologist to stay off the thing. Besides, the platform at the top is damaged and might collapse if I were to stand on it.
I think that’s also true of my writer’s “platform.” It’s in pretty bad shape and is not much to stand on. As I understand the term, a writer’s platform is simply: “how many people know your name.” Since I’m not a famous person, very few people know my name…or even care about me or my rickety platform.
Here’s something I read recently on the BookBaby blog about the subject of platform building: “There are tons of places authors can find information on building a brand or platform…so many, in fact, that it’s often overwhelming. It’s easier to hide in your hermit cave and write the next book.”
However, what good is writing book after book that no one knows about or reads? So, I guess I really should spend some time thinking about how to improve my platform and market what I have written up to now. The author of the article says a person should ask herself three questions:
- Why did I write this book?
- Who did I write this book for?
- What am I willing to do for this book?
According to the article, the answers to these three questions will determine one’s marketing strategy.
As far as my own book is concerned, I had to think hard about the answer to the first question. I started the book some three years ago, so I’m not sure what I had in mind at that time, other than to have at least ten pages ready for the next meeting of my writers’ critique group. But the subject of the book came about because I wanted to share some of the strange and hysterically funny adventures that my comedy barbershop quartet has had in our 15-plus years together.
On deeper analysis, though, I realized that there was a serious purpose lurking behind all the shenanigans and belly laughs. I think I wrote the book because I was seeking an answer to the question: How and why does a performing group get together, stay together, and thrive without at least one person threatening to strangle another one?
After the book had been edited down to a gnat’s eyelash, I had to start thinking about selling my magnum opus to somebody. So, of course, I thought about the answer to the second question: Who did I write the book for? In other words, who would be interested in what I had written? The answer that came to mind easily was: “Other quartets or performing groups.” In my case, that would be other Sweet Adelines (members of an international group of women who sing four-part harmony, a cappella).
I knew that other singers would probably get a kick out of reading the book, but I wasn’t sure how to let them know about it. And, more importantly, how could I influence them to buy the book and read it? Then I had a really brazen idea –I would ask the most influential person in the international organization to read my book and review it. The woman I asked is a world-renowned singer, director, judge, and teacher of the art form, so I had only a smidgeon of hope that she would agree even to read the book, let alone write a review. I don’t think I breathed for an entire month until I heard back from her. She read the book, loved it, and wrote an endorsement.
So now I’m looking at the last question, with a mixture of hope and dread in my heart. What exactly AM I willing to do for this book? And that comes down to the real question: How much money am I willing to spend in the process? I’ll think about that for the next month and see if I can have an answer for you by July 25, my next post.
Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website, MaryEllenStepanich.com.