My agent said to improve my platform.
It seems the publishers who expressed the most interest in publishing my book held off for one primary reason: I'm not well known. How can I reassure them my book will stand out in the already crowded shelf of memoirs?
For me, this was a new use of the word "platform." As in a platform from which to launch book sales, I guess. If not fame, then a public-speaking circuit or organization that would guarantee a certain number of bucks' coming in.
So rather than going through yet another rewrite to tantalize publishers, my mission became to boost interest in me, who I am, what my story is, and what I've got to say.
The best way for someone like me to do this is to write. And write, and write. I could pretend one of my kids had gone up in a balloon, but that'd send the wrong message. Right?
The Internet makes self-promotion easy and inexpensive. I already had a Web site to serve as a sort of portfolio of published work. The idea being, when I approach magazines with story ideas I don't have to enclose photocopies of clips and tear sheets, as in the old days. I can pitch ideas by e-mail, with a link to my site, which in turn is linked to my writing samples.
I already had a Facebook account, for no better reason than everybody does.
I had thought for some time about blogging but couldn't see the point. If my writing is going to go out to the public, I want it to be for pay. After all, I'm a pro.
Nevertheless, I did have some columns that never sold and probably never would. So I put them on a blog. As I kept writing columns and sending them out, I amassed even more blog material. Sure, some got published, but the rest got blogged. Gradually, I thought of more and more things that seemed blog appropriate. Nothing worth polishing for print or pitching to an editor. Just stuff I found interesting.
For this most recent NPR piece, my editor asked if I wanted to refer listeners to my blog. This never came up before, my last NPR Commentary being four years ago, when the blogosphere was young. I didn't think much of the blog I had, but why not? Sure enough, some NPR listeners did go to my blog. And they liked it. (At this point, you're probably wondering why...)
Then a friend suggested I link my Facebook page to my blog, to increase traffic. Brilliant! (Thank you, Steve.)
The result: In the five days since my most recent NPR Commentary aired , the number of people who signed on to follow this blog jumped from 1 to 27 and counting. I've added 30 names to my e-mail list of people to notify about future columns, so it's now near 125. I have many new Facebook friends. And a whopping 875 people have visited my Web site! That's 175 a day, a new record for me, by far.
So, bottom line: Hooray! I'm encouraged. I'll keep writing essays in hopes of making those numbers even bigger. And then we'll tell publishers, If this many people respond to short essays, imagine how many my book can generate!