Agents and publishers are so hungry for “platform,” that no amount of it is too much for any writer they handle. Problem is, lots of writers are still wandering around muttering, “What’s a platform?’ This week’s blog, penned by self-help memoir-author Nan Vaughn, explains some of it for us. —Elaine Ash
Written by Nan Vaughn, author of TAKE YOUR TEARS & WATER THE LAWN: Tell-All Tales & Techniques for Turning Difficult Situations into Self-Empowered Victories. (That’s the working title in progress.)
Platform… platform…platform is the one word that kept echoing through the large ballroom at the Westin Hotel in San Diego the weekend of April 2. I wished so badly the panel of speakers were referring to “platform” as in a shoe style—since I’ve been wearing platform shoes on and off since the 70s and looking oh so fabulous, I would’ve been able to give myself a big, whopping pat on the back knowing I’d been on the right fashion track for several decades. But sorry, no such luck. Unfortunately, that was definitely not the kind of platform the presenters were talking about. Damn.
The way they explained it was: Every author (fiction and non-fiction) needs a platform—a solid, strong structure for the book to stand on—the words “platform” and “promotion” are synonomous. Building your platform means building your target-marketed fan base via social media, blogging, internet marketing, networking contacts, etc. The bigger your platform, the bigger your book sales will be. Here’s the hard, cold reality—as an author it’s primarily up to you—not your agent or your publisher—to promote and sell your book, so that’s why continually buidling your platform is the name of the game.
RIGHT: Nan and self-help legend LOUISE HAY
I guess I should’ve known this a little better, since I was attending a writer’s workshop put on by Hay House, the largest independent publishing company in the self-help genre. But silly me, it still came as a shock to find the kind of platform they were talking about incessantly for two days straight was your professional platform, not one you put on your feet! Call me naïve (after all, I am a first time author), call me a dreamer, or just call me down right stupid but I thought if you had a strong, creative book concept (whatever your genre may be) and you were a stellar writer, your agent and/or publisher would actually help you develop your platform—you know, hold your hand
through the process and provide you with top notch, cutting edge marketing
suggestions and strategies to help get your name splashed all over cyber space and beyond. But boy, was I wrong. So my naïve, dreamy idea about walking hand-in-hand down the marketing path with my publishing posse (which apparently I can’t get without a platform—UGH!) went up in massive flames within the first hour of the conference.
As if feeling badly burned by the “platform” blast wasn’t enough, I also felt this overwhelming sense of doom—like every naysayer in the world was screaming, “I told you so… ha-ha-ha…I knew you couldn’t hack it in this industry… you stupid fool…”
Always being the eternal optimist (PMS days excluded) I knew there had to be a silver lining to this now I realize it’s up to me and only me to develop my platform idea—I have to confess I’m still searching for what’s the blessing in disguise, but I am confident the insights will come. In the meantime, I’m trading in my fashionista heels for a pair of Nike runners, taking in a tall breath of “just do it” air, and starting to build my platform one plank at a time.
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM:
This chapter addresses the question:
“How do I find my professional purpose (regardless of my age) and make a fulfilling career out of it?
There are two reasons why I don’t want a traditional grad program. One is that I hate mainstream stuff because I’m (3 second pause with scrunched up face) different, and two, I’m terrified to take the entrance exams to get in. I still am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from my SAT scores. Are you ready for this? My combined score for my SATs was 520. Yes, ladies and gentlemen a whopping 520. Let’s just leave it at I’m a bad test-tester, and it’s a miracle I can even read and write my own name.
So here I am at the local library robotically flipping through school catalogues, one more boring than the next, and getting nowhere fast. I don’t know exactly what I kind of psychology program I want (surprise, surprise), I just know the ones in these catalogs are not it. So I slam the last catalog shut and decide it’s time for a cocktail—even though it’s not five o’clock here, it’s five o’clock somewhere—thank you Alan Jackson (don’t you love that song? What can I say—to my surprise, I’m developing a soft spot for country music).
As I am leaving the library, I lean over to pick up one of those free publications that’s geared toward people struggling with “octagonal peg in round hole” syndrome—You know one of those hippie-type magazines that have articles entitled, “How to Use Hydrocolonic Bowel Irrigation for Washing your Aura Clean,” and “Align your Purpose with the North Star.”
As I walk down the street pissed off at the world because I don’t fit into it, I don’t realize that what’s about to happen next is going to change my life forever. I decide to walk and peruse the hippie magazine at the same time because with my ADHD tendencies (another one of my many deficiencies) multi-tasking is what I do especially when I’m
stressed. So I turn over the front cover and in the inside front page is a full-page ad that says “Master’s Degree in Psychology…School the Way You’ve Always Wished it Would be.” As I read the ad, I shit you not, this ad jumps off the page at me. Yes, you read it right. The ad jumps off the page at me. When this happens ladies and gentlemen, I have my first experience with the “woo-woos.” The “woo-woos”? Okay, let me explain because maybe you’ve experienced them, too.
The “woo-woos” is that weird stuff that happens to you, and you’re not really sure it happened, and you’re thinking maybe you imagined it, but you know it really did just happen– That, my friends, is having a case of the “woo-woos.”
So having experienced the “woo-woos” for the first time, I pick up the pace. I want to get back to my apartment a.s.a.p to call the number before the ad vanishes before my very eyes. Is it real? Does the ad really exist or is this just a figment of my brilliant imagination? I blast through the door, throw my shit down (out of character for me because “anal” is the best four letter word to describe my living habits) and dial the number. A gentle voice answers the call which I’m not expecting. I can’t believe I immediately get a real human being on the other end of the phone and not some simulated robotic recording. The school definitely gets points for that one.
By the way, I don’t understood the logic behind those simulated robotic recordings, do you? Companies pride themselves on customer service but in reality here’s what the customer gets– Thank you for calling blah-blah-blah company. If you know your party’s extension, please dial it at anytime. Otherwise, sit through this ridiculously long recording so you can attempt to figure out the right extension, but chances are when you press the number, you’ll be on hold for ten minutes. When someone finally picks up your call you won’t be able to understand him because he’s in a call center 15,000 miles away. When you finally make out the broken English, you think he says he’s not the right person, but he’ll transfer you. Before you can ask what the extension is in case you get disconnected, the call goes dead. No wonder people go postal these days.
So back to the gentle voice on the other end of the phone. He introduces himself to me in a very calm yet assured manor and says his name is Norm. Okay, his name’s gotta go, but his information is a keeper. He explains a little bit about the program and check this out– He tells me that this is not a traditional graduate school and that it’s a one-of -a -kind university. He goes on to explain people from all over the world come to this school to have this extraordinary educational experience. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding…I feel like I’ve just won the jackpot. Did he just say non-traditional and one-of-a- kind in the same sentence?
He says he’ll send me a catalog (keep in mind the web/Internet doesn’t not yet exitst), and encourages me to go to an open house introductory evening. I’m there baby, bring it on. The materials arrive in the mail very quickly, and it is the most beautiful school catalog I’ve ever seen. And not beautiful in the sense that it has gorgeous photographs of a campus with rolling hills and ivy covered Architectural Digest buildings, but beautiful because of its energy.
Energy? Okay, now I’m really sounding like I’ve got a case of the “woo-woos.” But seriously, it’s hard for me to put it into words, but it’s as if I can feel love coming from the pages. Love coming from the pages? Alrighty then, now you’re thinking I’m a total wack job. But that’s the best way for me to describe my experience.
I read the catalog from cover to cover digesting every word, and at the risk of sounding totally melo-dramatic, I just know this program is what I’ve been searching for my whole entire life. Finally a place where they value individuals being different. No “one size fits all” education here. Not a cookie cutter in sight. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for this? I think I’ve just found the University of Octagonal Pegs in Round Holes. Hallelulah! End Excerpt
Bio: As an award-winning speaker and first-time author, Nan Vaughn’s upcoming book TAKE YOUR TEARS & WATER THE LAWN: Tell-All Tales & Techniques for Turning Difficult Situations into Self-Empowered Victories captures the essence of personal transformation. In this book, she combines her gift of writing with her educational and professional experiences to write a self-help masterpiece. Nan, a top ranked trainer for one of the world’s largest seminar companies for ten years, has traveled the globe conducting over 1200 live seminars teaching her audiences how to be effective communicators under stress, resolve conflict, improve self-esteem, and achieve peak performance from the “inside out.” Whether Nan is speaking or writing, her style is dynamic yet down to earth, revealing, and 100% real. Most importantly, Nan doesn’t just “talk the talk”—she practices what she teaches and is devoted to living an extraordinary life one day at a time. She holds a M.A. in Applied Psychology and a B.S. in Journalism.
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