It’s 21 degrees F outside and the mercury is falling fast, stars are pricking the evening sky, and I’m snug on my couch, sipping local whiskey, nibbling bite-sized tomatoes from my summer garden, and thinking about my author platform.
What is “author platform,” and what does it have to do with local food?
Platform is what a writer brings to selling a book in addition to her writing. It’s your expertise in your subject (which mostly applies to non-fiction), your following on social media and your blog; plus your contacts, personality, previously published work, and your message. It is also who you are and how you live.
These days, great writing isn’t enough. Writing is a business, and the truth is, we’re selling a bit of ourselves along with our books.
Hence platform, which is basically the foundation a publisher uses to help sell your books.
Okay, but why am I sitting on the couch on Sunday evening sipping local whiskey (thank you PT Woods!), snacking on tomatoes harvested a month ago before a hard frost (I took in 15.35 pounds of tomatoes from three plants), and thinking about author platform?
The whiskey is because it’s a cold night; the tomatoes are because their touch of sweetness reminds me of summer on my deck where they grew. (I rarely drink–with me, a little goes a long way–but I do love to sip a finger of good, neat whiskey now and again to clear my thoughts.)
The platform thinking is because I sent Bless the Birds, my memoir-in-progress, to my agent three weeks ago; she read it promptly and loved it. (“Beautifully written, clear in its direction, very strong in description…. Congratulations, you have written the book this story was meant to be.”)
She also said that the market for “health memoirs” is soft, not a good thing in the midst of the confusion that is publishing these days.
So I’ve been thinking about platform in the sense of what my message is, with this new memoir as well as my twelve previous books and all of my other writing. I’ve always resisted the idea of distilling my mission into a few words.
(I really hate being pigeon-holed. Put me in a box and I’ll have broken out in no time flat. That could be claustrophobia, which I confess to, or it could be sheer cussed stubbornness, which I have to own as well.)
It occurs to me though that articulating my mission would help, not just in selling this new memoir, in seeing whether the story articulates that mission clearly enough to be so visionary that it breaks out of that “health memoir” box.
The storyline that drives the narrative in Bless the Birds is the two-plus years Richard and I spent figuring out how to live well with his brain cancer. That’s health and memoir.
But is it “just” a health memoir? There’s the question. If I’ve done my job well, it’s more than that. Not that cancer, living mindfully and death aren’t universal themes. But….
Which brings me to back platform and local food.
I eat local food to support my community (dollars spent close to home have a greater “multiplier effect” than dollars that go to some distant corporate headquarters and return diminished by the many hands they’ve passed through). And because local food is more likely to be grown with care for the community of the land as well.
Nurturing my local community—including that of the land that nourishes all of us—is part of living my mission and platform. Which I now see as this:
Reconnecting humans to nature to restore us to our best selves and fullest lives—healthy in body, mind and spirit—and also to nurture this Earth, the home of our hearts.
Now to make sure I’ve articulated that message in the story. That’s the visionary part.