A humorous personal story from Donita Bundy about the challenges of author marketing.
All the effort and preparation in the world can’t beat just getting in there and doing it – whatever ‘it’ happens to be.
For me, the ‘it’ I was having trouble with was starting an Author Platform.
I had written a manuscript for my first novel, but then learned if I wanted to do anything with the manuscript, I needed to create an author platform.
Jane Friedman defines an author platform as ‘an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach’.
Wading through the information and process of creating an ‘author platform’ was overwhelming.
I was completely ignorant of what it took to get a manuscript even considered to be looked at. That’s before it orbits anywhere near the publishing world’s stratosphere.
So, after picking myself up and sticking my head in a vice to stop it spinning, I took a deep breath and tried to get a handle on what my next step would be.
I tend to be the kind of person who wants to get it right first-time round. This can be a good thing until it becomes the main thing.
I enrolled in a great course at the Australian Writers Centre, “Creating an Author Platform”. Afterward, I was still a bit overwhelmed, but this course helped me see that I could achieve this.
Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world was another incredible tool that gave my flagging courage a real boost.
However, after all the research and tomes of reading, I was most surprised to be well and truly outrun by my youngest son, Mr 9.
Hints from an expert
Mr 9 had been writing books since the first grade. In the second grade, he asked the school librarian for a shelf to display all his work.
I thought this was a fad that would pass, much like his phase of being the Penguin from Batman, or Mario from Mario Kart, or Anthony the Blue Wiggle.
However, one day when I was volunteering in the school library, I was approached by my son’s teacher.
“I love your son,” she said.
Oh, dear. Knowing his unique personality, I tentatively asked, “What’s he done now?”
“My students love reading his books.” She beamed.
“Are they still in the library?” I was genuinely perplexed.
“Oh yes, today he’s brought in his latest work.”
“I had no idea … they are not edited … his writing is illegible … his spelling is purely phonetic!” I was horrified.
“Yes, but my kids love them,” she called out as she raced off to quell a riot that was building around the early reader section.
As I finished up my volunteering session, I wandered down to look at his ‘shelf of works’. A kaleidoscope of feelings crashed over me.
- Shock at seeing his current work in public
- Horror at the terrible spelling and messy drawings
- Gratitude for the encouragement of the amazing librarian who abetted his creativity
- Pride that his works were close to front and centre
- A sense of challenge…
I knew my son was still following his passion for writing. But I had no idea he was still releasing the results into the wild.
However, I knew instantly why he had stopped telling me.
After reading his drafts and encouraging him on his work, I tended to correct his spelling mistakes softly in pencil. I then suggested he rewrite them in order to finish his work well.
My ‘policing’ was an obstacle he didn’t want (or couldn’t be bothered) to contend with.
“This is my story, these are my words and this is my spelling. You can read it, can’t you?”
“Well, yes, I can. But that’s not how you spell the words.”
“If people want to read my books, they can read my words!”
Sadly, I had no comeback, because kids (his target readers) were reading his books. They didn’t care about his presentation or sloppiness, they just loved his stories and ideas, his illustrations and humour.
Not only was Mr 9 continuing to believe in his own writing, he had built an effective author platform, based not on courses or textbooks, but on simple faith and drive.
The naïve expectations and boundless faith that children can possess teach us a valuable lesson.
Presentation and preparation are important, but not to the point of allowing them to stifle passion and creativity, in both writing and marketing.
Humbled by another lesson, I am prayerfully embarking on my less than perfect journey to build an author platform. I’m sure I will continue to make mistakes, but I will at least try to aim for correct spelling!
What have you tried to build an author platform? Does perfectionism or a sense of overwhelm ever get in your way?
Donita Bundy is a writer and writing teacher who was appointed the inaugural Somerset Writer in Residence in 2019. She holds a Bachelor of Ministry and has served as a school chaplain and lay minister. Her debut urban fantasy Dangerous Salvation was published in 2020, the first in a YA series of seven.