By Jessica Graham
Originally Published on In Pursuit of Living Loud
I’m going to share the best advice a boss ever gave me. But before I do that, you need the context of a little back story.
Last summer, I wrote a book: a memoir about the crazy adoption road we’ve traveled. After I wrote the book, I wrote a book proposal and started reaching out to agents. Recently, one such agent asked to see sample chapters. In doing so, she asked me about my numbers and my “platform.” Essentially, she wanted to know my sphere of influence. How many Twitters followers do I have? (None. I don’t have Twitter.) How many people read my blog? (Umm, my mom, my cousin and a few close friends.) You get the idea.
Anyhow, last month, I heard back from this agent, whom I admire and who is well-respected in the publishing industry. She told me that while she likes my work, she doesn’t think she could get a publisher to publish it given my lack of platform. The email was very gracious and she even made some alternative publishing suggestions for a new author such as myself. Her email was a confirmation of everything I had been seeing: if you want to write non-fiction, you first need people who will read it. It is all very Carl Sagan. If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, first create the universe. But I digress.
So, I got discouraged. But not for long because I’ve had an e-book kicking around in the back of my mind for months now. I told my fingers the idea and together we got typing. As I was plugging away, I got emails from all kinds of authors and bloggers (repeatedly) soliciting me to buy/sign up/try their e-course/book/blog about how to build a platform. The it hits me: How am I going to sell the e-book without a platform? Geesh.
So, I let my fingers cool off. I typed other things. Did other work. The e-book sat on the metaphorical back burner on the lowest of simmers.
And that’s where the words from my boss come in. When I was a new attorney, young and eager, I always seemed to pick slow juries. A party in my case could point two fingers at himself and give a full confession, and my jury would still sit in the jury deliberation room for days mulling over who done it. It was all very baffling. When I voiced this to my boss, he said that it wasn’t all that surprising. He said: You pick jurors like you, jurors who are thoughtful and deliberate. Of course, my head puffed big and then his words sunk in like a slow dawn. If I was a juror, I would be the kind of juror who sat in the backroom looking over each piece of evidence for myself for days on end no matter what the guy or the gal in the courtroom said.
So how does this translate to my writing? Well, I realized that maybe the people who read this blog are like me – they are mistrusting and skeptical of anything that smacks of mass-sharing. Case in point: I don’t share Facebook posts of blogs I read and I certainly don’t tweet them to my non-existent Twitter account.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like what I read or that I don’t share. To the contrary, I do both of these things, selectively. I send text messages to friends with links of things I’ve read that I think they’ll find helpful. In conversation, I’ll bring up a blog or podcast that seems relevant to that conversation.
Is it possible that what I write doesn’t resonate with anyone? Of course. Would I like the things I write to be well-read and well-received? Of course.
But I don’t want a “tribe” or a “platform” or whatever else it is that I’m supposed to have. Those things, respectfully, equal a band wagon – I don’t need a band wagon and neither do you.
I want to write because my fingers are on fire and because I can’t stop the words. I want to move hearts, not “Like” buttons.
Some day, if an agent again asks me about my “numbers,” I’m going to say: Read by six, Believed in by six. From where I sit, those work out to good numbers indeed.
Jessica Graham often gets lost, especially when she’s writing. Sometimes she finds the words; other times the words find her. Regardless, words are the way she finds her way home. You can find her at In Pursuit of Loud. Soon you’ll also be able to find her on Amazon when she releases her e-book, Beautiful Paradox: Musings, Marvelings and Strategies of a Special Needs Parent.