A year ago, I threw in the towel. By then my memoir had received more than 100 agent rejections. Presuming the fault was mine, I decided to rewrite the manuscript. The editor I’d hired to critique the original draft had called that version “literature.” She and I were the only ones who thought so, it seems. Most agents didn’t reply to my queries. Those who did were kind enough to compliment the writing. My “platform” they said was the problem. Platform is a word to describe the followers, fans, or friends on social media, my webpage, or my blog. Mine weren’t significant enough to guarantee a minimum number of sales.
Erin Donley, ghostwriter and communications expert explains why platforms are important. “…publishers invest roughly $80,000 in their authors, on top of the advance. If you can’t bring in that kind of revenue in book sales, it doesn’t make sense for them to publish you.” Writers of non-fiction, she concludes, should consider self-publishing,
– unless you can sell 10,000 to 20,000 copies of your book,
– unless you have an email database of 25,000 to 50,000 people,
– unless you’re an established and published journalist/writer,
– unless you’re already on a speaker’s circuit,
– unless you have a large (and engaged) social media following
Regrettably, I fall short in any of the above requirements. I could slap a few pictures of an adorable dog on my social media site. That might bump up my numbers a digit or two. But, I don’t have a dog, cute or otherwise. No cat, either.
I’ve seen how pictures of home-cooked meals can get as many as 50 or 60 likes for my virtual friends. But, I don’t cook. I thaw.
Frankly, I should have seen my 100 agent rejections coming. WordPress’s algorithms have warned me many times that I’d don’t cut it as a writer. My sentences are too long and too complex. My vocabulary is 95% greater than found in common usage.
I did try to do better for a while. Nonetheless, the complaints persisted. Eventually, like Linus, I threw up my hands and shouted, “I am doomed.”
Knowing my shortcomings hasn’t stifled my ambition, though. Giving up chocolate would be easier. So, these past few months, I’ve been rewriting much of the bloody manuscript. I think it’s better. I’m unsure. Either way, I’ll pursue the self-publishing option. Uploading a book to the internet may be daunting, but the piece deserves that much respect.
We are “in the golden age of self-publishing,” Donley’s video assures me. ” I hope she’s right. In any case, I’m done with writing books. My memoir, Getting Lost to Find Home is my last effort. This coming-of-age adventure, beginning in San Francisco in the 1960s and ending with the onset of colonial violence in East Africa, offers practical wisdom for anyone living anywhere between those two points. As a platform, the world should be sufficient.
I’ve given myself an additional year to master the craft of self-publishing and marketing. If all goes well, Getting Lost to Find Home will be available in November 2023. A year should be enough time to find a cute dog image for the cover.