As an aspiring writer, you probably know the importance of platform and having a target audience. You understand why you cannot write a book for “everyone.” Rhetoric involves connecting with your audience. Having a platform doesn’t mean being a “cheesy salesperson” as Christina Katz, author of Get Known before the Book Deal and Writer Mama, nicely puts it. When I attended my first writer’s conference at the age of 19, I was told that the amateur mentality, “I just want to write. I don’t want to deal with marketing or promoting my book,” is the equivalent of being a person who runs a dress-shop but complains, “I just want to make dresses. I don’t want to have to deal with marketing and advertising, managing the shop, or dealing with clients.” I am hoping that most of you are past that stage.
There are many books out there about the topic of book marketing and pitching. I also recommend anything by Seth Godin. To learn about book publishing, may I recommend the two following books: Book Business by Jason Epstein and Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson. The last two is really helpful in understanding the publishing industry. It will be interesting to find out how the industry evolves in the digital age and with changing technologies.
Professional and successful writers know how to build their platform, have done their research, and are passionate about their topics. I have been writing for others or editing other people’s works, which I throughly enjoy. When it comes to my own writing, I’m now in the exploring phase. I discovered my themes, ideas, thoughts, stylistic approaches but fine tuning. Rather than work, it’s a playful discovery.
To continue building platform, a fiction-writer should focus on his or her expertise. That’s right. You are an expert. You are a professional. Now, the question is what is your expertise? Consider the following items that I adapted from Katz’s Get Known before the Book Deal. I added some of my own (marked by *):
- your childhood
- unique experiences*
- your unique and distinctive point-of-view
- hobbies, interests, passions*
- fiction-writing process
- specific location
- a time period you have researched
- a truth or phenomenon you have noticed
- universal human themes
- the creative process
After contemplating the list, here’s my expertise or writing topics:
Childhood: growing up in Indian schools, living in Dubai in the ’90s, moving abroad, encountering different cultures, love of reading, growing up with Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton, and other stories, experiencing sexual abuse, teen depression & suicide, witnessing my parent’s addiction and broken marriage, being in-between two cultures, life in a boarding school in India, hating school because I was smart and mature for my age but fed up with the way my classmates behaved, peer pressure and getting into the wrong crowd.
Unique experiences: surviving suicides and realizing the value of life, domestic violence and abuse survivor, being a third-culture kid, international travel, living in Singapore, experience in a cultish-type of a mega-church, finding truth after that bad church experience, conversion to Christ, yet hating religious church culture with a passion, immigrant experience
Education: small, private liberal arts college; large state college in a Portland, Oregon; degrees in Education and Journalism/Publishing
Professions: retail, call-center, editor, teacher, substitute teacher, university student services
Unique Point of View: bold, passionate, observant, culture and sophisticated yet young, sometimes feisty
Specific Locations: big cosmopolitan cities
Time Period: contemporary and 90s
Universal Human Themes: seeking redemption, depravity of humanity, we all know that the world is simply messed up and so we are desperate for meaning but how should we then live? Criticizing society for its hypocrisy. Satirization of the absurdity of pursuing love (that’s not love at all but selfishness). Satirization of our increasing narcissistic culture. Human rights. Identity.
Writing Process: While in grad school, I studied Rhetoric & Composition. There’s more to it than the 6-trait writing kids learn in school. I’m particularly interested in the revision process.
So, try this at home. Make a list and describe your expertise. Remember, no two people are alike even if it’s the same genre o topic. There are many Indian women writers, but all have their own unique perspectives. For some reason, possibly nationalism, many people tend to look at a group of people as similar or through the narrowness of a token minority. There is no such thing as a monolithic Indian culture or monolithic Indian woman writer. Indian women writers are different due to: regional backgrounds, language, religion (not all Indians are Hindus), socioeconomic, education, life experience, age, perspectives, individual personality differences, and many others. My voice tends to be bolder, feisty at times, cultured, educated, and the views are third-culture kid more than immigrant. The topics I write about are different from other Indian women writers. It is important to understand people as unique individuals first.
If you enjoyed this exercise, I suggest you get a copy of Christina Katz’s Get Known before the Book Deal. Yes, I am shamelessly promoting this book, because it’s helpful in growing an author platform.