Remember high school? Remember the cliques sitting in clusters in the cafeteria and the requirements to join them? Yep… I remember those. I also remember feeling like I didn’t quite fit, like I was a pair of shoes that have grown too small but hadn’t yet been given away. I had a group of people I hung out with and loved, so I wasn’t the stereotypical loaner, but I just didn’t feel the same as them. Not feeling the same bothered me quite a bit… until I got out of high school. Then I realized, I’m not supposed to be like everyone else! I’m supposed to be me! As an adult I shouldn’t have to pretend right?
Wrong… why? Because the truth is, we live in a giant high school cafeteria called Social Media. If you’re not in a clearly defined clique then you’re at risk of being blocked and bullied. The latest trend? If you aren’t with it, you’re invisible. If you’re dependent on building a platform like I am, you can quickly become irrelevant and even completely disappear unless you spend hours inserting yourself into every tweet, post and video. It can quickly become your life.
What is a platform and why do I need one? I’m an author. I’m self published right now and though I throughly enjoy the freedom, I’m hoping to grow, which means checking out traditional publishing. After years of research on the matter, I’ve learned that if I want an agent to rep me and submit my work to publishing houses, I need to show up with a large online following. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, medium, etc… whatever is available, I’m supposed to be on it, engaged and trending, which makes up my ‘author platform’. This didn’t used to be a requirement, it used to be about hard work and marketable material, but now it’s largely focused on a social media following base. I’m working to build the platform. I like a lot of my followers, they’re pretty awesome people. I’m staying true to myself while trying to fit in and engage with others. However, the more I’m on it, the more I’m realizing that constantly being online in the digital high school cafeteria isn’t what I want my entire life to be about. Plus it’s incredibly hard to ‘fit in’ without becoming a total phony.
Here’s the problem; I am not a trend following person. I like things that are unique not trendy. My opinion is not shaped by what’s cool but by what I think is right. My political opinions are mixed because they’re based on facts, not what a celebrity says I should think. I choose to be myself. I am unique and flawed and that’s supposed to be enough. I remember when being unique was something to be proud of, not something to hide behind a hashtag or a new “challenge” or what’s trending.
The biggest flaw in this requirement? It’s missing the actual point. It’s a popularity contest for the author instead of focusing on what truly matters; the damn story.
The story is what is supposed to shine. It’s written to be unique, like the ones who read it. The story is supposed to be marketable because it’s relatable. Readers read to feel something, travel to other worlds, do magic, fall in love and overcome trials. The story is supposed to be a journey that an agent can sell because the world needs to read it. The story is the star, not the author. Why doesn’t the story matter anymore?
So if you’re a literary agent and you’re reading this, that is why I struggle with building a platform for myself. I’d rather build one for a story I believe in, not me. I’m not skilled at figuring out how to sit at the popular kid table. I don’t know how to be cool and if that’s all I wanted, wouldn’t I have been better off taking my shot in Hollywood? The saddest part is that I’m going to keep trying to build this platform, but I won’t be fake, I probably won’t follow trends and my hashtags are probably all wrong. But I’ll be there. The imaginative wallflower in the corner of the high school cafeteria getting lost in an amazing story. The one who everyone seems to avoid, because that kid isn’t cool… right?