My publisher did everything she could to drill it into my brain: there’s nothing more important than establishing a platform.
When it comes to creating a literary presence, your platform is everything. Without a presence on social media, how could I possibly expect to sell any books? I took her word for it, even as I wondered how Stephen King and the like managed to get the word out a mere 30 years ago with no help from the Internet.
Literary agents won’t touch a new author with a ten-foot pole unless he has established a platform. It’s quite the catch-22. No presence, no agent. But there very reason to hire an agent is to help establish presence. It makes your head spin.
Still, I listen to the advice of those more experienced. I’ve spent considerable amounts of time trying to establish an online platform, with varying degrees of success.
I pick up followers on WordPress, Twitter, and Instagram at a slow but steady pace. And let’s face it: I’m a nobody from Nowhere. It would be unrealistic to expect some kind of meteoric rise.
My biggest presence is on Facebook., where I have two pages. One is personal, which tracks my day-to-day happenings. I’ve somehow managed to draw some 4,600 friends there. Considering the limit is 5,000, I have to express a certain amount of pride.
A year or so before my book was published, I created a page based around it. At first I called it I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This, after the book’s title. In time, however, I came to realize the page was moving beyond the book itself. Music, after all, never stops. So I changed the page’s name to CirdecSongs, like all my other sites.
My friend Erik Oldman, guitarist for metal/fusion band Sons of Ra, told me the magic number for followers on such a specialized page was 2,000. Hitting that number opened up new possibilities, he said. You’re nowhere near your potential until you have 2,000 followers.
Made sense to me.
Facebook’s “pages” feature prominently displays your number of followers. So imagine my excitement this past spring when I saw my number reach 1,960. I was getting close. I put out an appeal for a few more clicks on my personal page. The number swelled mildly to 1,980. And now I’m at 1,962.
Say what now?
Not only have I not hit the magic number, I’m actually going backward. What the hell is going on? I can’t say for certain, but I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities:
1. I’m doing it wrong. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know enough about social media and how the algorithms work. Clearly, this is something I need to study. Initially, I reserved my CirdecSongs for music-oriented topics, period. Then my part-time social media consultant (aka my teenage daughter) said that approach was boring. She said people want to know about you in other contexts. So I slipped in bits of “food porn,” mentioned when I was on the road, and connected my page to my Instagram, which could go just about anywhere. That seemed to work for a bit. Now I’m stalled.
2. The Ban, the Temporary Lift, and the Backlash. When I started the CirdecSongs page, I made it clear that there would be no discussion of politics or religion. The irony of music frequently being a vehicle for those very topics was not lost on me. Still, it was a slippery slope, and one I didn’t want to find myself falling to the bottom of. It’s not that I lacked the courage of my convictions. I lacked the time to sit around arguing about them.
A music journalist I admire told me privately that I should speak out more about social injustice. While I didn’t disagree with him, I also knew I was nowhere near as established as he was. My time hadn’t come yet. Oddly, that same journalist blocked me from his platforms earlier this year. Absolutely nothing led to this event. One day, I was an avid follower singing his praises. The next, I was blocked. I’m guessing my career in law enforcement had something to do with it, as he was severing pretty much anything perceived as “right-wing” from his world. He’s free to do what he wants, of course. I only wish he had talked to me first.
I did my best to maintain my page’s relative objectivity. The George Floyd incident, however, was too much for me to bear. I had to speak out and make it clear I was not the type of cop who would do such a thing, and I would not support any cop who did. Nor would I vote for anyone not interested in the advancement of social change. I also suggested that anyone having a problem with my stance was free to unfollow me. A few people took me up on that offer.
One follower took the time to DM me to tell me he was leaving, and why. He became even more furious with me when I made it clear I wasn’t going to argue about it. I simply wished him “adieu,” and went about my life. I make no apologies for my stance. The elimination of those people simply made room for others. Breaking my most sacred rule by opening my mouth may have cost me. So be it.
3. I haven’t ponied up. Facebook is happy to maintain the CirdecSongs page. But they have also made it clear that I can increase my presence by paying to reach further into their world. To date, I have declined. That may be a mistake. Investors and real estate barons often say, “You have to spend money to make money.” I don’t know why I thought my page would be any exception. Clearly, it isn’t. The fact my “likes” and comments seem to come from the same people should’ve been a huge hint early on. Alas, the Hendrix Stubborn Streak runs deep. And now that music and journalism are a full-time part of my world, it’s well past time to rethink my position. I suppose I’ll do what I have/need to do.
When it comes to building a platform, I have a lot to learn. Every success is celebrated. Every mistake is a learning experience. Here’s hoping by the end of the year I can make my way through that magic barrier, and good things await me on the other side.
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently at work on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.