Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Platform Building - Part II

See March 25th for Part I. Penny Noyce is the author of "Lost in Lexicon" and "Ice Castle." She took the Lexicon concept from a self-published book to a fully realized campaign to package the Lexicon world with games, school visits, and, eventually, a academic book publisher. Her story is a lesson to all authors on how to build big from a small beginning. I couldn't resist bold-facing a few thoughts that I found particularly interesting. Now, here's Penny.

Building a Lexicon Platform - Part II

Meanwhile, marketing and building my platform continued, even as I worked on the second Lexicon book, The Ice Castle: An Adventure in Music, which will come out in August, 2012. The key to marketing, people told me, was to hook into my existing network and expertise. I had been working for twenty years in the world of education philanthropy, focusing on science education.

Now when people ask me to speak about science education, I ask to also hold a side session on combining math and literature at the middle school, with Lost in Lexicon as a prime example; or I ask them to buy copies of the book for conference attendees in lieu of paying a speaker’s fee. I have volunteered to speak in teacher education classes on children’s literature, and I applied to speak at a national conference on gifted education. I’m convinced that to build a presence requires public speaking, and I try hard not to turn down opportunities.

Last spring, one opportunity literally knocked at my door. An acquaintance from the science education world, Barnas Monteith, came to chat about writing and publishing. Before long, we joined with two other friends to start a new company, Tumblehome Learning. Combining our passions for writing, artwork, and science education, Tumblehome Learning invites kids to imagine themselves as scientists and engineers through exciting stories and accompanying hands on kits and activities. Together Barnas and I cooked up the idea for a new middle grade series called The Galactic Academy of Science, and I signed on to write the first book. We’ll present and start selling that book, The Desperate Case of the Diamond Chip, along with three others at the US Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC at the end of April.

Barnas is now based in Taiwan, so Tumblehome Learning is a bilingual, bicultural company. All our books will appear in both English and traditional Chinese. Last month I visited Taiwan, where we had a booth at the Taiwan International Book Exhibition. We made contacts with bookstores, foreign rights agents and publishers, various government agencies, and a great digital distributor. Shortly afterward, we got an offer to purchase rights for for Diamond Chip from a Korean publisher. Not only that, I learned to eat stinky tofu.

Travel, holding events, speaking at conferences, while meanwhile writing, running a company and continuing to work on science education has been tremendously stimulating but not yet lucrative. I’ve invested a lot more than I’ve earned. Luckily, I have enough financial cushion to do that for now, and I look on my writing career itself, like Tumblehome Learning, as a startup enterprise. Entrepreneurs invest cash and sweat up front in hope of a big payoff in both money and contribution to society later. I’m not na├»ve enough to expect riches, but I’m already experiencing the thrill of getting my own work and that of others out there and known. Kids send me fan mail with beautiful artwork. What could be better than that? Besides, next week I’m meeting with a museum friend to work on ice and music activities for The Ice Castle, and another friend is busy composing songs for the Lost in Lexicon musical.
Lost in Lexicon

When thirteen year-old cousins Ivan and Daphne complain of boredom, their Aunt Adelaide sends them on a treasure hunt in a land where words and numbers run wild. Before they know it, they’ve taken on a pet thesaurus and the challenge of finding the Land of Lexicon’s lost children.

The cousins travel from village to village, solving challenges, befriending an unlikely lot of characters and gathering clues. When a careless mathematician transports them to the Land of Night, their danger deepens. They have to call on all their courage and creativity to battle kidnapping, imprisonment and blind deceit before they can solve the mystery of the lights in the sky and return the lost children of Lexicon to their homes.

The Ice Castle
Their return to Lexicon is not all that Ivan and Daphne imagined. For one thing, Aunt Adelaide is deathly ill. For another, their musical younger cousin, Lila, has stumbled into their secret land.
Instead of rejoining old friends in the Land of Morning, Ivan and Daphne find themselves tracing Lila through a wintery landscape where what matters most is how well a person sings. Sorted by musical talent and consigned to different lives, the cousins face cold, illness, and attempted murder. Slave, servant or fine lady, each has to escape a kind of imprisonment before they can find one another, foment a revolution and restore spring to the Land of Winter.

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