Pondering Author Platform

Guest bloggery: While one of Angela’s personalities is arguing with Evil Monkey about who pays for the coffee, another other part is over here, hopefully posting something useful … other personalities are variously conducting a shoe-shine business in New Orleans, drinking coffee in Melbourne and complaining about the weather, and planning a jewellery heist in Paris (wherein I will ultimately be caught due to the permanent nose print I left on the glass surrounding the French Crown jewels) …

I work in a writers centre dealing on a daily basis with – surprise – writers. Some days are great: people have intelligent questions, take advice, succeed. Other days, I feel like I’m chasing my tail, talking to myself, being punished by The Universe … and I start to think ‘If I smack my head against the wall hard enough, it will all go away.’ One of the things I see a lot is writers madly self-promoting … without having written so much as a word on a cocktail napkin or published even a short story or an opinion piece. Oh, they have ‘platform’ – but then, so do many of my shoes – but they have no product. And the fact that this is a problem seems to escape many of them.

And so, may I present a repost of Pondering, something I wrote last February when my brain was ‘sploding …

… the idea of self-promotion, something with which a lot of writers are quite uncomfortable.

I’ve just finished writing an article for the next edition of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace on finding a literary agent … one of the points I put in there was ‘Write first, agent second’.

‘Splain?

Sure.

If you’re approaching a literary agent, you need to have a product to offer her/him. The agent is running a business, the business of selling your book to a publisher, who then sells the book to readers … and the happy outcome of all this is an income for everyone. Huzzah, puddings for all. Yet I still receive queries at least once a week from people who say ‘I’ve been thinking about writing and I need a literary agent.’

Well, why? You have no product to present. You got nuthin’, buddy. So, write first, agent second. And trying to find an agent in Australia? There are about 20 operating … count ‘em, 20. You really need to be able to make yourself stand out.

Similarly, I’m getting a bit perplexed by newbie writers who are creating webpages for themselves, stalking other writers on FB and the like in order to ‘promote’ themselves … when they have no writing. No publications out there for a reader to go and look at … some post their writing on the site and that’s fine … but those who don’t have anything there but are madly promoting themselves are a puzzle to me.

You need to have a product. You need to build a reputation based on your writing. If you’re a Mafia-hitman-in-training, then surely your resume should have some instances of actually putting horse heads in beds, rather than simply saying “I totally want to be a Mafia hitman and put horse heads in people’s beds, Mr Gotti.” Surely one must show a record of achievement.

Otherwise, where’s the substance of you as a writer? You’re just Paris Hilton, all surface, all self-pimping, no depth, no achievement. Why bother?

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi there,

    As the author of three unpublished novels (and a fourth underdevelopment), can I just say this is absolutely too true. Product is king and substance over style.

    I have seen this obessession with ‘platform’ trick new writers over and over again. Often to their own detriment. Instead of building a series of useful connections and becoming an embraced part of the writing community, they develop a reputation that will eventually hurt them when they go to market.

    Agents and publishers have been known to read author blogs and even, scarily, to talk to each other. So a bad experience can haunt you.

    Yet many writers seem to want to market themselves – not their work. It is almost as if they know their words won’t make them stand out so they are looking for an alternative. It may work once or twice but in long term you need to be able to write.

    Having a presence as an author is a necessary fact of life. Having a platform is great and is a fundamental part of modern marketing. I love reading writers blogs and even sometimes remember to update my own.

    But, just like your book, your platform is about communication. It is about having something to say and having a reason to say it. And having a reason why people should want to know what you saying and why you are saying it.

    Your blog is your selling tool so make sure it sells your work as well as yourself.

    A platform needs a foundation. Build that first otherwise the rest will come tumbling down.

    Cheers,
    Damon

  2. Cat Sparks says

    I am so over being spammed by writers I’ve never heard of promoting themselves on Facebook. One dick actually invited me to become part of a group where I’d be able to crit his novel in progress! Awesome stuff. Because I have so much free time and absolutely nothing better to be doing with it…

  3. says

    We live in an age of celebrity. A proportion of the people trying to ‘make it’ as writers are people just chasing celebrity, writing is just the way they have decided to do it. Paris Hilton probably is more of a model to them than Hemingway. It’s so accepted in broader society that the idea that celebrity for its own sake is a bad thing is completely alien to many people.

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