How important is a platform for writers seeking publication?
Well, let me start with an example. Andrew Peterson, the author of North! Or Be Eaten had a platform before he ever submitted his manuscript to a publisher or agent (Yes, agents look at platform too).
Peterson's platform...he's an accomplished musician with 12 albums released thus far. (He's also had a top ten radio hit).
So when Peterson submitted his manuscript, he had a leg to stand on. Now when I say "a leg" I do mean only one. He had to have another thing to stand on...and that's a great story! But having that combination of platform and story is a one-two punch. (To check out detailed reviews of North or Be Eaten, scroll down to the bottom of this post and check out some of the great blogs talking in depth about Peterson's book. And from what I'm hearing, its a wonderful book!)
Not all platforms are alike (most of us don't have a spotlight on us as musicians or other celebrites do) and we're certainly not popular enough to get whatever we write published. There are other ways for ordinary people to build up their writer's resume to become more appealing to publishers and agents.
1) Creating a blog is a great way to start telling people about your writing. (However, I must warn you that blogs wind up being much more than just a platform, you end up making lots of friends as well as great connections in different areas of the publishing industry). Eventually, if you have a book published, your blog can become a sort of news outlet for your readers, as well as a means of interaction with them. We humans were made to interact and have relationships; that's what makes blogs so endearing.
2) Short story publications. These are key! To have your short stories published accomplishes three things. First, they provide a credit to put on your resume. Second, they show the world what type of writer you are, and readers might be drawn to follow you along when they fall in love with your writing. Third, they help polish your own writing. We writers are constantly learning and growing, and with each story, we build upon our knowledge and stretch ourselves.
3) Networking. I personally never imagined how easy it is to network....the hardest part is trying. Let me give you some examples in my own life. Why not join a local writers group? You are bound to come away with not only great friendships and stronger writing, but also contacts who can help direct your writing path. For instance, I was fortunate to join a group in my city led by Bruce McAllister (twice nominated for the Hugo Award) and a man whose had dozens of short stories published in top magazines, and had a Hugo nominated novel come out by DAW in the late 80's. He gave me tons of great wisdom and insider info.
Another networking example. Mike Lynch and I wrote an archeological adventure novel and decided to shoot for the moon and contact a well known figure in the field who was both a published author and an adventurer who starred in several biblical archeological documentaries. It was while I was watching one of those documentaries when I thought, "hey, this guy might like my book". Well, I emailed the institute which he founded to see if I could get his email. To my shock, they gave me his phone number!!! I hardly knew what to do, and I had my co-author Mike call him (because I was too nervous to do it). To make a long story short, he wanted us to send him the novel, so we did, and after he read it, he gave us a glowing phone call in which he told us how much he loved it and promised to give us a quote for the book. He also offered to give it to his agent--talk about a recommendation! If Mike and I didn't already have an agent, we'd have jumped all over that offer.
Now the three examples above of platform building are just the essentials. Writers can use their personal skills, talents and personalities to create other platforms for their writing. But, remember, platforms provide only one leg (unless you're a celeb), the other leg is a great story with good story-telling, and in the end, it's the story-telling leg that is the most important.
I hope this little overview helps. I also want to direct you to Moonrat's editorial blog post that touches on this very topic. It's VERY enlightening about the publishing industry!
Labels: writing tips