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View Full Version : Agent's thoughts about platforms... and the lack thereof.



Sue D. Nimh
02-09-2016, 08:17 PM
I have a question that may sound like I'm putting the cart before the horse. The answer will only satisfy my curiosity and not change my plan to worry about nothing else other than writing a great story by writing, writing and writing a lot more.

The short version of the story that goes with my question is simple. I've always had the ambition to be a published novelist. I've never pursued it because I've spent the last three decades looking after others. Now it's my turn and I intend to begin writing, and finishing, a novel to submit to agents for representation. My intention is to write, write, write. I'm focused, without distraction except for the curiosity of the following question.

I live a very quiet, peaceful life. I don't have an internet presence of any kind. If you performed an internet search of my real name, you might find a very old address of somewhere I may have once lived. Basically, to the world, I'm nonexistant. How much of a role does this play with agents and publishers in their decision to represent or publish?

I ask this because I've read many articles and stories online about how, today, agents and publishers like seeing writers with a good platform to provide a base to spring from when it comes to marketing and advertising.

To note, I realize that a platform isn't necessary and that it doesn't necessarily mean it will be easier to get an agent by having one. I know many writers have less than flattering internet presences, too, which can damage their chances. (Or so I've also read.) I also realize that a great story with great writing is the most important thing, so writers should simply concentrate on that and let the rest unfold in due course.

So, basically, I'm wondering what the thought processes of agents and publishers are when they're presented with a manuscript that they like, but the writer isn't even listed in Who's That? much less in Who's Who, when they consider the prospect of publishing their work?

cornflake
02-09-2016, 08:48 PM
No matter. If you were trying non-fic, it'd possibly matter.

Cyia
02-09-2016, 09:03 PM
The short version of the story that goes with my question is simple. I've always had the ambition to be a published novelist. I've never pursued it because I've spent the last three decades looking after others. Now it's my turn and I intend to begin writing, and finishing, a novel to submit to agents for representation. My intention is to write, write, write. I'm focused, without distraction except for the curiosity of the following question.

Welcome to my life about five years ago.


I live a very quiet, peaceful life. I don't have an internet presence of any kind. If you performed an internet search of my real name, you might find a very old address of somewhere I may have once lived. Basically, to the world, I'm nonexistant. How much of a role does this play with agents and publishers in their decision to represent or publish?

You can find more than you think, but so long as what can be found isn't something that would make any reasonable person run screaming in the opposite direction, you're fine.


I ask this because I've read many articles and stories online about how, today, agents and publishers like seeing writers with a good platform to provide a base to spring from when it comes to marketing and advertising.

Platform is more for non-fiction, so that they know you know what you're talking about, and that people are willing to listen to you.


To note, I realize that a platform isn't necessary and that it doesn't necessarily mean it will be easier to get an agent by having one. I know many writers have less than flattering internet presences, too, which can damage their chances. (Or so I've also read.) I also realize that a great story with great writing is the most important thing, so writers should simply concentrate on that and let the rest unfold in due course.

Pretty much. You get a gold star.:Sun:(the sun counts as a star, K?)


So, basically, I'm wondering what the thought processes of agents and publishers are when they're presented with a manuscript that they like, but the writer isn't even listed in Who's That? much less in Who's Who, when they consider the prospect of publishing their work?

They hopefully think: OMG, this book is AWESOME and I need to sign this person RIGHT NOW!

If you want to, you can start a Twitter account or Tumblr, or whatever suits your interest and activity level. Start it under the name you intend to query under. (personally, I like the one you're using here. :greenie ) Follow agents there, and read their blogs. Comment, also with the name you intend to query under. Make yourself known.

I started from scratch with a pen name that had zero online history or searchability. I posted here, and on agent blogs (try to get one of the first comment slots, if possible). Just by doing that, I met other writers, and became well enough known to several of the agents I followed that when query time rolled around they remembered my name. That's a huge help when you want to stand out from the pack.

Curlz
02-09-2016, 09:49 PM
I live a very quiet, peaceful life. I don't have an internet presence of any kind. ...Basically, to the world, I'm nonexistant. ]So is Thomas Pynchon. Google him, but he's mostly a rumour (and a legend!) And none of that makes his books less popular. There are various ways to make a book popular and author's participation is only one of them. There are many small-time authors who diligently perform lots of publicity efforts to no avail because the public just doesn't want to read their books. Make a book that lots of people want to read, and you're done.

Old Hack
02-09-2016, 10:25 PM
It really isn't a problem. Don't worry. All you have to do is write a really good book.

mayqueen
02-09-2016, 10:27 PM
I don't think it matters unless you're writing nonfiction, like cornflake said. (Lately I feel like 90% of my posts are some version of the statement "what cornflake said.") An agent is going to be interested in your story and writing first and foremost at the querying and offer of rep stage. When you get to the publication deal stage, then maybe you should start thinking about social media. But that's a conversation to have with your agent and publisher's marketing team.

If you're interested in building ways to get yourself noticed, I'd recommend pouring your energy into constantly improving your craft (which it sounds like you're already planning to do -- yay!) and, depending on your genre, publishing short stories in reputable literary magazines or journals. I've heard of more writers getting interest from agents who saw a short story they published in Big Name In The Genre Quarterly than happened to see that they have a blog and some twitter followers. :) Which is not to say that the latter never happens, but I don't personally know anyone who it's happened to, while I do know writers in the former camp.

Sue D. Nimh
02-11-2016, 12:46 AM
Thanks heaps, everyone. Really. It's nice having a niggling curiosity itched. It makes sense that a platform is great for nonfiction but isn't necessary for fiction. It's just that with all the changes in how things are done these days, I wasn't sure. All of the kindness and encouragement you've given is appreciated.

All I want to do is tell really good stories. I don't give a fig muffin about being famous. To get a novel published and know that people are enjoying it is all I want. And I want to do it the old fashioned way of submitting to agents and having a publisher excited to take me on. Selfishly, and I know this is extremely rare today, especially for new authors, I want to do a real book signing where readers actually show up. Not so I can be recognized or give autographs, but I want that interaction to hear from readers personally.

Anyway, I really appreciate the feedback. I'm ready to get writing!

cornflake: Thanks for taking the time to reply! Do you know the story of how and why cornflakes were invented and what they were used for? Check Wikipedia. I learned this recently and found it surprising!

Cyia: Thanks for such a thoughtful and detailed response. (And the gold star! No delusions of grandeur here!) I can see the benefit of doing what you did with social media. It sounds like it's given you a few opportunities that you may not have had otherwise. Personally, I wouldn't know the first thing about using social media. For now, I'm content with focusing solely on writing the best story I can. It's good to know that there are multiple options out there for me to learn and use though.

Curls: Thanks for the encouragement about Thomas Pynchon. I'll definitely look into him. If and when it gets to the point of publishing and advertising my book, I'm willing to do what I can. I would just like to do it in ways that coincide with who I am. I don't want to be false or make myself out to be someone I'm not - like a social media user/lover. That makes no sense since I will only publish under a pseudonym, but it's for privacy purposes and is an acceptable practice in the industry, so...

Old Hack: Plain and simple. And that's all I want to do. Right now I want to put all of my energy into writing my little heart out. I'll cross the other bridges when they come. Until then, it's wasted time and energy for me.

may queen: That's great advice that I'll be taking on board. Yes, I'm at the place where my time and energy will be spent on the craft of writing. All other bridges will be crossed when I come to them. But you're advice about short stories is really going to help me add some balance to this process. I become keenly focused on what I'm doing and that's not always a good thing. I'm the kind of person who never takes breaks - and that's definitely a bad thing for me. I think keeping the possibilities of redirecting my focus occasionally is an excellent idea for me. So, thanks to you, I'll likely do just that. Writing contests, too. These are the kinds of things that will keep me energized and my brain free from the heaviness of intense focusing. Thanks!

CEtchison
02-11-2016, 01:22 AM
Absolutely don't worry about it. When I picked up writing again in 2009, blogs were the big thing and the last thing I wanted to do was blog. So I didn't and look how many inactive blogs are out there now. I joined Twitter years ago because my friends and I found it the easiest way to chat during our favorite shows. Now I mostly live tweet while watching sports and only have 243 followers. I set up a Facebook author account (still haven't done the page) and only have 38 friends. I didn't worry about branding or search engine optimization or all that other crap that people said "you must do this first" and hey, I got an agent and sold my book. When I have a cover and copy to promote the first book, I'll put some more effort into it. But right now my publisher wants me to focus on writing a great second book instead.

Like everyone here has told you, spend your energy on writing a really great book. That's what matters most.

Sue D. Nimh
02-11-2016, 02:01 AM
Absolutely don't worry about it. When I picked up writing again in 2009, blogs were the big thing and the last thing I wanted to do was blog. So I didn't and look how many inactive blogs are out there now. I joined Twitter years ago because my friends and I found it the easiest way to chat during our favorite shows. Now I mostly live tweet while watching sports and only have 243 followers. I set up a Facebook author account (still haven't done the page) and only have 38 friends. I didn't worry about branding or search engine optimization or all that other crap that people said "you must do this first" and hey, I got an agent and sold my book. When I have a cover and copy to promote the first book, I'll put some more effort into it. But right now my publisher wants me to focus on writing a great second book instead.

Like everyone here has told you, spend your energy on writing a really great book. That's what matters most.

Your post is not only encouraging and exciting to read (Congratulations!), but it really confirms something for me.

(The following is only my own opinion and means absolutely nothing.)

I'm not against social media, it's just not me. Although I do loathe Facebook with the passion of 2,000 burning suns. Western society has seemingly become nothing more than a trendy bandwagon to hop on and off of as things become "in" and go "out." Social media is just one giant selfie for everyone. People post the best of themselves, even if they have to make it up. Social media isn't a real look at people's lives but of their marketing, branding, and acting abilities. I'm speaking in general and from my own experiences, of course. Naturally there are exceptions! Still, if this is someone's goal, or the source of their enjoyment, then I say they should make the most of it.

Your post is confirming in that I have the exact same philosophy. Until I get two, very well written books under my belt, the concentration of my efforts will be strictly on writing. Thanks for the reply!

Jamesaritchie
02-12-2016, 04:51 AM
Platform doesn't matter with many type of nonfiction. The nonfiction world has little in common with the fiction world. If you're writing a nonfiction book about medicine, you probably need both credentials and some sort of platform. If you're writing a nonfiction book about folk mountain cures, you probably need neither.

cornflake
02-12-2016, 05:52 AM
Of course I know how cornflakes are created - the mommy cornflake and the daddy cornflake meet in the darkest corner of the box...

Kerosene
02-12-2016, 06:02 AM
Of course I know how cornflakes are created - the mommy cornflake and the daddy cornflake meet in the darkest corner of the box...

Can confirm: I saw it go down. It was crunchy, if you know what I mean.

Emily Winslow
02-12-2016, 12:41 PM
Platform doesn't matter with many type of nonfiction. The nonfiction world has little in common with the fiction world. If you're writing a nonfiction book about medicine, you probably need both credentials and some sort of platform. If you're writing a nonfiction book about folk mountain cures, you probably need neither.

Even with "folk mountain cures" you would need some grounds for your authority. Maybe academic credentials, or personal experience (family lore, etc.).

In discussions here at AW, I have seen platform for nonfiction better defined as the reason YOU should write this book. I like that better than the theory of platform as number of followers or a kind of fame.

Brian G Turner
02-12-2016, 02:21 PM
I ask this because I've read many articles and stories online about how, today, agents and publishers like seeing writers with a good platform to provide a base to spring from when it comes to marketing and advertising.

I have a big online platform - but have been told by multiple agents that they will judge me only on my prose. Anything else is a bonus for later, and it's not a problem for a writer to not have a website.

cornflake
02-13-2016, 11:44 PM
Can confirm: I saw it go down. It was crunchy, if you know what I mean.

:o

:chair


:cry:

Laer Carroll
02-13-2016, 11:56 PM
In today's world every writer needs a web site - eventually. With the first book, probably not. It will sell based on other kinds of promotion. The chance that someone will find your site accidentally, then grow interested in your book, are miniscule.

Once you have a book out and selling, however, a site becomes more important. If you're lucky, that book will make some readers want to find out more: about you, about the book they just read, maybe the background of the book, and especially about more books you plan to write.

The site becomes more important if you write series. Your first book should be complete in itself, providing a satisfying conclusion to the story. But sometimes (maybe years later) you will realize that your characters or your setting are interesting enough to bring you, and your readers, back to them for more adventures. That's how a lot of series begin.

Then the question often arises: in what order should a reader approach your books, if they've just encountered them for the first time. Maybe because a friend suggested your books. Your web site is where most readers will search for that answer.

PatiQlee
02-14-2016, 12:13 AM
Of course I know how cornflakes are created - the mommy cornflake and the daddy cornflake meet in the darkest corner of the box...
:roll: