Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Platforms and Blogs for Fiction Writers

What are your thoughts on platforms for fiction writers? I certainly get it for nonfiction writers (whose product isn't really a book but themselves and their ideas) but I'd rather spend my time writing.

Does a fun, amusing blog increase my presence when it comes time to query?

In answer to your questions:

(1) Fiction writers do not need platforms.

(2) No, not at all. I don't stop what I'm doing to look at author's websites because they're mentioned in the query. You can mention you have a blog, just like everyone else seems to, but don't direct me to it, or worse, require me to visit it to get an actual summary of your work. Then I will just be angry.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

The answer to this question varies by agent and editor. I suggest the person do a search on other agent and editor blogs.
;)

Anonymous said...

Can I be cranky and say I can't stand the whole, "I've got a blog," thing?

Not just writers', of course, but all quasi-professional blogs. They've become collectively grating, a constant sort of whine.

I do visit a couple of agent/editor blogs a few times a week -- this being one -- but most author/unpubbed writer blogs have the same posts over and over...
"This chapter isn't working." "Why can't I get this ending down?" "An agent has a partial, why won't they answer my status query?"

It's nothing but white noise.

Is it just me that thinks this?

jjdebenedictis said...

Anon 8:36AM, you're frequenting the wrong blogs, then. None of my blogger-buddies seem to do that. (Er. Very often. :-) )

There's a bazillion-and-two blogs in the naked internet. Just keep hunting.

Deb said...

I've heard of pre-published authors being asked how they're going to market their book; what their target demographic is; yes, and what's their platform. This in an agent query package, not after the author and agent sign the agreement.

The answers spread all over the continuum, and I've probably heard every variation at some point or another.

Anonymous said...

Fiction writers don't need platforms? Really? It doesn't seem to you that platform is the new hot item everywhere in publishing? Look at the complaints in NYTBR about Mark Sarvas, that the only reason he got reviewed was because he was a well-known lit blogger. In fact, look at how many lit bloggers are getting book deals. Look at how many bloggers in general are getting book deals. Isn't the grim reality that a some kind of forward promotional effort is essential to getting a book to lift off?

kitty said...

I think writers' blogs are more for their readers' benefit.

...

Vivien V. said...

I try to keep my blog focused on the craft of writing, and not to comment on the progress of my work. I agree that it's tedious, and no one else really cares that you wrote 10 or 15 pages today, or that you can't find the right word for a particular sentence.

I keep my posts concerned only with what I've learned about writing.

Dr. Dume said...

I wonder, when I read those blogs that have whole chapters up, whether the author hasn't just messed up their own sale?

Wouldn't a publisher automatically turn down a story if it's already completely - or mostly - on the internet?

Yes, it'll be revised but if the basic story is open to the world then the idea of a sale goes out of the window, surely?

I prefer to use my blog to talk about day-to-day life at Dume Towers. The still-unpublished books get mentioned but there are no snippets at all.

The blog is there to entertain, nothing more. It's not mentioned in the queries, but it will get a mention if an agent ever succumbs to my ghastly charms.

Then I might even have to admit to everything I've been up to, so the agent will have time to prepare an alibi.

paul lamb said...

While I agree with your point intuitively (that fiction writers don't need platforms), I see plenty of them, and the writers say their publisher or agent insisted they get one going to help promote the work.

I keep two blogs, but both are mostly just for my own note taking and personal discovery.

Chumplet said...

There's a fine balance between too much talk about writing and too much personal information on blogs. I like to balance the two.

I blog for my readers and fellow writers. We encourage each other, participate in writing exercises and have some laughs.

If an agent drops by just for fun, I don't mind at all.

I have to watch what I say because my dad reads it...

Jason said...

I actually keep my blog as a receptacle of all the thoughts cluttering my head that I don't think will be useful in my serious writing. I just need to get it out of my system--no structure, no rewriting, no editing. Just purging.

I'd never direct a potential agent to that. They'd think I'm a moron. Or insane.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon @ 8:36. And the only thing I'd like to add is that these blogs are so self-indulgent that more often than not the blogger comes off looking like an amateur in the most painful way.

Kidlitjunkie said...

While I agree with your point intuitively (that fiction writers don't need platforms), I see plenty of them, and the writers say their publisher or agent insisted they get one going to help promote the work.

Ah! Paul_lamb, you've hit upon an important point. If you are a published writer, it is ideal to have a blog (if you have the energy to keep it up) or at the very least, a professional-looking website to promote your book, and it should be up and running before your book pubs.

But until that point, when you have no book deal, and you don't need the public to plunk down their hard-earned cash to buy your book, only the publisher/agent--no one cares (on a professional level) about your blog or website.

What I'm saying is, you're not wrong, but it's only useful once you've got the book deal.

Bobby said...

Looking for clarification...

I understand that an author's website should never be provided in lieu of a good query--but would it necessarily hurt the author to include it?

I am building a site for my unpub. novel, because I am a designer and it is fun/easy for me. My hope is--if an agent likes my query and wants to see more, they can do so instantly.

But, is it insulting to even mention it when youre using it as a tool totally independent from your already fantastic query? I don't want it to seem like I'm giving the agent a job to do, but I want to give them instant access if they're interested.

Anonymous said...

There are rare cases where a writer's blog directly contributed to a writer getting a book deal (an example is Diablo Cody's blog about being a stripper leading to her book deal for CANDYGIRL---which, incidently, she got via a filmmaker, of all things). She then went on to write the screenplay for JUNO. But of course, that is the exception, not the rule. It's rare for blogs to interest agents or publishers unless the daily hits are HUGE (like 10,000+ hits a day or something)

Anonymous said...

I generally agree with Anon 8:36, although I have found a couple of worthwhile topics from time to time; generally though, the blogs (especially writers' blogs, but largely agents' blogs too) are white noise and mostly populated with wannabes seeking confirmation of what they "know" or think is right, or else seeking tailored guidance on their highly personal situation.

I think some of these blog posters are blogging more than they are actually writing novels; like they're more into the social "writer's life" (whatever the heck that is) aspect of it than actually writing; talking about how to get published, but not really working toward getting published. That what it seems life from the outside, anyway.

cindy said...

for me, i do blog and i blog about whatever i please--often about writing. to me, the imporantce of blogging is joining a community and reading others who interest and encourage.

i *did* get a book deal directly because of my new blog. (i started one under my name when my novel went to submission to publishing houses--because i was driving myself crazy waiting. i had never blogged using my full name, but felt it was time to start "branding" myself.)

i posted that i've always wanted to write a childrens picture book using my own paintings. the next day, an editor who read my novel and liked it googled me. she saw my art and emailed my agent asking if i had any samples of childrens picture books to show her.

agent asked me and i confirmed it was "just a dream" i have.

a couple week later, i had a three book offer for my debut novel, its sequel and a childrens picture book thrown in.

i wouldn't believe it if it didn't happen to me. and all thanks to the blog i started a couple weeks earlier.

don't let anyone tell you that keeping an author blog is a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Cindy,

There is a huge difference between blogs of already published authors, for whom the blog is nothing but a promotional tool to gain exposure (as your self-described case fits into) and the legions of unknown writers keeping blogs because they think it will help them.

Yes, once you get published (as soon as you get a deal, I'd say) I think it's important to have a blog, facebook, myspace, twitter, tweeter, second life, website, shutterbug, youtube trailers and all the rest....(as long as you still have time to write book #2)...

But does it really help to hear how Jane Doe Writer worked through her chapter 22 writer's block...all while Jeeperz the cat sat in her lap helping!!!!!!! And the in-laws are coming to stay this weekend and how will she ever get the pages on her "WIP" done, OMG!!!

I think not.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Cindy: You sound a little like Carrie Underwood telling the thousands of people who can't sing at the American Idol auditions to keep trying when they should be switching careers. Sounds like you and your blog are the exceptions to the rule, but I know you have good intentions :)

Paul Lamb said...

I can't say I disagree with all of the anonymous comments, but I wish the individuals hadn't hidden behind the anonymous name tag.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

The very progenitor of this blog hides behind anonymity...I'm!just keeping with the spirit of the blog!

Besides, you don't need to know who I am--consider my ideas for what they are. Make your own decision.

Anonymous said...

Apparently my comments about Mark Sarvas either didn't get to you or you didn't like them but I'll try again. Aren't we seeing more and more fiction writers who do have platforms, and Mark Sarvas now being another? Aren't publishers operating out of fear and greed desperate for any promotional leg up?

Jana Lubina said...

I think the only reason to have a blog is because you -- you the writer/artist/whomever -- want one. I wanted one; I got one.

With that said, I fully expect published authors to have websites and/or blogs. And while they're at it, make their books easily visable at first glance and have sample chapters up. I don't think that's asking too much.

Many published authors have horrid websites that tell you nothing, and you have no visable link to the actual books they want us to read and buy.

And if you're an aspiring novelist (yeah, that's me too) it makes sense to register your own domain name and just start blogging or whatever from there. Why not? People overthink this crap.

Mightybri's blogs said...

I keep two.

One for writing and one for my hobby.

cindy said...

annon 3.33--i wasn't a published author when my blog landed me an extra book offer. (i'm still unpublished until next year.)

because of my blog, my two book deal (novel and sequel) turned into a three book deal (with childrens picture book included).

and i agree, any aspiring author who wants to keep a blog should!
(it may gain you an extra book offer!) no one is obligated to read them! that's what i love about the www.

Alan Rinzler said...

As a veteran acquiring book editor with a deep appreciation for fiction writers and a long track record -- beginning with Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye -- I want to get in here and say that I think platform can be as important for the fiction writer as non-fiction.

Novelists can create a connection to their readers with a website and invite communication, or even collaboration through blogging.

The time may come when a kind of open-source "by-subscription" never-ending story could be written through direct author/reader contact. Has everyone heard of the first-attempt "wovel" out there right now?

It may not be for everyone, but there are fiction writers who would agree with whomever it was who said "blogging is like a permanent author tour". What could be better than being able to relate directly to your readers?

Alan Rinzler
www.alanrinzler.com