19 Comments

  1. Nice website, Michael, and yes, exactly. I wonder, though, if a popular blog is an easier way to a publishing contract than writing a good book. I think that’s the part I see as a problem. Or dilemma. Or something.

    I suppose it depends on how one defines “good book,” of course, and how difficult it is to write one. I’m sure mileage varies.

    One would hope, for example, that a blog would get popular by way of good writing, but there again, Twilight proves good writing is not key to popularity.

  2. GREG

    Interesting stuff, Will. And thanks for the TK shout-out.

    For what it’s worth, I had no platform of any kind when my book got sold. In fact, when I met with the editors, I was afraid that they would pass because of my lack of platform. Only when I had the book deal did I venture out in search of a platform.

    Personally, I think the less you (meaning any writer, including me) spend thinking about money, the better. Audience, yes, but not money. I think it has a paralyzing effect…all it can do is make you cynical. The templates for what we’re doing are not Palin or Meyer, anyway. Those two are both, in effect, lotto winners. A great many writers in the canon made very little money during their lifetimes. Alas…

  3. Thank Greg. Glad you liked it. It’s so hard to write about, and to keep one’s eye on the prize. Which you’re totally right about, because the prize is more readers. Reaching an audience better and more effectively and delivering to them what they want.

    You’re also, of course, right about Palin and Meyer. It’s actually rather difficult to correlate publishing examples, because every book is so different.

  4. Another part of the issue, though, is that, in the traditional model, good writing doesn’t always get noticed. Thirty years ago, even if you were a great writer, you still needed the support of editors and publishers in order to find your audience. These days, it’s possible to find your audience directly. And this can be useful to writers, good and bad, whose ability to draw an audience may not have been obvious from the writing itself.

  5. GREG

    WE – You picked good examples; I didn’t mean to sound like I was knocking them. I meant it more as a good thing…compare/despair and all that.

    MBC – On the whole, I think it’s better to be doing this now, because of what you suggest…there IS a way to find an audience, if you’re willing to. Some of it is luck, of course, but then, what isn’t? The good news is that, unlike in the music industry, agents and editors ARE on the lookout for good writers…whereas record execs stopped cultivating talent decades ago. I often read something and am unwowed, but I rarely if ever read something that didn’t deserve to be published. If that makes sense. The online forum means it’s easier for agents and editors to find us, which is a good thing.

  6. @Michael: The sense of empowerment–in fact, the actual empowerment–you mention is one of the single greatest things about the Internet. There are few things more personally, professionally, and even spiritually satisfying than finding, reaching, and serving an audience. Unfortunately, it can also go the other way; now that everyone has a computer and an Internet connection, everyone wants to believe they can write. And they can. Just not all of them actually well.

    @Greg: Oh, I didn’t think you were knocking them, just furthering your point about examples. What you mention about agents and editors being on the lookout for good talent is one of the great things about being online, and your point about being unwowed and deserving to be published is great, too. Books are so subjective, and maybe more so than any other medium because we as readers do so much of the work in our heads; there are as many different imaginings of what Taylor looks like as there are readers of Totally Killer, and they’re all totally right. I’ve read a handful of books I’ve wondered what their publishing houses and editors were thinking, but mostly it’s a matter of not falling in love at first chapter. Then again, I’m also generally not so wowed by Pulitzer, NB, or even Nobel prize winners, so my taste may just be a bit funky; I certainly can’t make an argument they didn’t deserve publication, mostly. But, then, I wonder if things are changing so everything deserves publication; there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of putting everything out there and letting the culture decide for itself.

  7. Thanks for the article. Found this through Twitter, re-tweeted. It covers much of what I’ve been considering, having launched my own publishing company two months ago–this after having one novel publishing by a conglomerate, and the next seven rejected (with a different agent championing each work). The Internet is awash with try this, do that, free this, hook readers, but I spent time in commercial television and as an international Marketing Communications Manager–not a happy puppy during this time–but much of it is the same hamburger they’ve been propagating off-line for years. We’ve all finding our legs in this shifting, hopeful, possibly quicksand etherland. We’ll see, mostly through posts like this, and It Will Take Time. But mostly I think it is done by writing well, releasing it, letting it be known, repeat.

  8. You’re welcome, Vincent. Glad you found it useful. Interesting background; I’ve got the commercial television roots myself. You’re totally right; everything is awash with new ideas, and perhaps this writing well, letting it be known, repeat really is the best way to find some level of making a living; we writers have pretty much always written on spec, so maybe this is just the logical extension of that former principle. Difference being, of course, we’re writing it and sharing it and know people are reading and enjoying it but still not yet getting paid, which can be frustrating. Good luck with that publishing company; will definitely check that out. I think the level to which more and more writers are willing to do it themselves is pretty awesome. Provided, I don’t necessarily always think the product is, but then again, I don’t think all books are awesome, anyway.

  9. I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot myself lately, and I think you nailed it when you said that agents and editors never mention that aspiring authors need to have a platform in addition to having a great book. A lot of aspiring writers that I’ve met have taken the “platform” concept to heart at the expense of their “serious” writing. Or, to put it another way, I know a lot of writers who spend so much time blogging about writing that they don’t do any other writing (myself, at times, included). I wonder if part of this has to do with the immediate gratification of blogging; I’ll be the first to admit that I like having my voice “out there,” and blogging lets me get it out there that much more quickly and easily. But to what end? In my more paranoid moments, I wonder if the ease of blogging is part of some vast conspiracy to separate serious, dedicated writers from those who are more easily distracted or in love with seeing their own words in a public forum. More optimistically, though, I like to think of blogging as a social act, an essential part of participating in the writing community — and your site does a great job of promoting dialogue along these lines.

  10. Thanks, Marc. I think you’re right; it’s really easy to get wrapped up in blogging–the comments and the feedback and the instantaneous gratification–and forget why we’re blogging in the first place. Out of enjoyment and to deliver high quality content in the hope of building an audience, as Greg mentioned is one thing, but doing it for increasingly higher numbers and stats as a way to build a platform is another. Arguably, neither is wrong, but the former is probably more fulfilling. One great thing, though, is that we writers have a place to discuss this kind of thing now, by way of Twitter and blogs about writing and business. It really is very empowering, and in a very real way is making what was once a solitary act–sitting alone in a room making up stories–more social, as you note. It’s truly awesome that when there is a dilemma like this one, we can know we’re going to have a lot of other really smart writers contributing to the discussion about it.

  11. Lee: You know, I’m a pretty good cook, for the most part, but I am not sure how to prepare being “really good at something,” to put it on the table. No, but seriously, I totally don’t understand what you mean.

  12. A book trailer. That’s so awesome.

    Also: I don’t understand what Lee means by, “If you’re really good at something, you don’t need to get paid.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s the complete opposite.

  13. “It’s a solitary pursuit committed by romantic souls who yearn to tell the stories in their hearts to millions of people.”

    Wow.

    I’m so glad I found your blog again.

    And so glad we both escpapred the trappings of Myspace.

  14. I thought I knew you from myspace. I used to be a big blogger there, went my the name “Coqueto”

    Had a hell of a time and whetted my appetite for writing, and I did make some money there selling my work. However, since that platform is DEAD now, it does feel like it might have been a waste of time, as now I will have to start from scratch if I want to build an audience once more. I don’t care to spend that much time AGAIN, so I am not sure how far I will take it. I do have a novel out now, and will have my next one out before year’s end.

    I am glad to see you doing well here, Will. Kudos!

  15. Hi, Samuel. Yes, I think I remember you. So many of the pseudonyms blur.

    Congratulations on your novel. Honestly, with the transience of Internet culture and so many websites that catch on for a bit only to subsequently become a ghost town, I think having a novel is probably the best foundation for a platform one can find. It’s only been recently, after I’ve increased the breadth of my own work available, that I’ve felt comfortable writing more to a hopefully-getting-wider audience.

    So all best!

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