I read a guest-post on Jeff Vandermeer’s blog on the subject of “Author Platforms”. For those of you who don’t know this bit of newspeak, an “Author Platform” refers to the idea that writers need to have something that defines them and their audience, something that illustrates the writer’s salability. It’s generally understood to mean that authors need a “built-in audience”, and many writers take the suggestion that they need to start promoting themselves now if they’re ever going to get their novel published.
The reason this idea has grown so popular is that there has been a meme perpetuated on the masses of young, undiscovered writers that agents and editors won’t even look at their book unless they have a “platform”, a “built-in audience”. The meme goes further to suggest that if said agent or editor googles your name, and you’re not the first hit that comes up then your query is an instant-fail.
And let’s be honest with ourselves: I’ve bought into this meme as much as the next guy. Why the heck else did I start a blog titled “Stephen Watkins, Writer” to compliment my “Undiscovered Author“?
But this post makes an important point: write first, promote later. In other words, if there’s nothing to promote, then there’s no point to the promotion. Okay… raise your hands if you’re guilty.
On the other hand, there’s another side to this, as well. One thing I’ve learned since starting my first blog is that there is an incredible amount of community support that can be very influential in keeping we undiscovered authors at the keyboards, actually writing. The fact is, the numbers – the statistics – just aren’t in our favor. There are so many people who dream of becoming writers – real, honest-to-goodness published writers – and there are so few slots open on publishers schedules that many of us – most of us – simply won’t make it. That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow. Many of us will give up, eventually, because of that.
But some of us will not. And if we don’t give up, and if we do succeed, we’ll largely have the support of our fellow writers-in-training to thank for it.
So, blog on, fellow undiscovered authors. Blog on.
But also: write. Write your story. Finish it. Please.
Now, to slay the hypocrite within, and actually write something, myself. Ha! Soon, perhaps, I shall set words down again. Now that I’ve got some good ideas for a novel (a different novel than the one which I’ve been writing since forever), I actually have something to write, too, besides short stories…