Only the Rich Get Published (?)

The title of today’s blog came in a question that was much less confrontational, but significant nonetheless.

In the context of describing the extremely limited amount of money they could spend on writers conferences, online classes, training materials, etc. the writer summarized by asking, “… how can an unknown writer with very limited resources expect to get their writing published?”

This is a great question. But not an easy one to answer.

There is some truth to the adage that “you have to spend money to make money.” But for some that is not always an option. Unfortunately I’ve met some who have spent tens of thousands and still have no result. So it really isn’t a function of “buying” your way to publishing success.

Investing in a career isn’t even a blink when considering the cost of a college education or a technical school. But writing feels different. It is art. It is passion. It’s not a “day job.” And yet I have author friends who would beg to differ with that notion.

Should you spend the money in learning all you can about writing with excellence? If it is within your means? Absolutely. If you can’t afford it, there is an awful lot of information on the Internet that can teach or at least suggest the best way. Buying a book on writing a great novel might cost $15 but could transform your work in progress. If the funds aren’t there, check the library, the only cost is the trip to pick it up.

I do believe, and must believe, that If you write an incredible book it is very likely that it will be discovered by an agent or an editor and hopefully the marketplace. But we never ask to see the balance of your bank account. It is the quality of the work and the sales potential (aka commercial viability) that we are hunting. Every agent and publisher is looking for the next big thing…always.

The challenge is that we see so many ideas that unless something is extraordinary we simply move on to the next one in the proverbial pile. Recently I was sent a proposal and chapters from a 17-year-old that rocked me in my chair. I immediately requested the rest of the manuscript. It was not someone I met at a conference, it came via an email.

I heard the writing industry described as ten thousand writers in a field, each flying a kite…in a storm. Lightning does strike…but it looks haphazard and capricious. It may look that way, but in reality there is intentionality on the part of the selection. In a world where there are a billion stories and 10,000 new books are released in English each day (online and otherwise) it can be overwhelming and distressing.

It is something wrestled with each day. I know authors who pour time, talent, and resources into their writing. Some get that book contract only to have the book fail in the marketplace and their career ends after one book. I’ve seen others strive and work and achieve significant financial success. I know an author who once made over six figures in one year only to have that career unravel and now cannot get a publisher for their work. The variety of success or failure is astounding…a little bit like that lightning storm metaphor.

It sounds simplistic to say, but it ultimately an exercise in trusting in the sovereignty of God. It could be that your love of writing and efforts to that end have continued to grow your dependence on Him. You may pour your writing into your family. Your stories may delight them…and that can be enough. It also can be something that you simply love to do (some crochet, some garden, some volunteer, some cook, some write!). And that can be enough. Aspiring to be a published author can be a model to your children about devoting time and energy to something you love. It can be an inspiration to your friends and others you know. If it happens that someday you find an agent or a publisher who loves your story? That will be a day of grand celebration. But until then, write for His glory.

41 Responses to Only the Rich Get Published (?)

  1. Avatar
    Michael February 1, 2016 at 4:29 am #

    .
    Truth simply laid out Mr Laube.
    The goal is always His glory.
    A 17-year old sending a rocking proposal really got to me. And here I was thinking I was young at same age to write a novel. This post is a push.
    Thank you for this.

  2. Avatar
    Michael February 1, 2016 at 4:34 am #

    .
    Truth simply laid out. The goal is indeed His glory. A 17-year old sending a proposal and a rocking manuscript really touched me. Here I was having wondered if a manuscript written by someone aged 17 would be considered. This post is a push.
    Thank you Mr Laube.
    P.S: Has the 17-year old gotten a contract yet?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube February 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

      Still waiting on the full manuscript.

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    Carol Ashby February 1, 2016 at 6:06 am #

    Steve, it seems to me the biggest barrier isn’t money. It’s time, especially time to pour into creating the social media presence that forms the mandatory platform for a novelist. Juggling time demands is a zero-sum game. Time spent on the blog or Facebook is time not writing the book. For a person working a 40-hour week, raising kids, volunteering in the community, and serving at church, even the best time management skills may not overcome the shortage of time for all that is demanded of an author to get published. A mother working full time only has snippets of time bookending the day. Even if a person can live on 5 hours of sleep indefinitely, that still only leaves two to three hours a night for everything authorial. I’d be curious to see the demographics of newly published authors to see what fraction are in the middle of their lives versus empty-nesters and retired.

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser` February 1, 2016 at 8:36 am #

      The social media requirements are getting kind of absurd, because the skill needed to turn oneself into a minor celebrity with 50,000 followers have very little to do with writing…and makes me think that if I could afford a publicist, I’d hire one.

      My guess – and Steve, if you could weigh in here I would be grateful – is that we’re starting to see novels that are mediocre in their craft, but picked up because the author’s found a social media niche.

      • Avatar
        Steve Laube February 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

        Andrew,

        Mediocre writing is not rewarded in most cases.

        The problem with a sweeping generalization is that there are too many exceptions. For example, let’s say super-famous pastor wants to write a novel (it has happened!) and they don’t want to use a ghost writer, but write it themselves. It is an okay story, but the craft is mediocre. BUT the super-famous pastor has 50,000 people who will buy the book in a heartbeart just because it is by their favorite teacher.

        The book gets published and diligent writers everywhere scream “foul!”

        In that case, the platform trumped the craft.

        But in most cases, the quality of the work is premier. Many well known authors today had humble beginning with a modest book that someone believed in and gave them a chance.

        The picture of a field full of thousands flying a kite in an electric storm is so apt. Lightning will strike one of them, and there is no way to predict. But unless you are on the field with kite in hand there is no chance of it happening to you.

        • Avatar
          Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

          Steve, thank you so much for the time you took to give a detailed answer. It’s both illuminating and reassuring.

          The wind is up nicely, and we shall exeunt the Internet for the moment…

          Let’s go fly a kite,
          up to the highest height
          let’s so fly a kite,
          and send…it…soaring…
          up through the atmosphere,
          up where the air is clear,
          oh, let’s go…
          fly a kite!

          Yes, I have that memorized. Pathetic, eh?

          • Avatar
            Carol February 1, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

            Not pathetic at all. I like that one from Mary Poppins, too. Now you have me singing it in my brain again. Thanks!

  4. Avatar
    Deanna February 1, 2016 at 6:18 am #

    I’m certainly not rich (my husband is a mechanic and I only work 5 hours a week at a preschool) and I have a book contract being negotiated right now. There are scholarships available for most conferences, and if you can’t afford the flight then just attend the ones in your state.
    Like Steve said, the LIBRARY and internet are two great places to get a ton of helpful writing advice, starting off. That’s what I did.
    It also helps to have an extremely supportive spouse who is willing to put aside a small portion of their paycheck for months and months following a conference (thanks hun!). It’s called the art of being frugal and saving money, two skills a lot of people seem to not understand now a days. And before you bash me over the head, let me tell you that we have four kids and we are still able to send me to things with careful planning.

    Also, join online writing communities, there are a ton out there and a lot are free. You can meet some really interesting people that will help and stretch you as a writer.
    You can read the many blogs for writers like this one. Every bit of new information helps and is one step closer to making your dreams happen.

    Networking (which I feel is just a fancy way of saying MAKE FRIENDS) works! Invest in other people and they will invest in you. That’s probably the only reason I even have a contract (that may or may not work out-still figuring that out) in my hands. Well that, and I hope I’m a decent writer. 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 1, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    Money can help, but while conference attendance, say, might get a weak book looked at, it won’t get it published.

    And yes, writing craft resources are readily available, and editorial help of the best kind can come from friends and fellow writers.

    What can’t be bought is talent; either the talent to write beautifully, or to have an arresting idea, or both.

    Anyone can be taught to write clearly, but the transcendent life that brings words into their own…that’s a gift.

    It’s a bit like shooting when compared to the art of the sniper. I can teach anyone to hit a target at distances far greater than they ever thought possible; it’s mechanics and physiology. But you can’t teach just anyone to become a sniper; it takes a mindset…and a very, very solid faith. Nihilists go mad, and are weeded out – quickly.

    The writing currency that IS absolutely needed, I think, is confidence in one’s voice and message. Lose that – as I have – and nothing else will matter.

  6. Avatar
    Len Woods February 1, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    Good word (for those of us who wrangle with words)!

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    Valerie Lanham February 1, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    You cannot give up. I attended three different well-known conferences around 10 years ago at the start of my writing efforts. I stopped writing to take care of ‘life’. Now it’s nearly impossible to submit a manuscript. I have to seek new ways to get on board again and don’t have the money. That was actually an inspiration to do things I wouldn’t have – like find groups to share with, follow a blogger that I admire, ask family to ‘fund me’, and spend a lot more time putting myself out there – taking risks. Most importantly, I changed my priority of wanting an income from writing further below my original desire to magnify God. He wants me to be a servant first. He cares more about people and so should I. The people skills and media options I am learning will make me a better person and if I am published more prepared to market my ideas and spread the Word. The bottom line? income would be nice, but sharing my revelation of scripture and how Jesus can make your life so much better – priceless.

  8. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 1, 2016 at 8:40 am #

    It may lend confidence to look not at the total number of books published each year, but at the number that are typically published in one’s genre.

    I don’t write Westerns, and don’t care for Regency, so those categories really don’t affect me.

    What I need to know is how many contemporary Catholic romances are being published, and go from there. Anyone have a clue?

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 1, 2016 at 8:43 am #

      Aww, my brain cut off. Sorry.

      The above is predicated on the assumption that most readers are fairly ‘loyal’ to a small number of preferred genres; I know I am.

      If that assumption is way off base, someone please give me verbal knock on the head?

    • Avatar
      sdorman2014 February 1, 2016 at 11:10 am #

      Andrew, you would have to copy and paste the email address but you might try this to submit a query for a short work. it might encourage you, even get you started.

      (www.thefellowshipoftheking.net)

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    Brennan S. McPherson February 1, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    It seems to me that we invent straw-men to replace holes in our understanding. We don’t understand why people reject our writing (and most people who do the rejecting either aren’t sure why or won’t voice it), so we reach for any explanation and hold fast to it. It’s true that famous people get contracts more easily than unknown writers, because publishing companies are businesses that need to make money. And the idea that the rich succeed while the poor get ignored seems to make us feel better about being rejected because it makes us rebels, and rebels are cool. I don’t mean to insult or belittle, I think it’s just the truth of why we (I say we because I’m the culprit) get caught in this line of thinking. But every time we lie to ourselves (and it is lying), we steal from ourselves an opportunity to grow in both our skills and in humility. If a book is rejected for one reason, we can be confident there are more reasons left unsaid. I think it’s foolish to think we’ve arrived as artists–that there’s nothing wrong with our manuscript and that it could not be improved, or that because we’ve spent so much time with it, it couldn’t be badly broken.

    I spent three years writing my first manuscript and learning the ropes of writing/publishing, and now that I’ve signed a traditional publishing contract and my novel is set to release this year (and we’ve done all the editing and proofreading, and then some) I realize my book could still be improved if I had both the time and the skill to see it. In fact, a year ago when I pitched my book to my current publisher, I thought my first chapters were PERFECT. But there were real issues, and once they were pointed out I felt embarrassed. That’s okay. It’s not about being perfect or being the best writer or winning awards or selling a lot of copies or being famous. We make so much of so little. What matters is that we keep our hearts pure. If we do that, we can enjoy any and every little victory in writing, and the rest of our lives. And we can have peace knowing we can always grow, and that we’ll never be “genius’s,” and that even if we’re considered as such by some adoring group of people, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Because truthfully every good and perfect thing comes from God, and even our accomplishments really should only be used to glorify him. If we use them selfishly, we’ll just become angry and unsatisfied.

    But back to the whole “getting published” thing. I’m 24, have zero platform, zero previous publishing credits, and zero training in writing, but was offered a publishing contract. How? By working really hard and doing my best to write the best manuscript I possibly could, and to write the best proposals I possibly could. Of course I know that it all is God’s blessing, not my own doing. But we have to be faithful and hopeful. I don’t think platform is as big of a barrier to getting published as many say. It is a barrier to selling copies, but substitute it with diligence and a teachable attitude, and good writing, and a little marketing savvy, and I don’t think the road is so bleak. (Watch, I say this and then my novel tanks! 🙂 )

    I think that if we spend all our time working on platform and still get rejected, we should probably put more time into working on our craft, and praying that God’s will should be done in our lives–not our own. Then, whether we get published or no, we can be happy. And believe me, you can have a publishing contract and be very unhappy. You can even be a “wildly successful” published author and be very unhappy with your writing, your craft, your success, your life in general. We’re not to chase after a career, or our own happiness, or anything else. We’re to chase after God. Maintaining that focus only becomes more difficult as we experience “success.” Reminds me of something I heard Ravi Zacharias say the other day (don’t know where it was otherwise I’d quote it directly)– that sometimes the shortest route to our destination is not the best, because it bypasses some of the greatest opportunity for growth. God doesn’t care about our success. He cares about us.

    After I signed the contract with the publishing company and jumped up and down four about 15 seconds, I had the most profound sense of dread I think I’ve ever experienced. I thought, “What have I gotten myself into? Am I ready for this?” Writing is terrifying, exhilarating, fun and dangerous all at the same time, and I’m confident that if I had received the publishing contract any sooner, it would have been much too soon. Even now I wonder if everything has moved too quickly. And I feel I can only do well with it as long as I keep daily giving it to God to do what he wants with it, and surrendering my pride. And it is a daily struggle. Anyone who says otherwise is either unaware or lying.

    Sorry for how long and rambling this was. I hope it made sense and hopefully encouraged someone. Blessings, brothers and sisters! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube February 1, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

      Brennan wrote, “I don’t think platform is as big of a barrier to getting published as many say. It is a barrier to selling copies,..”

      Exactly. And yet a publisher will weigh the potential to sell copies by looking at all the factors.

      Say there are two marvelous books on the table for consideration and the publisher can only choose one.

      Book one’s author speaks often, has a radio show, and is highly interactive on their blog, Facebook, etc.

      Book two’s author is more reticent. They have a blog, but only post six times a year. They have a Facebook page but never interact with anyone. Their “audience” is limited to their own network of church and family.

      But both books are incredible.

      Which one would you, the publisher, choose to invest your company’s money in?

      It can sometimes come down to that simple of an equation.

      Steve

  10. Avatar
    Thomas Allbaugh February 1, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    Yeah, I went to Mount Hermon twelve times. I’m not rich, but I really tried and then watched as others very deservedly got agents and books published. I was impressed with their achievements. In those twelve years, I had some academic and short story publications in small journals and magazines, but I did this without conferences–and always, every year, closed doors at Mount Hermon. So I stopped that. I’m crocheting now (actually, I’m playing some guitar now). And I’m writing as honestly as I can without worrying about it. I just keep writing, praying, writing.

    • Avatar
      Linda Riggs Mayfield February 2, 2016 at 12:04 am #

      Twelve times, Thomas??? That’s persistence! I’m struggling with the decision of whether to make the sacrifices necessary to attend my SECOND conference or stay home and write and pray, too! The first one I attended exceeded my expectations in the number of agents and editors for my genre, the contacts I made, the networking I enjoyed, and the invitations to submit proposals I received; but nothing came of any of them. What kept you going back?

  11. Avatar
    Heather Blanton February 1, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    The best money I have spent to date was on attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. The investment has come back to me, pressed down, shaken together, and running over!

  12. Avatar
    Barb Raveling February 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    Loved hearing what everyone had to say here (Brennan, I think you need to write a non-fiction book sometime – you’re very wise for your age).

    I agree that time is just as much of an issue as money with what is expected of writers in the platform building department. I’ve had to learn to make my own decisions on how I spend my time (i.e. less blogging than suggested) so that I have the time to write books. We can’t do it all.

    I also think money helps because then you can hire some of the work done and go to more conferences. One of the things God keeps teaching me over and over again though is that I should expect to have to sacrifice to write.

    For me writing is a ministry and if I look at all the people in the Bible, I see how many of them had to sacrifice to do ministry – a lot more than I’ve had to sacrifice!

    What I keep coming back to is that I’m so thankful I didn’t have it easy because God has used the hard path to help me learn to rely on Him, not on my talent or money or a publishing company even, since I’ve continued to self-publish.

  13. Avatar
    Michael February 1, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Brennan, ‘platform’ has been one of my most occurring fears in seven months of learning about the industry. At some point, it appeared platform was valued more than skill. Made me wonder how the likes of ‘Stephen King’, ‘Karen Kingsbury’, ‘Ted Dekker’, ‘Dee Henderson’ et al got published.
    But then, ‘the goal is His glory’. This hasn’t left my writing journal since five months ago when I stumbled across it on a website. I look forward to reading your book someday Brennan.
    Incase anyone needs writing competitions, you could like ‘Erin Healy’ on facebook. There’s a link on her page to a compiled list of competitions for the year. About twenty or more. Would have pasted the link here but my hands are somewhat tied.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube February 1, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

      Here is the link mentioned to writing competitions. It is from another site other than Erin Healy’s but she provided the link!

      http://www.dystopianstories.com/writing-competitions-2016/

    • Avatar
      Brennan S McPherson February 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

      Thanks Michael! Good to know about the writing competitions. And I know, I’ve felt the same way. As a disclaimer, I’m definitely not saying we don’t need to build platform (because we do–that’s my primary focus right now), but the whole idea of platform coming before publication is putting the cart before the horse. The publication process is quite long. Why build a platform when you don’t even have a novel to sell yet? (That’s only, of course, if you haven’t written a novel yet 🙂 ) Also, nonfiction is different from fiction, in this regard.

      When it comes time to sell product, you need both product and marketing. But you’d be considered insane in the general business world to build a marketing plan without even having a product to market.

      Anyways–I think you can pre-order the novel right now on Amazon and Christianbook.com and such (it’s called “Cain” and the subtitle is “The Story of the First Murder and the Birth of an Unstoppable Evil”), but it won’t be released until May. Blessings on your own endeavors! I look forward to seeing you publish someday, too. 🙂 I’m not sure what the rules are on self-promotion here, so I apologize if this irritates anyone. I just mention it because you commented about it, and I wanted to make sure you found the right one. There’s another novel called “Cain” by a famous secular author, but it’s completely blasphemous, so please…avoid that one, hahah!

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    rochellino February 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

    Brennan, no need to apologize as far as I am concerned. Steve Laube and company is a terrific site to learn very pertinent insight into the real world of publishing. Your youthful exuberance is quite refreshing, kinda reminds me of myself about a hundred or so years ago.

    In case you may not know you have to be very careful about so called “publishing companies” offering a “contract”. There are many bad players out there seeking to take financial advantage of new writers. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to send them money FOR ANY REASON, like a “publicist” or “marketing” or any other reason they are probably a SCAM. Reputable agents like the Steve Laube Agency WILL NOT ask for you to send them money in order for you to be published. As far as I know they can’t even be bribed (kidding!). They actually EARN their fee by performing for the writer. They get money sent to YOU.

    There are many articles about this on the web. The website “Editors and Predators” is a good place to start.

    Carol, I have heard your pain. I MAY have found an effective replacement for platform. I won’t make the claim definitively until I have done actual real life market tests.

    • Avatar
      Brennan S. McPherson February 1, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks for watching out for me and for others! You’re absolutely right that some publishers are sharks. Thankfully, The Fabulous Mr. Steve Laube has done a fabulous job of teaching new authors like me how to spot one and steer clear, fabulously. Some vanity publishers, however, I think are legitimate. But it seems to be a murky area, and one I steered clear of. Of course, it’s always good to have a reputable agent like The Fabulous Mr. Steve Laube representing you and negotiating your fabulous contracts to make sure you get treated fabulously. But alas! I did not have him. *cough cough* Maybe one day I’ll write as fabulous a proposal as I can and email it. Fabulously, of course–if that’s possible.

      • Avatar
        Steve Laube February 1, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

        Fabulous!

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby February 1, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

      You have me highly intrigued. Building a successful platform for nonfiction isn’t a mystery to me. My one nonfiction book was written because a publisher contacted my colleague and me with a request to write it. We already had “platform” as recognized leaders in our respective technical specialties. The illusive target is platform as an author of fiction when you don’t have a novel already in the market. I have specific plans for a website that should be interesting and useful enough that it might draw a significant following. It will take significant time to build and support. (Back to the zero-sum problem of time.) But even if it becomes popular, will it draw readers to my novels? That’s the big unknown.

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    Carla Jo February 1, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    Reading most of Steve’s site blogs for about nine plus months I’ve learned basic facts. That lead to the effort to add quality and also added focus on consolidating writing-gains more and more. Traditional platform considerations brought agony. Finally I got it.

    How can I leverage the nonfiction project to have a publisher make more than enough money so I can satisfy my passion to reach more people with ministry, with the nonfiction book as a tool?

    That platform context, factual reframing opened my creative thinking to make many new potential considerations pulling together new, old and mixed thoughts. Not done yet in a formal, written, organized manner in a proposal but close.

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    Katie Powner February 1, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

    I appreciate this post and all the comments. I’ve been wrestling with these very issues lately. I want to spend time and money on writing, but don’t know if I should. How much time and money is fair for me to spend on writing when I have three kids, whom I homeschool, and we’re a one-income family living on a pastor’s salary? Plus, we live in the boonies so there are no writer’s conferences or writer’s groups anywhere remotely close.

    I guess everyone has to answer these questions for themselves, although I’d love some guidance on the issue! 🙂 I’ve been praying God would show me where the line in the sand is that I shouldn’t cross, and whether the line is only there for now, for this season of life, or for good.

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby February 1, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

      Katie, I’d say never assume any line is there for good, even if it is there for the busiest season of life that you’re in right now. God opens and closes doors and windows all the time. What’s closed now could be wide open later.
      I’ve done a lot of self-study on the writing craft with some excellent books. That might be even better than the sessions at conferences because you can learn at your own pace and go back over anything you want to spend more time on. Check out http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/books-for-writers/
      for lots of recommendations of books that many of us have found really helpful in developing our craft. These could be a good way to keep moving forward with the limited time you may have and with very little money spent.

  17. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson February 2, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    Katie–I agree with Carol on the importance of studying one’s craft, and how extremely helpful good books on writing can be. The most helpful one I’ve studied is “Writing Fiction” by Elizabeth Stuckey-French. I’ve not found many people quoting it as being an excellent writing textbook, but for me it was by far the best that I’ve come across–though it’s fairly dense and takes a lot of study and application to really absorb. However, I also had the luxury of an older friend who was an experienced writer and kindly mentored me, line-editing the daylights out of a short story multiple times. He helped me realize just how far I had to go, and without a friend with a good eye and an understanding of the craft, I don’t think I would have been able to publish–at least it would have taken me many more years, I think.

    Carol also points out the difficulty of building a platform for fiction without previous published works of fiction to build a platform around. I’ve felt this, too–that building a platform for nonfiction can be much more straightforward, and that maybe the best way to build a fiction platform is by publishing fiction. But there are many ways to build a fiction platform, and an established audience of a previous nonfiction work can certainly be leveraged for it. For me, I’ve noticed that relationships I have built through work/friendships have led to PR opportunities that are forming the basis of my fiction writing platform. Now I have to scramble to get things in place and make sure all my ducks are in a row, but at least I have something to build the platform around (the book), and the contract gives me good reason to build a platform when other responsibilities are pressing. I’m married, have a full time job at a nonprofit, and a future family to worry about (not to mention other passions, such as music, and time commitments like Bible studies), so I had to figure out the right balance for my family. It’s different for each writer, I think.

    Steve pointed out that a writer with an established platform and excellent writing can easily be chosen over a writer with no platform and equally excellent writing. And of course, this just makes sense. But that’s why as new writers, we have to do a great job in the proposal stage of convincing the publisher (and agent) that we have the ability, and the drive, to create a platform and to hustle the book to thousands of readers. In my case, I could claim a Business degree, and talk of the relationships I have through work and old friendships that could be leveraged for publicity/marketing, and my willingness to utilize them. I didn’t have a lot to go off of, but I tried to make lemonade out of lemons, and was realistic in the proposal about it all. (Some of those relationships have turned into real opportunities, btw; but as a disclaimer, none of us should ever abuse our relationships or start viewing people as tools–that’s wrong and just plain hurtful; but we should believe in our books enough to have the courage to pitch them) After the publisher showed interest in the proposal, I had the opportunity to meet with the president through work, and leveraged that time to cast my vision of what I wanted to do with the book. I felt comfortable pitching my novel because it’s important to me and I believe in it. It’s important for the publisher to know this, and an enthusiasm and drive on your part might be what convinces the publisher to take your book on.

    I said what I did about the importance of platform because I’ve often thought (from what people in the publishing community have said in blogs and such) that without an established platform, I’m hopeless, but that’s not true–and I don’t think any of those publishing professionals really said that, either. In my case, it’s been proven untrue. But platform absolutely still matters. A lot. And whether you have a poor book or a fantastic book, neither will sell unless you build some sort of platform and market it effectively. So, in short, there’s hope for publication (with fiction books) without an established platform. But once you do get signed, the importance of platform (and the tens of thousands of dollars the publishing company is investing in you) becomes very real. And it’s helpful, of course, if you can bring some sort of platform to the table (and takes some stress off of you). If not, you’ll have to construct one, or at least the beginnings of one, before the book releases. The book’s failure or success will rest on your shoulders, even with a traditional publisher backing you with a PR and marketing team (that’s the reason I felt that “profound sense of dread” after signing the contract). Maybe a contract for publication will come before building a platform in your case, as it has been the case for me. Either way, we all have to market our own books, and the degree to which we succeed there determines our careers. But if you’re a mere mortal, like me, I presume it will be difficult to come to a publisher with both a top-notch novel and a huge platform. In that case, diligence, determination, and charisma are very valuable, so sell your abilities well (yet realistically). You don’t want to over-promise and under-perform. My book was rejected before it was accepted, and if it had been accepted any earlier, it would have been too early. I only see that now, and appreciate the one who rejected it.

    • Avatar
      Brennan S. McPherson February 2, 2016 at 8:45 am #

      For clarity– when I said “I had the opportunity to meet with the president through work,” I mean the president of the publishing company.

  18. Avatar
    Katie Powner February 2, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    Thank you for your thoughts Carol and Brennan. There’s so much to think about! The thought of building a platform is intimidating and the thought of spending time and money on writing often feels selfish, but at the same time, I can’t help but write. I just have to do it. I’m glad God is in control and not me.

    • Avatar
      Brennan S. McPherson February 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

      Then you’re a true writer, Katie! Platform can be overwhelming, and I frequently get creeped out by the amount of work needing to be done, but I think that if we can write a massive, 80,000 word, cohesive story, we can build a platform one step at a time.

      I really appreciate the encouragement this blog and all the commenters have been to me over the last year or so. Andrew, in particular in this thread: you’ve become a familiar name and I’ve appreciate the thoughts you’ve shared on the blog!

      Blessings, everyone, on all your writing endeavors.

    • Avatar
      Peggy Booher February 2, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

      Katie,

      You wrote about financial constraints in writing. Like Carol, I’ve been doing some self-study. I’ve been able to find books about writing for sale on used book shelves at the local library and sometimes at Goodwill for very low cost. Flea markets and yard sales are possibilities also. If you don’t have access to those, this blog and the Books and Such blog that Carol mentioned (www.booksandsuch.com) are excellent sources of information. Steve Laube’s blog and the Books and Such blog are realistic but encouraging at the same time, and i appreciate their Christ-centered view. Hope this helps. 🙂 Blessings on your writing!

  19. Avatar
    Laura Kirk February 4, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    Hi, Steve!

    I don’t comment often, but I had a dream! ?

    A stage held ten finalists surrounding the host. “Only one of these finalists will go on to win a book contract!” the host said, as edited pages shuffled behind him on a bog screen.

    Wouldn’t it be cool to have a reality show for aspiring novelists comparable to “The Voice”?

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