Today’s post is an answer to a follow-up question from the previous post:
How much were you thinking about building a network of readers before Finny was accepted for publication? The conventional wisdom nowadays is that you always have to be thinking about marketing so you’ll eventually have something to put in your query letter. I see the wisdom in this from a marketing perspective, of course, but not from a writing perspective. What are your thoughts?
Again, I have to be honest here and say that I didn’t really think about marketing myself before I sold the book. As you said, I’m not sure this was the best business decision, but I’m sure it was the best decision for my writing. I really wanted to write the best book I could, and to me that meant writing the book I would want to read and trying to block everything else out.
One thing I’ve heard about nonfiction writing is that books are often sold on “a platform.” While at first I thought this meant they were passed down from a stage, I realized later that “platform” refers to an established audience, which can be achieved from writing articles or lecturing or running a popular blog or being an expert in some way. My sense is that fiction is a little bit different from that, in that it’s hard to know what the audience is for a given book. While this can make fiction a little harder to sell in some instances, I think it also frees fiction writers up from having to run around too much to sell themselves before they even sell the book. But I’m sure that being a celebrity or running a popular blog or appearing on TV wouldn’t hurt when you’re trying to sell a novel, so I don’t mean to dissuade people from that if you have interest in it.
As far as my experience, I worked more on doing some writing-related things that I hoped would make me and my novel more appealing. This included publishing stories in established journals, applying for fellowships and awards, and attending conferences and residencies. I posted earlier this year about some things I did that I thought were helpful for my writer’s resume.
I hope some of this info is helpful. Also, everyone should feel free to follow up with me about this issue, or ask me questions about any other issues I’ve discussed in other posts. I’m always happy to offer my experiences and answer questions as well as I can.