As Murderati mate Simon Wood described in a past entry, most of us here on blog are vertically challenged–except for the two statuesque women who close out the week.
At 4’10", I’m venturing a guess that I’m the shortest of the short. It’s not a big (no pun intended) deal for me. I was born this way and will die this way, only probably a few inches shorter. If you could see the rest of my extended family, it would make perfect sense why I stand this tall. That didn’t keep me from playing basketball from sixth grade on, even serving as one of the point guards for my high school basketball team (as Troy Cook has said, go Tigers!).
Although I was raised in the seventies, I didn’t succumb to the temptation to buy a pair of platform shoes. Platforms, which are making a comeback, would have elevated me to at least reach the five-feet status. But I was bit of a nerd, preferring wallabies, brown saddle shoes, and my orange high-top Converse All-Stars (Tigers, remember?).
These days in publishing, the talk is all about an author’s platform. Here platform is where he or she stands in terms of spheres of influence. One’s platform can be the difference between getting a book contract and not getting one at all. (If you’re still confused with the term, "author’s platform," see this or this.)
So what’s a non-celebrity to do? Well, look around because you may have a built-in platform. Let me use some of my Murderati blogmates and the current Sister in Crime–L.A. chapter president to give you a few concrete examples:
EXHIBIT #1 The Case of the New Mexico Writer
With two prestigious Agatha nominations under her belt, Pari (Monday’s child) is anything but regional. But starting out with her debut mystery, THE CLOVIS INCIDENT, Pari first attacked what she knew best: the Southwest–the subject of her Sasha Solomon series.
She had already contributed newspaper columns to the Albuquerque Tribune and articles to a publication that served both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. She became active in writing organizations, where she met respected authors like Tony Hillerman and who gave her a wonderful blurb for her debut. She participated in book fairs in shopping malls and helped start Croak & Dagger, the Sisters in Crime chapter in Albuquerque (even serving as its founding president).
Since getting published, Pari has been extending her net beyond her New Mexico and Southwest home base. She’ll be contributing a monthly column for Mystery Writers of America’s The Third Degree newsletter in which she’ll be interviewing editors and agents in the crime fiction world. Key from the very beginning has been her extensive public relations and marketing background, which aided in her getting an introduction to her publisher, University of New Mexico Press, in the first place.
EXHIBIT #2 The Case of the Paralegal
Sue Ann Jaffarian, the president of the Sisters in Crime Los Angeles chapter is a paralegal. Her protagonist, Odelia Grey, is also a paralegal. Pretty convenient, yes?
Sue Ann went with iuniverse, a POD or print-on-demand publisher, to publish her first two mysteries, TOO BIG TO MISS and CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL. This could sound the death knell for a mystery series, but Sue Ann proved all critics wrong. She went into super promotion mode, and indeed did it big. Trained also as a stand-up comedian, she booked gigs at paralegal conferences to talk about her books. Soon she herself would handsell more than a thousand of each book. That and her sharp writing attracted a traditional publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide and its new Midnight Ink print. TOO BIG TO MISS, this time sporting a bright green cover, made its second debut at the beginning of this year, and the revised CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL will be released next year.
Exhibit #3 The Case of the Killer Year
So what’s up with the Class of 2007, writers who are coming out with their debut mysteries and thrillers next year (or close to it)? So many of them already have their own websites and most of them have their own blogs. Look at our J.T. Ellison as a prime example. They have even banded together with a group website and blog, which was launched this Monday. Congrats, all!
I only got a full website with multiple pages up this year for my third mystery and just started blogging. So I am definitely behind the curve.
I’m wondering now if this will be more and more a requirement for aspiring writers. To establish an Internet presence even before a first book is picked up. It’s a bit frightening, but all I can say is that I’m glad I’m already published.
To find a platform does not mean picking up an ill-fitting shoes. But to see what’s natural, comfortable, and appropriate for us and most importantly, the best for actual walking. At times we will have to change–the introvert will have to become slightly more extroverted, the computer averse will have to take a few classes.
For the examples mentioned here, there are probably as many writers who tell me that they had no platform in first getting published. But I predict that in order to stay in print, we will each have to find that natural platform to stand on.
THREE WAYS TO GAIN A PLATFORM
1) Leave your house. Yep, get out the door, wear something nice, drag that comb through your hair, and go to that meeting, party, convention, etc. Sometimes you might even have to do a little hard labor for an organization, maybe even speak, lead, or lug boxes, but it’s a great to meet people and get out of your head.
2) Love your computer. Kiss it everyday and be thankful that it works. Do wonderful websites and blogs and hook up with others who are doing the same. Exchange e-mails with strangers and wonder what they really sound and look like.
3) Write short. Write essays, write reviews, write short stories, write articles. Write things that are a thousand words or maybe two thousand words. Send them off to people that you’ve met via #1 and #2 and then go back to writing that darn book.
GUEST BLOGGER REVEALED: Well, Elaine Flinn’s knees and back thank you because no one guessed the identity of next week’s Wednesday guest blogger (I promised that Evil E would bow down to the one who guessed correctly). Well, next week’s Child of Woe will be none other than Gary Phillips, prolific writer of short stories, comic books, and the Ivan Monk and Martha Chainey mystery series. He also is on the board of Mystery Writers of America and will serve as the toastmaster of Left Coast Crime 2007 Seattle (note to self: turn in that registration).
Gary is featured on the cover of his MONKOLOGY short story collection as well as the dust jacket for a limited edition of George Pelecanos’ SOUL CIRCUS, the latter which unfortunately never made it to bookshelves. Both book projects were spearheaded by Dennis McMillan Publications.
Gary and I travel in some of the same circles in L.A. He’s a great writer, far out guy, and damn good looking to boot! If you haven’t seen Gary recently, that guy is cut (he claims having teens is a great weight-loss program). Have fun with him next week.
BLUE BELL BOLOGNA AND OTHER WEIRD SEARCH STRINGS: Had to mention a couple of really strange search strings (that is, what people googled, etc. to get on my website) that cropped up last week: blue bell bologna; hiroshima leather wallet; and the strangest, japanese dentures falling out video. What the heck is that? There’s a Japanese video of dentures falling out of someone’s mouth? Oh, I just googled–it is indeed a video, but it’s of a Korean man, most likely a politician. And I hate to admit it: it’s pretty funny.
MAS HITS WALL STREET: SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, the third Mas Arai mystery, was reviewed in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal by Tom Nolan. Thank you, Mr. Nolan, for your continued interest in the series!
WEDNESDAY’S WORD: pikadon (SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, page 48)
Look carefully again–what do you see? How about pika? For those with children, does Pikachu ring a bell? Pikachu is, depending on your feelings about crass commercialism, an adorable yellow Pokemon creature with floppy ears or else related to the kid in the OMEN. At any rate, its name means "Electric Mouse" and I believe that it resides near a power plant, thus having some kind of post-nuclear connection to its ugly cousin Godzilla, a product of an explosion in the Marshall Islands. Anyway, pikadon, which literally means "bomb of light," refers to the atomic bomb. The people of Hiroshima also use the term genbaku.
Naomi, this is a great post. Understanding what a platform is as well as knowing how to build one is vital to new authors. I agree, I think the competitive landscape has changed, and if you don’t have a solid grasp of the industry and where you as a writer fit into it, you’re going to have a harder time.Thanks for the great links — both to platform and KillerYear!
What an awesome post. I’m not thrilled with the whole must-have-a-platform trend, but it’s a reality that aspiring writers had better deal with if they want to have any chance of getting published and breaking out of the pack.So…Thanks!
The protagonist of the manuscript that I’m currently working on is named Angela, or Angie, so I freaked out a little when I saw your name! (Is this a sign that I’m going in the right direction?)
Anyway, welcome to Murderati.
In terms of platform or however one wants to phrase it, I think it has to be genuine. It’s all about who you are, only perhaps in a very concentrated form. Many of my girlfriends are involved in the media and p.r., and they have helped me–from giving tips to pushing my books in their workplaces to passing out raffle tickets at my book signings (thanks, Sindy and Martie!). Elicit help and advice from friends in the know, and make it fun. Sometimes a second party can identify a selling point that you may have inadvertently missed.
Whew! I’m so glad I don’t have to bend over! My back and knees thank you!
But, Naomi – you’ve raised an excellent point – and – I think it would be great if you offered a list of ‘book biz buzz words’ and their definitions. There are so many being bandied about – it fairly boggles the mind. It’s as if the publishing world is creating a new language – and not everone is conversant.
And not EVERY ONE of us can spell, either. But, hey – ‘everone’ might be a new addition?
What words would you suggest? Platform. Midlist. Upmarket. Y’all have anything else to add? I probably don’t know the definitions to all of them–may have to pose the question to my agent!
Franchise – Branding – Chic-lit – cozy-medium boiled-hard boiled-crime fiction-the sub genre’s are confusing as well to many readers. Some may seem obvious, but new readers to Murderati and other lists might not be clear on some of them. I only bring this up because I’ve seen posts on other listserves by new members who are confused.
Naomi,I don’t think I’ve read as good of a piece about platforms anywhere. You did a great job on this.
Re: websites — I started my Badgirlspress.com before I signed my first contract with a publisher . . . I felt it was that important to begin to get my name out to a broader group. In retrospect, I might not have had such a PR focus, but that’s what I knew well at the time.
Oh, and btw: thanks for making it look like I know what I’m doing . . .
Yup, I remember looking at badgirlspress.com in my quest to figure out who this Pari Noskin Taichert was! And look where we are now (and I can even spell your name right without a second thought).
Websites are nice in not only connecting an author with a fan, but authors with other authors. And I know librarians and other such folk consult both amazon.com and an author’s web site to gather more info about us. So a nicely done web site can also land you a speaking gig as well!