Getting Published: Platform 9¾


A writer I know – well enough to chat to occasionally; not well enough to put on my Christmas e-card list – recently had her non-fiction book rejected by a top publisher. It was a particularly bitter blow because although her book glided past the editor, it came screeching to a halt at the door of the Sales and Marketing department.

Their complaint was that she didn’t have a platform.

NYC Train Station

Not this kind of platform, but isn’t this picture beautiful?

Her reaction was disappointment, of course, but also bitterness and indignation. She said it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t used to be on Eastenders, that she wasn’t also a singer/former prostitute/footballer’s ex-wife/product of a miserable childhood, or that she wasn’t a motivational speaker regularly touring the country promoting her brainwashing CD program Unleash the Magnificent Power Within You Now Today Immediately! to thousands of gullible muppets.

She blamed the publishing house.

After all, what did they expect her to do?

When I first met her, we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: You’re a writer? Me too. Well, on certain days of the week. Are you on Twitter?

Her: Twitter? You mean that thing where Stephen Fry tells everyone what he had for breakfast?

Me: That’s not really-

Her: No, I’m not. I actually have a life.

Me: What about Facebook?

Her: You mean that place where teenagers type without vowels, advertise house parties and play virtual farming games?

Me: Well there’s more to it than-

Her: I think I’m a bit old for that, don’t you?

Me: You’re only three years older than me.

Her: And besides, I don’t have the time for it. I have a full time job. Do you remember what that was like?

Me: [Through gritted teeth] What about a blog?

Her: Oh, yeah. I have one of them.

Me: Good. What’s the-

Her: Wait a second. What do you mean by blog, exactly?

Me: Tell me you at least have an e-mail address.

Her: Of course I have an e-mail address.

Me: Well at least-

Her: But I don’t use it. Haven’t used it in years. All I was getting was chain letters, offers of discounted Viagra and videos of kittens. I mean, really. I’ve got better things to do with my time.

Have I made my point?

Having 10,000 Twitter followers is not going to get you published. Neither are your blog-sized musings on the endless benefits of caffeine. (I’m talking to myself there, obviously.) And everyone knows that after most people click the ‘Become a Fan’ button on your Facebook page you and your book never cross their mind again.

No, they’re not going to get you published.

But if it comes down to the wire, it might just get you past Sales and Marketing.

You are on my blog.

You probably found it via Twitter.

I’ll love you forever if you click Become a Fan.


If you were at least mildly interested in this, you might not be opposed to reading these:

How to Write a Novel in 37 Easy Steps

10 Steps to Perfecting Procrastination

3 thoughts on “Getting Published: Platform 9¾

  1. Ita Roche says:

    Re: platform – all writers need to build a web presence.
    As regards your good self –
    Yes, I am a fan, Yes, I found you on Twitter, and YES, I DO read your blogs and torridly enjoy them what’s more.
    Keep up the great work.
    With a smile

  2. Rosalind Adam says:

    I got to your blog via the Twitter route too. I agree that it can help to have an Internet presence but you have to have good material too. I have a writer friend who neither Twitters nor blogs and she’s doing very well indeed. So maybe I should stop surfing the blogs and do some writing instead 😉

  3. catherineryanhoward says:

    Thanks Ita!

    Rosalind: I don’t think having an online presence is of any use to you unless you’re book is good too – the writer in question does write really well and is very funny and the topic of her book would easily translate into a blog. She just doesn’t do it because she thinks it’s a waste of time or that it’s something teenagers do, and that attitude kind of annoys me. Of course then there’s the lucky charms like your friend who write so well they don’t need to do anything to sell books. (Oh, to dream…!) 😉

    Personally I have great fun being on Twitter, etc. and I find a lot of support there for writers, but as you touched on it’s a fine line between having a presence and never getting anything done because you’re having so much fun. (I struggle with that myself, if you haven’t noticed…!)

    Speaking of which, I’m supposed to be revising right now. Oops!

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