I admit it: I bought into platform hype as much as the next struggling writer. I’ve blogged. I’ve facebooked. I’ve even considered tweeting. And with each new trend, I’ve sacrificed a smidge of my precious writing time. As mommy to a preschooler, quality writing time is as rare as a flawless pearl. There are times I’ve wondered if building a platform is really worth it.
Then I happened on Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. I heard about the book from two writer friends, who raved enough to entice me into buying a copy. The book was published in 2001—practically prehistoric in the world of publishing-- but I think much of what it tells us is timeless. According to Maass, the best thing a writer can do to promote himself is to write a spectacular book. It’s not so much about promotion, advances and book tours that sends a book onto the top of the bestseller lists; it’s gushing word of mouth. One reader gets excited about a book and tells her friends. Her friends tell their friends, etc…Enthusiastic word of mouth can make a book’s sales skyrocket. And what brings this serendipitous, grass roots promotion? Maass beats no bushes; it’s great storytelling from writers who keep getting better, writers who take their work to the next level.
Publishing has changed dramatically since 2001, but I think what Maass says still holds true. Lately, it seems I’m reading more articles telling newbie writers to focus on craft, then worry about promotion. In other words, learn how to write, to tell great stories. It bears shades of the bipolar nutritional and parenting trends that have us spinning in circles. We eat eggs/eschew eggs/don’t use the word no to our kids/show them tough love/write/market/blog/tweet/stand on our heads.
I’m a writer. Bottom line, that means I should be writing.
On a final note, I do believe writers should promote their own work. After all, if you don’t toot your own horn, who will? But, I don’t think establishing platform should take precedence over time spent writing. First and foremost, writers write, then we sell.
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