So I posted something last week about whether or not you should have your agent land you magazine pieces, and my answer to said question was no, almost universally. But it was mentioned in the comments section that one reader was told by a perspective agent to wait to pitch magazines until she'd sold her book, the thinking being that as a soon-to-be published writer, she'd have an easier time landing gigs.
I wanted to take a second to talk about why I think this is terrible advice and why having a platform is so critical to selling a book these days. (Courtney - please note that this post totally isn't aimed at you! I just think it raised an interesting topic that I wanted to elaborate on!)
To begin with: platform: defined as a presence, ideally national, at which you are recognized in your area of expertise (maybe you're an master florist or more likely, a famous doctor) or your work (maybe your byline is in every magazine known to man).
Establishing a platform certainly raises the chicken or the egg conundrum: how on earth are you supposed to get famous if you need to be famous to get famous in the first place? Follow? In simpler terms - a lot of aspiring writers worry (partially justifiably) that they need some name recognition to get published but getting published in the first place is what will give them the name recognition. Chicken. Egg.
And that's the problem I have with the advice that sparked this whole post. These days, like it or not, it is incredibly hard to land a book deal. That's just the truth. If you're aiming to publish non-fiction (self-help, etc), you'll have almost an impossible time of it without a platform or without a co-author who has a platform. So to wait to aim for magazines until after you've landed a book deal...well, you might be waiting until you're old and withered because it likely won't happen. While a platform isn't as critical for nabbing a fiction deal (and maybe a memoir deal, though it certainly helps to be famous), it can still help immeasurably. Did the fact that I am relatively well-known in the magazine world land me my first deal? No. The manuscript did. Did it help boost my advance significantly? Without a doubt. My publisher was paying me for my connections and for the fact that I might gain more national exposure than someone who hadn't written for all of these magazines.
Building a platform isn't easy. But I think that's a discussion for another day. And one worth having. But to wait until your platform comes to you...well, foot meet trigger, and pull.
What say you readers? Has your platform (or lack thereof) helped or hindered you in your quest for publication?