Try, Try Again: Plan D

As most of you know, like many new authors, I did this publishing thing ass-backward in the beginning. I’d written the novels before doing anything else—and that includes actually learning how to write fiction.

So, I took a giant step back and started again. I soaked in as much as I could, as fast as I could. I’m a quick learner on most things, but fiction writing took just a bit longer. It’s an ongoing process. But that’s okay. It’s kind of fun learning new things all the time. Makes me feel not quite as old as I usually feel.

When I started looking for a publisher, I heard one thing repeatedly; You need a platform. A what now? Where shall I put it? Just out of like wood and stuff? Do I need a permit?

Then it was explained that a platform meant that I’d have to become a “presence” on Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, etc. in order to get myself out there. No, this has nothing to do with readers, something I didn’t realize for a long time. It’s about the author. So my platform might say something like, “Hey, look at me over here! Please like me and tell your friends. I’m a good person, sometimes funny, and I often say things you’ll regret. Oh, and I’ll have something to sell you soon, so don’t go away.”

Well I build that damn platform, and what happened? Absolutely nothing. Sure, people knew me. I moderated several writers groups on Goodreads, I was on Twitter, Facebook, and I’d even tried to understand this Klout bullshit. Sorry, I do not get Klout, and quite frankly, it annoys me. Anyway, I’ve freelanced online for two years now, and I receive excellent “scores” from all of my clients. (Many rate your work in terms of grammar, research, and content based on a 5 star system. Practice for the real world of writing, I say.) I have a blog too. It’s not crazy popular, but it’s here, it’s updated, and I don’t write about crafts, parenting or cookies too often. Not if they don’t pertain to writing in most cases. I done good, right? Apparently not.

I stopped querying agents and publishers last year because I just couldn’t bang my head against another wall and walk away without any ill effects. I reached my rejection limit. The plan was to focus on polishing and then publishing Writer’sCompanion with Carlos, and then to get On Fiction Writing online and humming. Then I’d go back to my pile of manuscripts and decide just what the hell I’d do with them. I know I write well. I know at least three of my five polished manuscripts are fresh and interesting reads that would make excellent debut novels. Why wasn’t I getting a single bite?

So I thought, Renee, your platform stinks. You don’t push it enough in your queries and you aren’t building it as high as it can go.

Since October 2011, I’ve built that stinking platform. My Twitter following has increased by more than 300 tweeps, and let me tell you, that is not easy folks. You’ve gotta get into that black hole and tweet and be nice and…it’s so scary. *shudders* I also made the rounds and took on new writing clients, and we’ve got the website up and running. First, let me say, we are very fortunate in that we’ve met some amazing writers, agents, editors, publicists, publishers, and other industry people. If this doesn’t work for me personally, I’m so glad Carlos and I launched this site. In many ways it sparked renewed hope in me for the future of publishing.

So, that’s done, what am I doing about these manuscripts? Well, I’m giving traditional one last shot. I’m finishing up The Legend of Jackson Murphy (thanks in large part to Carlos’s eagle eye for dodgy bits) and I shall be querying it this spring. I’m also going to query two other projects; Dirty Truths and In the Bones. Ancient Blood is a possibility, since it’s the only one that’s had partial requests and two conditional contract offers. Sigh. It gets so close and then…ugh.

I’m not sure how I can possibly go bigger in terms of platform. I’ve done all that the agent and publisher blogs say to do, including improving my skills. Hell, I studied intensely so that I could co-write a book about writing, for crying out loud. If this doesn’t do it, I’ve got no Plan…I’m not sure what letter we’re at now. Plan E? I’ve certainly gone at this at least three other ways in the past. Perhaps by the time I’ve lost myself in the bottle over this new query process, I’ll have a Plan E. I’m hoping I won’t need it.

Although it sounds like whining, I’m not whining. I’m hoping that those of you who are new to the querying process or who are at the point I was last year and can’t do it anymore, look at things from a realistic point of view. It’s not the industry’s fault I’m not published, and it’s not their fault you’re not published. True, they make some strange and probably very bad decisions, but that’s not why we haven’t snagged that contract. There’s a magic little window of opportunity that only opens when you’ve got all your ducks lined up. If it’s not opening, at least take one more stab and your ducks. Maybe you’ve got one turned sideways or upside down. You never know.

Am I nuts for keeping at this? Probably. But I looked at the other side of the fence these past few months, and that grass ain’t so fucking green either. Also, it’s got some shit there, just like this side, and I don’t want to step in it.

6 thoughts on “Try, Try Again: Plan D

  1. You know, I have to agree about the shit. Tons and tons of shit as far as I'm concerned. I've had to learn the hard way after my ordeal. Oh yeah, I never told you. It's a long, sad story if you're ever interested. Regan♥

  2. I’m going to say something that’ll go over like a lead balloon to all the rah-rah kids (and that includes editors and agents) but platform is highly overrated.I have a good platform. I’m not alleluia Scalzi material, but I ain’t chopped liver either. All this business about Twitter, FB, Pinterest, (stoopid) Klout, LinkIn, Tumblr, blogging, and whatever is a pyramid scheme.Whose scheme, I don’t know, but I know it’s artificial. Here’s what I’ve noticed. The majority of the people putting themselves on display are relatively ‘new’ writers. They’re told they have to have presence, so they post, and tweet, and meme their way to a fabricated tower of sociability. In a word, they went too far. If a little social networking is good, a lot should be better. This, of course, is total BS. But you can’t tell them anything. The “experts” told them they had to do this, so they jump on ship like obedient ants.The best way to build a platform is by writing a better book. And you, missy. You have an excellent platform with your articles. Is it as flashy as someone’s nauseous meme? Nope. But it has more substance.A platform is an archive. It’s what makes you credible as a professional. When I pick up a book by Renee Miller, I’m going to look up your name and see where else you’ve been. What do you think is going to impress me, the reader, more—that you’ve written several hundred articles, or that I know all seven flavors of ice cream you’ve eaten in your life? I ADORE you on Twitter, but I just don’t have time to visit there. The only time I see your tweets is when they show up on FB. (Good planning on your part because you catch a segment of the population that doesn’t tweet.)Write. Submit. And write some more. You will build a following and it doesn’t have to be someone else’s idea of what you should do, but what works best for you.I’ll take my soapbox and go now.

  3. I really do love you, Maria. And I didn't express myself well enough. What you so perfectly said here, is what I realized last year. I did the newb stuff and got nowhere. I busted my ass on this social media stuff and got nowhere. Then I realized that no, it's not about being up there and tweeting/posting/bragging about my books, etc. It's about showing them what I've got. That's why I stopped querying. I needed to get a solid base, or platform, filled with "me". You by the way, have an amazing presence online and the work to back it up. You're proof that social media and the damn "buy my book" spam is a crock because you don't play into it and still do well. The benefit of mastering social media has been that I can direct people to my articles, and that's great. But I agree with you, social media will not sell my books. I sell them. That's why I use Twitter and such as a social place. It's partly the author on there, most mostly just me amusing myself. 😉

  4. I hope someone picks up Jack. I love that story. Love it. It's got the best villan ever. I wish you much luck my friend, and I for one am glad you built a platform so I could meet the awesomeness that is you. Hang in there. You already rock. Now we just need publishers to notice.

  5. Wendy, I'm so sorry. I didn't see this comment, and I miss "seeing" you around. I agree with you, Jack is the best "villain" ever. I'm quite infatuated with him. 🙂 And I hope you're right about the publishers. It's the noticing part that's the problem. I'll get around it. Don't you worry. And you should come out and play more. We miss your level head and baked goods.

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