Later this month, I'm going to give a day-long workshop with the snappy title: "Think published to get published."

Obviously, it's got a strong emphasis on marketing and is going to include such biggies as: developing a platform, honing an internet presence, creating a writer's persona & resume, finding outlets to get your name known and so forth.

So, my questions to this illustrious group are:
1. Besides the most obvious of all -- writing a darn good story in a darn good voice -- what advice do you have for newbies/wannabes about becoming a *published* writer?
2. How does one develop a platform (what the heck is a platform, anyway?)?
3. What makes a writer different from a wannabe (again, besides the discipline of writing)?
4. Did you do anything to establish your reputation as a writer before you were published?
5. Is the old way of social networking, querying etc etc still the most effective way to get published?
6. Did you develop a writer's resume?
7. What am I completely missing?

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1. A writer has to do more than write a damn good story. She must know the format. I find it hard to believe that an editor would read past a glance of a manuscript looks as if the writer never saw a novel in print.

2. After 40 books and 400 short stories, I don't know what a platform is either.

3. A writer is someone who has worked hard at learning the craft, constructing the story or novel, and presenting it. A wannabes think it's easy because they write good letters or got A’s on term papers. Many wannabes think they are geniuses that the rules of common sense and literary tradition don't apply to them.

4. Nothing but practice, practice, send out, send out, and listen to ANYthing the editor said that indicated he had read your work all the way through--or even part of the way through.

5. Absolutely ... go to conferences, even local conferences. If you're serious, make the investment in time and money. Join a writer's group, but don't use the gourp as an excuse not to write. If you can't write, nothing will help. If you really are a genius, somebody will find out and want your stuff. But I think we've been limited to one literary genius in 4000 years of literacy

6. I developed a resume after I had one. Now, my resume is somewhat of a drawback -- "Hey, Jack, if you've published so many books, how come I haven't heard of you?" Answer: at a given point, editors decide that the market has already decided your fate--even if you've only been published by second tier outfits who have little or no distribution.

7. Neatness counts. My first book was sold after the editor sent me a note that said (this is a repeat from my crimespace page) "We'd love to publish your book, but we need a cleaner manuscript." It was in the days of typewriters, but in spite of spell check and grammar check, you need a careful final editing. Most things that I've written and got bounced immediately had typos on the first page.

In the end, your premise for the classs is valid--you have to think positively, but no matter how positively you think, nothing gets published unless the writer does the work--and knows what she's doing.

This was a good question. I learned a few things while I wrote the response.
I'm not going to proof again -- I've already taken too much of time on it.
This is exactly what I'm looking for.

Among the things I'm planning to discuss are people's images of what published writers do--and what they look like. For example, when I started writing novels, I had this weird image of a writer as someone who worked up in a garret, drank espressos and smoked all day. Repeat the picture -- except add scotch -- at night. I also thought that people would worship the writer -- that he or she would be famous from the moment of publication.

I think unrealitistic images/myths do us all a disservice.

I know a writer (not a mystery author) who claims to have written her bestseller in a week. This kind of nonsense does no one good -- especially not the newer people who think they're so terribly brilliant.
You're absolutely right about the lack of practical knowledge about the realities of the business. Maybe I should have a section called, "Brass tacks?"
It's pretty basic. Just be a decent person and conduct yourself professionally even before your book is published. That means following up with thank-you letters, even when you're rejected because it does take time to review unsolicited manuscripts; understanding that other people have their own priorities and responsibilities other than taking an interest in your manuscript; and taking the time to celebrate other people's successes--and yes, that means buying other people's books at various author events. (It's interesting how many times I've been cornered by a wannabe writer who wants information from me but doesn't bother to buy a book! The most aggressive ones never buy, I've noticed.)

I think what's probably underutilized is a relationship that every book lover has--some kind of contact with a bookseller or librarian in her/his local area. I would nurture that relationship, talk to the bookseller, find out what trends they see, what challenges they face. I've mentioned this before, but an endorsement of an unpublished manuscript from a bookseller can speak volumes with a prospective agent.

I think that it's also good to take the writer's observational skills and transfer it to world around her/him. Like what is the name of the reporter who writes book reviews or author profiles; what kind of book events/festivals are going on in my area; what kind of subjects seem to be cropping up in the news. Just being aware can be helpful.

I've had my own theories about platforms, etc., but now I've come down to the basics. I see people with single-minded personal agendas and it's not too attractive.
If you're online right now, I'd love for you to elaborate your comment about platforms. Is there a way to give some examples? I think newbies really clutch on to this concept and I'd like to explore it with my class in a more meaningful way.
I think platforms are critical for non-fiction writers, but not so much for fiction. The only time they really help is if you happen to have some expertise in the field you write (think Barry Eisler with the Rain series -- Barry's background is interesting and lends credibility to the setting / character)... but it's not his platform that sells the books -- it's his writing. I think there are a tremendous amount of writers with some expertise (whether through research or life experience) which helps to inform the book and gives the writer a platform, but if I wanted to know about that expertise, I'd be looking for a non-fiction book or looking online. I think too much worry on platform takes away from the basics that most new writers fail at, and that is writing well and getting feedback from other good writers.

When I hear the phrase "think published to be published" I think of professionalism and not so much emphasis on marketing yet -- getting feedback, learning how to edit yourself, learning how to analyze what works and what doesn't and being willing to go the extra draft or ten until you get it to that point where it wows people. When people flip over something you've written and ask permission to please please let them show it to someone (friend, family, whatever), then you know you've truly created something exciting. If you've shown it to several people and you're not yet generating that kind of enthusiasm, the work may need to be polished before it's ready for an editor or an agent. I think the emphasis on marketing themselves -- websites, etc. -- is a waste of time; that effort could go into making the book better, or starting on the next book. I don't think editors buy a mediocre or just barely decent book because someone markets themself really well. (I don't mean to sound so cynical--but I keep seeing so many people start up myspace pages, and I did, too, and now I realize it wasn't all that useful at all -- lots of wasted time.)
I think the best advice for issues 1 through 3 is to "write a lot". If your aim is publication, it is better to have six stories in the mail than one. When it comes to books, a lot of editors want to know if you have more than one book in you.

For the platform, as Toni said it's more relevant for non-fic, but in my understanding, a platform is a way of reaching a large audience. For instance, if you happen to be Rachel Ray and you want to write a cook book, then you have a great platform and no editor would pass you up. In fiction, the only thing I can think of that comes close to this (beside Crichton being an MD so his ideas on medicine have an authority to them that make people listen...) is to write a lot. When readers get used to connecting your name to pleasant reading experiences - magazine articles, short stories, whatever - they'll be more likely to buy your novel. I think.

As for the wannabe question, again writing a lot is the key. The wannabe looks at the one book they never finish as the masterpiece the world would be lucky to have. The writer writes his or her story, then turns to the next story, then the next. As I've counseled some budding novelists, look beyond this project because being a writer is a career. Worrying about one book or story makes you a wannabe - kind of like a baseball hitter who only cares about the first hit. One hit does not a career make.

I did nothing to establish my reputation as a writer before being published. I'm not sure that's even possible. Before your stories are out in the world, trying to establish a reputation sounds like just posing to me. Maybe I misunderstood.

For number five, I'd echo Naomi - be a decent human being...with thick skin. If you've got good stuff, talk to people, online or in person at conventions, etc. Buy someone a drink. Start out a conversation with "loved your last book" but really mean it. Still, in the end, you've got to send out your stuff. The most effective way is to send out high quality story at a high volume - targeted to editors who publish what you write. Don't send chainsaw murders to EQMM. Waste of your time and Janet's.

I don't know what a writer's resume is.Reminds me that I need to update my own resume though.

I think the only element I don't see represented by your questions is the targeting of markets. A lot of Writer's Digest entries will say "read a copy of the magazine before you submit." Sounds self serving, but it's not bad advice. I can only imagine how many stories Linda Landrigan and Janet Hutchings reject due to the kind of graphic material anyone reading even one issue would know is inappropriate. Think of the wasted postage.

Oh, and write a lot.

By the way, I assume you're familiar with for finding short story markets.
Great info here. Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoroughly.

I think there are things you can do to begin networking before you're published. These don't guarantee you'll be published, but they may make it easier to get a look-see/read when your work hits an editor's or agent's desk.

But, boy, you've given me a lot of good info here. And, no, I didn't know about duotrope.
1. Be willing to pay the writer's dues. Stick around long enough to get
angry enough that you're not published to turn the corner. I am driven
by the, "I'll show them what I can do" philosophy.

2. Platform is more my bailiwick — I wanted to write about forensic
science, so I joined the group. I wanted to write about criminal law,
so I took the course, got the degree.

3. Stick-to-itiveness. The persistence of sticking your ass in a chair
and cranking out a million words until something sounds good and fresh.

4. I wrote a newspaper column (locally) for eleven years. I created my
own materials such as a brochure and letterhead. I started a writer's
group (wound up being President for 3 and-a-half years). I went to
writer's conferences and eventually joined professional organizations.

5. Geez, I dunno. It's a kind of a "whatever works" thing. There are a
lot of different paths. My plan is to spread my name around until it
becomes recognizable and then create a product that gets distinction.

6. Yup. I didn't specialize either. Meaning I am going to try my hand at writing everything my little brain gloms on to.

7. I don't know you that well.
heh! Funny.

Like you, Andrea, I did many of these -- newspaper column and magazine features, developed a website before ever getting fiction published, going to conferences and conventions . . .

I'm published but still very much on the upward part of my career. It's really interesting to get everyone's take on this.

Yes, there are hundreds of ways to be effective.
7. What am I completely missing?

Well, you're not missing it. But the discipline thing is CRUCIAL. If you're willing to change your lifestyle around to write, and if you're faithful to the art, you're going to get some results. If you get up an extra three hours earlier than necessary and go to bed when you did when you were eight years old, you're going to find that you don't hate it, that you like it, and that you rock your own socks. But you have to make that sacrifice of not sleeping in. A professional, bill-paying writer absolutely must be willing to do what it takes for his art. You have to involve yourself in crit groups, in the blogosphere, and in the writing community, both online and offline. Doesn't mean you have to shell out big bucks, but if you can't shell out the bucks to get to a agent and editor pitching conference or the like, you're gonna have to work harder from home.
Ohhhhhhh, this is a good one. I think I'll have a section on discipline. That's a great idea. and it is crucial.


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