Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Putting the Cart Before the Horse—Guest Post by Emily Wenstrom

by Emily Wenstrom, @EmilyWenstrom

ProfilePicPutting the Cart Before the Horse Why I’m Building a Platform without a Completed Manuscript Nonfiction writers are constantly told how critical their platforms are to landing a publisher. Fiction writers, on the other hand, are told to focus on their manuscripts. I'm a fiction writer, but I work in marketing and PR. I’m well aware of the power of platform, and I want it. I want it now.

So in addition to getting up early each weekday to write, I also started a blog last September, Creative Juicer, where I blog about the creative process. And then, on top of this, an idea smacked me over the head last year, and I created wordhaus, a short story zine for genre fiction built for the digital age (just launched, now seeking submissions!)

But is this really worth all the time and effort I’m pouring into it ? I could be watching TV, hitting the gym, spending time with my husband or—ahem--working on my manuscript. The answer is yes, I absolutely believe it's worth it, for three big reasons.

1. I’m getting ahead.

While other writers are just starting to flip through Wordpress templates to choose their design, I’ll be typing up an announcement of my newly landed publishing deal to my tribe—a group currently in the mid-hundreds, hopefully by then in the thousands. Not only will I have a head start on my book marketing, but I’ll have already demonstrated that I understand how to market, and will be a good partner in promoting my book. If an agent or publisher is wavering between my manuscript and another equally good one, I’m counting on this tipping the scales in my direction.

But my platform doesn’t just help my maybe-hopefully-someday publishing sucess. I was able to find a sweet spot where my career overlaps with this (creative process), so I’m already reaping the rewards of establishing an expertise relevant to my career. So already that's a double win in my book.

2. It gets me actively engaged in the community.

Blogging makes me a more integrated part of the creative/writing community—I am connected with more of them on Twitter, I get to talk to them in my blog’s comments, and it gives me some great excuses reach out the industry’s thought leaders and start building meaningful relationships with them.

Even though it takes a lot of time, I am positive this helps me write a better manuscript, and more efficiently. The more engaged I am in a community of writers, the more I sharpen my skills, and the more focused I am on my publishing dreams.

3. It expands my options.

Traditional publishing is something I really hope to have the opportunity to do. But let’s face it, competition is stiff. Beyond writing the best stories I can, I have limited control over whether I land a deal.

But we’re living in a good time to be a writer. If I play my cards right, I don’t need traditional publishing to be a successful author. Even if I were lucky enough to get a publishing deal, I can see a lot of merit to sharing my own self-pubbed stories on the side.

And even better, this applies beyond fiction. With a blog, I can branch out and start offering ebooks, and that can turn into another revenue stream.

But without a platform, I might as well shoot my writing out into space as post them in cyberspace. An audience is everything.

If I’m going to be completely honest, part of why I’ve done it this way is because it’s just my nature. I’m impulsive. If I have a thought, I want to act on it right away. I try to turn that weakness into a strength when I can.

My platforming does take away from my writing time on occasion, and it drives me nuts when it happens. But really, I’d have occasional off days in my writing no matter what. So I remind myself that writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint, and focus on the benefits I’m gaining from all my efforts, manuscript and platform alike.

Emily Wenstrom is a professional writer living in Washington, DC. She has a background in journalism, including roles ranging from proofer for a political newsletter to managing editor of a women's lifestyle magazine. She blogs about creativity in art and career at Creative Juicer, and is the founder and editor of wordhaus,a short story zine built for the digital age.

Writers can submit their romance, mystery/thriller and sci-fi/fantasy stories to wordhauspub (at) gmail (dot) com.S tories should be no more than 2,000 words. No attachments, please. Learn more about submissions here.