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Selling it with Skin

One of the main points of publishing that was imparted to us aspirings during this past weekend's Backspace Writer's Conference was the idea of a "platform." A platform is a network, a built-in audience that you bring with you to the table before you even sign a contract with an agent, let alone a publisher. This audience is guaranteed sales.


Usually, a platform is only required of a non-fiction writer (say a celebrity chef wanting to pitch their cookbook, or a well-known doctor wanting to pitch a self-help book), but we learned that a platform is a major boost for fiction writers as well, even debut fiction writers such as myself. Well, who among us has a platform? I sure as heck don't (and apparently family and friends don't constitute a big enough platform...sorry, kids). So, that's what this blog, as a whole endeavor, is about: generating my "online presence," building my platform. It's all part of the marketing process of the book, but you're also marketing yourself, something that makes me extremely uncomfortable.


As a writer, a fiction writer at that, I like to hide behind my stories and especially my characters (well, actually, I hide IN my characters, but don't tell anybody). I'm not a fan of standing in the spotlight, doing the ole song and dance. It's a strange mindset that fiction writers don't like to get into because it shines the light on them and not where it should be shining: on their words, their work. But apparently, it's all part and parcel of the beast known as publishing, especially in today's saturated market. One's book has to be able to "jump off the crowded shelf" and the best way to do that is with name recognition.


So here I am on blogging away. I'm twittering like an absolute fool. And researching the purchase of jeffreylrichards.com to launch my website. All the while sitting here saying: "All I want to do is write." But "just writing" isn't enough anymore. The Harper Lees and JD Salingers of the world can't hide out in their reclusive cocoons. No, if Harper and JD were starting out today, they'd have to take tap and voice and HTML classes. No more of this creating one of the most amazing works of literature ever and then hiding yourself away. You gotta get out there Harper and sell it with skin! A little nip-slip will peddle a few more of those Mockingbirds.


Yes, it feels that absurd to me. And who the hell wants to see my nips? But I guess if that's what it's going to take for people to read my work: the show will start at 8pm with a two drink minimum (you're gonna need them). Jeff


(originally posted 6/3/2009)


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