“I’m working on a book” is one of the least believable sentences a person can say to you. It’s far less believable than if they said, “I have written a book. It has been published. You can buy it at the store now.”
But in 2016, if you’re really working on a book, and you hope to ever get it represented by an agent or sold to a publisher – or if you want more people than your mom to buy it — you must pre-promote yourself.
This isn’t the Roaring ‘20s. Back then, if F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to sell a book, all he had to do was roll out of a gutter filled with his own bourbony vomit and stumble down to Scribner’s.
“What’s it called, F?” Scribner’s would ask.
“I don’t know, ‘The Great Gatsby,’ or some shit. It’s about an eyeglass billboard.”
“Is it long?”
“Sold! Here’s an advance. Now go drink it.”
And old F would be back into his bathtub whiskey by lunchtime.
Back in F. Scott’s day, you could do that.
Back in F’s day, people had leisure time and no deodorant. They could luxuriate in bookshops for days, stinking up the place with their sweaty crinoline petticoats and sock-garters, fingering the flaps of little-known books, filled with the most self-indulgent kinds of symbolism and subtle, gooey wordplay, and then say to the shop owner, “I’ll take all of them. My horse is out front.”
This is not that time!
In 2016, you cannot fumble, booze-breathed, into a publisher to sell a book. You do not exist to a publisher unless you have an agent. But when you hand your finished, lovingly crafted manuscript to an agent, the agent’s first question will not be, “is it a good book and worth someone’s time to read it?” Her questions will be, “What sort of social-media platform have you constructed to promote your currently non-existent book? How many subscriptions do you have to your blog or podcast, likes on your Facebook page, followers on Snapchat and Instagram? Sold any e-books lately? Show me the numbers or I simply can’t sell the thing!”
For nine months now, I’ve been shoehorning myself out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to reach my day’s writing quota of 500 words. Today, I’m closing in on 70,000 words written. Old F. Scott’s “Gatsby” was a mere 47,00 words, BTW.
In a couple months, I’ll be done with the first draft of a funny (I hope), fictional (for sure) novel (that’s redundant), and in a year, I will have slogged through multiple further drafts of that novel, and be ready to whore it around.
That’s a year from now. But in 2016, NOW is the time to start
pandering, selling, to start building numbers, likes, subscriptions, and so on. So, when I stumble out of my own bourbony gutter and sally forth to an agent — who knows the barber of a guy who knows an editor at Scribner’s — I can hand them, not only a 100,000 word humorous novel, but also proof that I already have an audience for this book; a book which no one but me knows anything about.
It’s like I’m “working on” getting pregnant, and asking you to plan a shower for me.
So, will you?
Won’t you please. Won’t you please. Please won’t you be my platform?
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