Pondering …

… the idea of self-promotion, something with which a lot of writers are quite uncomfortable.

I’ve just finished writing an article for the next edition of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace on finding a literary agent … one of the points I put in there was ‘Write first, agent second’.



If you’re approaching a literary agent, you need to have a product to offer her/him. The agent is running a business, the business of selling your book to a publisher, who then sells the book to readers … and the happy outcome of all this is an income for everyone. Huzzah, puddings for all. Yet I still receive queries at least once a week from people who say ‘I’ve been thinking about writing and I need a literary agent.’

Well, why? You have no product to present. You got nuthin’, buddy. So, write first, agent second.

Similarly, I’m getting a bit perplexed by newbie writers who are creating webpages for themselves, stalking other writers on FB and the like in order to ‘promote’ themselves … when they have no writing. No publications out there for a reader to go and look at … some post their writing on the site and that’s fine … but those who don’t have anything there but are madly promoting themselves are a puzzle to me.

You need to have a product. You need to build a reputation based on your writing. If you’re a Mafia-hitman-in-training, then surely your resume should have some instances of actually putting horse heads in beds, rather than simply saying “I totally want to be a Mafia hitman and put horse heads in people’s beds, Mr Gotti.” Surely one must show a record of achievement.

Otherwise, where’s the substance of you as a writer? You’re just Paris Hilton, all surface, all self-pimping, no depth, no achievement. Why bother?

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9 Responses to Pondering …

  1. Alisa says:

    Which to be honest is the same as pitching a novel to a publisher – you can have an idea, everyone has an idea, but without a manuscript, alls you got is an idea.

  2. angelaslatter says:


  3. chrisbongers says:

    When my first novel was accepted for publication, a quick google of my name threw up a nineteen year old model (not me), a documentary producer (male and also not me) and a tuckshop roster (unfortunately, me). Clearly, I needed a more acceptable online presence – urgently. Would I have ventured into the world of online promotion without that book contract? Not on your nellie.
    Great post, Ange, but it occurs to me that if you’re interested in a change of career, you could probably put horses heads in beds …But I guess you already know that, don’t you?

  4. angelaslatter says:

    Cement boots for you, Bongers … errr, I mean, I have no idea what you are implying …

    I’m better with the plushy horse heads.

  5. Write first; promote second.

    Wonderfully simple and seemingly obvious, but often overlooked and painfully necessary.

    I like it. 🙂

  6. Alan says:

    I think you’ve stumbled on the rabid “author platform” brigade. There’s a perception that if you already have an online presence and a following, you’ll be able to sell manuscripts more easily to publishers. The downside to this is that people are taking this to mean having that presence from the outset, before writing anything, as opposed to developing it with your own writing on your site, small press, for-the-love publications and so on.

    The real downside is that I’ve never met an editor yet that agrees with this position. Jim Minz from Baen said, and I paraphrase badly, “Meh.”

    Basically, if it came down to two books and one person had a strong internet following and one didn’t, the publisher would go with the author with the established fan base. But, as you so rightly imply, Angela, that fan base has come from putting “product” out there in the first place. The whole argument is kinda moot.

    Sadly, the same way people will look for the “lose weight quick” miracle cures instead of starting by eating less and exercising more, people will look for the fast road to publication instead of actually writing.

    Apologies for the above analogy – I’m a personal trainer.

  7. angelaslatter says:

    Why thank you, ma’am :-). Love your site, btw 🙂

  8. angelaslatter says:

    T’is all true.