Kelly Mortimer

Kelly Mortimer of Mortimer Literary Agency represents clients in both the ABA and the CBA. Kelly gives each client personal attention, including editing. She’s in the top 10 of the Publisher’s Marketplace Top 100 Dealmakers - Romance Category, a two-time nominee and this years winner for the American Christian Fiction Writers “Agent of the Year” Award, and her agency is Romance Writers of America recognized. Kelly is also President and CEO of Underdog Press.

Platform Ain't Just a Shoe

Lack of a solid platform can knock ya right out of the ballgame...

I’ve grown to hate the word platform. Not only does it remind me that I used to worship Elton John, but now my pre-pubbed authors have to come up with marketing strategies instead of concentrating on writing. Ah, well.

So, what exactly is a platform? Literally, something ya stand on that puts you above others. Same idea in the publishing industry. Editors and publishing houses wanna know why your book will stand out from the pack and how you're gonna help sell your book. Huh? Rewind. Sell my own book?! Sorry, that wasn't a joke. With dwindling promotional dollars allocated for new writers, it’s important for an author to pick up the slack in the marketing department.

Unfortunately, platform, once only vital for nonfiction writers, is increasing in importance for fiction writers as well. Lack of a solid platform can knock ya right out of the ballgame. In fact, without one, a newbie might not even make it into the parking lot. Now ya hafta “sell” your book before ya sell your book! (Sheesh.)

Part of a platform is rounding up author endorsement quotes. (Probably harder than corrallin’ my curls on a bad hair day.) You know, those wonderful quotes found on the book’s back cover or on the first pages. But not just any endorser will do. You need recognizable names. Big names. Names that haul in sales. (Hint: Herman Schlump won’t impress Random House.)

Accomplishing this can prove difficult. I recently sent out a nonfiction proposal and had to ask Big Name Authors for endorsements. One old-timer spoke to me like she was patting me on the head. “Oh, we have a way we do that. There’s an order and precedent. First, you have to sell your book; then your agent, editor, or publishing house calls my agent, editor, or publishing house. And if I have time, they’ll submit your book to me and I’ll let them know if I can endorse it. Right now, I don’t have the time.” (Ah, it may have been done that way in 1978, but it ain’t done that way in 2008, at least for the most part.)

I’ve also heard, “My contract prohibits me from endorsing other writers’ work.” (That’s convenient. I wonder if that author forced her agent to get that clause included in her contract.)

Then there’s the “good ol’ boy’s network,” for lack of a better phrase. Major best-selling authors have deals with their friends

who are also major best-selling authors, and they endorse one another exclusively. (Sigh. How can I join? Never mind. I know.)

No, I have nothing against mega-authors. I admire them greatly. (Yes, really.) I realize the constraints they hafta operate under. In their defense, they don’t have a lot of extra time for reading newbie authors’ works. And what if they don’t like it? (The word awkward comes to mind.)

Let’s move along, shall we? What else belongs in a platform? Sorry, gotta use the “B” word. B-L-O-G. Writers need a blog. More important, they need a blog people sign up for. Even more important, they need a blog with high traffic, or, a lot of “hits.” (Ugh.) Not only do ya hafta get people to show up, but ya need repeat business.

I’m not a big fan of blogging. Takes a lot of time to keep checking to see if ya hafta answer comments. Buuut, I just started one, and I get to rant, which provides a modicum of value. I’ve warned everyone I’m neither PC, nor do I shy away from controversy. What a shock. (I’ll still get slapped upside the head, but I already look like I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime. Ya know, before he started snacking on his opponents’ ears.)

In addition, ya hafta convince other writers you’d be a great guest on their blogs. What’s that? Oh, I forgot to mention blog tours. That’s where you “guest blog.” You either write a post, do a question-and-answer, or both. More work. At least it’s writer’s work. So, start networking, or you can pay someone to set up a blog tour for you. (It’s kinda like going to a travel agent, but ya don’t get the vaca.)

There’s more, like book signings, radio and TV appearances, public speaking (gasp!) etc., etc., etc. Why can’t we just stick to stilettos? (Sigh.)

Kelly Mortimer