Scratch Magazine: Explaining the Business of Writing

Scratch MagazineAre you looking for a book contract for your nonfiction, genre or literary fiction work? Here is what three very different, successful literary agents have to say about author platforms:

Platform is really about fame, and there are two different kinds of fame. One is fame among strangers, and the other is fame in your community. And either of those can be a great base for a book project. We all get people coming to us who say, “Hey, get me a book deal, and then I’ll be famous.” And our reply is generally, “No, get famous first, and then we’ll get you the book deal.” There are lots of ways to be famous in the important communities of interest for the project that you’re working on. (Ted Weinstein)

In terms of social media, a lot of times we’re just looking to see if this is somebody we want to work with or are they really … what’s the word I’m looking for … strange on social media circles, or lacking a level of professionalism in their online presence. (Kristin Nelson)

In the adult literary world, when you say “platform,” people roll their eyes. But I think it’s useful for young writers to think about what Rob Spillman, who’s the editor of Tin House, calls “literary citizenship.” That has to do with reading literary magazines, buying books, going to readings, growing your network—which is another dirty word—and just being supportive of other writers. …It’s hard to run a literary magazine. These people are doing great work, and they really tend to support the people who will support them. (Sarah Burnes)

Maybe you’re not writing a book, but are wondering how to get published in the New Yorker. Read some sage advice from author and journalist Susan Orlean:

What I’ve been suggesting to people is that almost every publication now has a very big online presence. They have to fill a lot more online space, and I think there’s more openness to a young writer coming in with a lot of enterprise and saying, look, I can do this, this, and this… So I think there’s a lot more openness to new writers on websites. I mean, I can see this with the New Yorker—the chance of getting something on the website is infinitely greater than getting in the print magazine.

Perhaps you have a contract with a Big Five publisher and are coming up against the limits of their digital publishing and marketing savvy. How likely is it that they will change their practices in your lifetime? Open Road Media’s CEO Jane Friedman has this to say:

You cannot, you can’t make a U-turn with the Queen Elizabeth. You can’t. They’re trying, all the Big Five are trying, but they cannot do what we’re doing here.

Industry News, Meet Personal Experience

The source for all these quotes is the fantastic new quarterly publication Scratch Magazine. The brainchild of (the other) Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin, Scratch mixes in-depth interviews with reporting on the business side of writing, photo essays, helpful graphics, and even a series on understanding clauses in publishing contracts.

There has always been a mystique around what writers get paid. But in recent years a few authors have started sharing their actual numbers. The Author Earnings Report collects data from book sales, and now Manjula Martin’s “Who Pays Writers” tumblr on freelance pay rates is part of Scratch, too.

My Video Interview with Jane and Manjula of Scratch

Scratch is an amazing resource for writers on many different levels—and at $20 a year every writer should subscribe right now! In February, I interviewed Jane and Manjula about their new venture. Watch our conversation here. Then subscribe.