Monday, August 8, 2011

Focus and Today's Writer - A Blogshop with Literary Agent Bree Ogden

The topic of author platform came up in a professional editorial group I'm in (doesn't it always?). The hot button issue was when do writers need to build their web presence - before, while or after they finish their manuscript?

Today I give the floor to literary agent, Bree Ogden with Martin Literary Management Group to shed some perspective on the what comes first, the author or the platform issue as we continue our focus on FOCUS in a writer's life this month.

BO: Aspiring young adult writers, I’m talking to you. How many Twitter followers do you have? High hundreds? In the thousands, you say? What about blog followers? You’re kidding me! 600?? Wow! Impressive!

So…where can I buy your book? Oh it’s not published? I see…

So admittedly, that was a bratty introduction. But sometimes you have to be bratty to get a point across (Sorry, mom). While creating a huge and loyal fan base is just the bee’s knees, it won’t necessarily help you get you manuscript published. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Where is your focus and is it in the right place?

All the followers in the world aren’t going to write that manuscript for you. They aren’t going to query that agent and they sure aren’t going to convince an editor to shell out upwards of 60K for a manuscript that you neglected because you were too busy tweeting and blogging.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, it is. Your fan base doesn’t matter until you have a book deal, but once you have a book deal you are too busy editing to build a fan base. There is, however, one social media outlet that will help you when your agent is trying to get you that coveted book deal or even more importantly, when you are trying to land an agent.

Blogs/Web sites!

A word about blogs; it’s not about how many followers you have who have actually “subscribed” to your blog. It’s all about the stats. How many hits do you get a month? Where are those hits directed? Are they going to that guest post Stephanie Meyer wrote for you, or are they directed to the page about your manuscript. (The latter is a more beneficial place for them to be hitting).

Are you following?

Editors care more that your blog is getting attention because of the product they might possibly spend thousands of dollars on. If I may use one of my clients as an example: He has a Web site that generates an insane amount of hits a month. But he has a variety of his other projects and work on his Web site and only a small portion of it is dedication to his manuscript that I represent. However, 47% of his Web site hits go straight to that particular section. Now that’s something to write home about. Of the 20 or so other pages that people can explore on his Web site, nearly half his hits go to his manuscript page.

I know. I’ve just told you to focus on your manuscript before worrying too much about a fan base, and then I tell you how impressive it is to have a ton of hits on your site. Here is the distinction. And it’s a big one.

His work is completed.

Once you’ve written, rewritten, rewritten, edited, reedited, reedited and perfected your manuscript, that’s when you focus on a fan base. That’s not to say you can’t slowly build it up while you are working on you manuscript. But I know how tempting it is to get distracted with all the fun social media. And that, my friends, without a completed manuscript, is a road to nowhere.

TLC: Writers, publishers expect a lot from you. They want a knock-out manuscript, they want you to publicize yourself and sell your book in a very big way. Don't lose your focus, my dears. You've got to have something to sell before you can sell it and something to talk about before you go social.

About the Contributor

Holding a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management represents graphic novels, children’s books and young adult. Bree has a passion for the middle grade genre, especially boy-centric fiction. She loves dark and quirky humor, as well as dark writing in general. While she is not a huge fan of paranormal or supernatural in young adult, she loves sci-fi and horror. Bree finds inspiration in the television shows Dexter and the late Pushing Daisies, classical music, authors that can entertain while building the imagination and writers without egos. She loves anything that will make her scream in terror or laugh in delight.


  1. As usual, common sense advice and perspective from two of my favorite writing professionals. Thanks, Erin and Bree, for keeping us (it?) real (holding myself back from the obvious pun). :)

  2. Of course you do know what you're talking about. Coming into this thing I knew that having a blog would "up" my stats in general so to speak. I was a writer and I couldn't not write. But at the end of the day, I knew I needed to have a "finished product". I write about several things, the book is just one-but a very important one<(understatement of the year). I also came to Facebook and Twitter for the sole purpose of sharing my writing. They both sort of took a life of their own.

    Back to my blog-the hits started coming and I kept writing. It was one thing that propelled me. In the last few months, however, I focused only on my ms-and I finished.

    So now, even though it is not published-yet-I know I have that in my resume if you will.

    Great topic. Great reading, thank you Bree.
    Thank you, Erin for having her!

  3. I am a writer-illustrator (primarily illustrator)--and I assume the guidance goes for my-types, too--this is some of the best advice I have read recently on this topic...and there sure is a lot of it out there! I re-started my blog last spring and it has proven to be a great bell-weather for interest in my work. I love the feed-back, and I've met the nicest people along the way. I really only use FB and Twitter as "support" for my blog. Thanks! Btw, I'm now following Bree on Twitter ;)


Leave your thoughts! Feel free to share with us your success stories or tips.