I just saw this online and I am horrified. Is it really true that novels are rejected because their author doesn't have enough Twitter followers? I know that platform is a big deal for non-fiction, but is it really the same for novels? At the level indicated here, where the book quality seems secondary to the follower count?
I’ve commiserated with novelists who say their books have been rejected by big five publishing houses partially because they don’t have enough Twitter followers and talked to others who feel pretty sure they’ve been turned away from media jobs for similar reasons.
In case anyone outside the publishing/media biz is wondering if this is a thing, it is very much a thing.
Authors nowadays are expected to shoulder the lion’s share of marketing their own books, and social media is viewed as the best avenue for doing it. Publishers are absolutely going to give more attention to a new(ish) author with 50,000 twitter followers than someone with 5,000 because the first one has demonstrated that s/he already has an audience and knows how to work it.
I know someone who wrote an ok but not great ya-novel. She went all in on social media and became everyone’s bff and supportive big sister and scored a book deal for two more books and a movie deal out of it. She is very, very good at social media. Meanwhile, I also once talked to a well-established author who’s written several acclaimed novels in her remote cabin in the middle of nowhere who was lamenting the death of author as a solitary profession. Times are certainly a-changing. I feel bad for the loner author.
First, you're comparing apples and orangutans.
"Acclaimed" as in well-reviewed, prize winning, is assessed with a very different lens than "relentlessly commercial."
Relentlessly commercial, as in ok not great YA, means you need fans.
Acclaimed means your book will be review driven, but NOT reviews from social media. In other words, School Library Journal isn't going to review your book cause they saw you and your seven million BFFs tweeting about #TeamButtonweezer.
SLJ looks at the marketing material from the publisher, and maybe some trade journals like Kirkus and PW.
Movie people look at sales numbers first. They don't care if a book is good or bad, they're not going to read it anyway.
If something is selling, it doesn't matter if the Boston Globe said
"But the amount of utter trash in the volume is almost infinite — trash of conception, execution, dialogue and sentiment. Whoever buys the book on the strength of the author's reputation, will be cheating himself of his money, and we believe we shall never see the man who has endured the reading of the whole of it…."**
But to your larger question: there is no way to know the degree of truth in this. Each agent has her own experience, and the stories she hears from other agents. There is no reliable way to assess this phenomenon objectively.
But, yes, when a novelist has a following, it helps.
Think about it. If you were going to invest money in a book, would you rather invest with someone who has an established following, or someone who needs to build one?
There's no wrong answer to that, but you can see why bottom line conscious, risk averse publishers are looking for authors with platform even with novels.
And that's cause there's very little other choice. Word of mouth sells books, and increasingly word of mouth is online.
So, what does that mean for you?
Recognize that writing IS solitary. Your fans aren't going to come to your house and make you tea while you sweat blood.
But PROMOTION is part of your job if you want to publish. Know it, be prepared to do it. You don't have to be JA Jance, but you can't be JD Salinger.
Don't fret that you don't know how, and even if you did you don't want to.
Learn how it's done, and figure out first steps you can take now.
You just need a plan to start.
And a mailing list.
**This is an actual snippet from a review.
Can you guess the book?
NO FAIR GOOGLING!