#58: Behind the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference: An Interview with editor Maya Ziv by Maria Gagliano
August 29, 2014
The word ‘platform’ is often greeted by groans from emerging writers. Many of us are tired of hearing that we need to ‘get on Twitter’ and ‘build a following’ if we want an agent or publisher to notice our work. We’re writers—bookworms and wallflowers by design. Many writers do tweet comfortably and brilliantly, but most of us do not, and we cower at the thought of trying. I caught up with HarperCollins editor Maya Ziv for a brief chat about how she views platform when considering a novel. And good news: She doesn’t think Twitter is everything.
Maya will be on our “What’s All This Talk About ‘Platform,’ and Do I Really Need One?” panel at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference in just one week. The weekend’s complete panel schedule can be found here.
How much do you care about author platform when considering a project from a debut author? What does ‘platform’ tell you about the writer?
I mostly acquire fiction, so my main test in considering submissions is whether I fall in love with the writing and premise. But, platform is definitely a plus. In the world of fiction, that can mean that the author went to an MFA program and has the support of prestigious writers. In nonfiction it can mean that the author has written for several publications and has support/connections with writers and editors, or that author has an active online presence that will hopefully translate to book sales. I may sound Pollyannaish, but I think it is ultimately about the quality of the project. I have to believe that good books find homes, no matter who the author knows.
Say an author cannot tweet to save her life. Are her chances of impressing you with a great platform totally shot? What else can she do?
Not at all! She can still do readings at local bookstores, or go on a book tour (a great way to make connections with other writers/booksellers). Or, she can write op-eds or other pieces that introduce new readers to her body of work.
What if you fall in love with a submission’s writing, but the author has no platform at all. No social media presence, no publications in magazines, or anything else. Would you still pursue the project?
I would, and I have. Again, I think the power of a book speaks for itself.
What really excited you about one of your recent acquisitions that made you feel you just had to publish the book?
I bought two novels recently that I had to buy because I fell in love with the read. Both books reminded me why I love to read and why I wanted to be an editor. For me, that is the best feeling in the world.
A Manhattan native, Maya Ziv knew she wanted to work in publishing from the day her aunt, an editor at Scribner at the time, took her to “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Maya began her career as an intern at Brandt & Hochman. After a year and a half on the agent side at Brandt & Hochman, she moved over into editorial at HarperCollins. An editor now, she has been with the company for more than six years.
Maria Gagliano is a writer, editor, baker, and Business Director of Slice. Her writing has appeared in BUST magazine, the Huffington Post, and Salon, among other publications. You can find her on Twitter and at mariagagliano.com.