Dear Miss Snark,
I regularly contribute book reviews to several national newspapers, such as the San Francisco Chronicle. I'm wondering how I can use my platform as a freelance book critic to find an agent and get my first novel published. (1) If I were to add that I'm at work on my first novel into my tagline in the newspaper reviews, is that the sort of thing that an agent or editor would spot and possibly use to track me down if s/he liked my writing?(2) In a query letter, would putting my publishing credentials up front be a good idea?(3) Does a website that collects my reviews and advertises my novel help in any way?(4) Any other ways you can think to make the leap from sometime journalist to novelist?(5)
1. You don't need platform for a novel. You need to write well.
2. You can certainly add "unpublished novelist" to your tag line and I assure you it will make every author you review sneer at you.
Agents and editors hardly ever read book reviews except for ones about books we've sold. Publicists do, and authors sure do, but I don't. I read Michiko, and the other Times reviewers but that's it. I know who the reveiwers are at the various papers and I talk to some of them, but I don't trawl for clients on their pages.
A book review is not a publishing credential. You can certainly mention it but writing a cogent book review isn't much of an indicator for whether you can write a novel.
4. And you'll want to be REAL careful about publishing those reviews on your website. My guess is that they were created as a work for hire and belong to the Chron. And how do you advertise a novel you haven't written?? "watch this space??"...uh no.
5. Yea, the best way is to write a good novel.