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September 18, 2010

Building a writer's platform

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
 I know people who have had blogs for years and years. These 'early adopters' are usually the more IT savvy among us, but now (in case you haven't noticed) everyone's hopping on board. Social media in general has been increasing exponentially in recent times. Keep in mind that Facebook (not to mention Twitter and tweeting) barely existed five years ago, and you'll see what I mean.

The digital age is here. But what does it all mean for the aspiring writer?

Firstly, it's worth pointing out that the idea of the writer's platform is far from new. I attended a Digital Publishing seminar at the NSW Writers' Centre  a couple of months ago, and one of the speakers, Kate Eltham, CEO of the QLD Writers' Centre wrote a post on her site on internet promotion and author 'platform' more than two years ago. And she was referring to a post by a US blogger from even earlier than that; mid 2006. But there's always a lag between early adopters and...well, the rest of us, and that's what's been in play here. Now, four years on, it seems like everyone has a blog. And any aspiring writer who doesn't have one is being made to feel like they're behind the eight ball.

Initially, the idea of platform was more properly associated with non-fiction writers, who needed to be able in some way to justify themselves as an 'expert' in the particular field about which they were writing. But now it's being applied to everyone - because as the social media have blossomed, so has the individual's ability to reach many, many people on the internet. Increasing the number of people who 'know' you, even if just virtually, and who are interested in your work, is a very valuable thing for any writer, non-fiction or fiction.

Of course, social media can be addictive, and it's easier to write a blog post or 'tweet' about something than work on your novel. Hours and hours can be spent this way. So it's a matter of doing enough to make it work for you - but not letting it consume your life. I'll let you know if, and when, I get this balance right myself!

Rachael Harrie, a writer-friend who is very active in the blogosphere has had a wonderful idea for taking a pro-active approach to 'platform': as she says,
"There are so many of us out there. Aspiring writers, beginner bloggers, industry peeps, even published authors, all who want to build their online platforms."

 So she's come up with a way to get us all together - by starting a Writers' Platform Building Crusade on her blog. Head on over if you want to be part of it. I'm signing up!

What are your thoughts on 'platform' for writers? Necessary evil or complete waste of time? And how many minutes/hours per week do you think it's reasonable to be spending on this sort of activity?


Rachael Harrie said...

Great post Adina, and thanks for the lovely comments :)

It's such a hard question isn't it, and what a catch-22: write your book first and get published, or start building an online platform early in the hopes that you'll succeed at a later date and your platform will help you out. I guess, like you, it's something I'm having to adjust to and think about as I go along. But...I'm learning so much from the online community, and that's only helping my writing... So, I'm seeing it all very much as a positive at the moment :)

Lisa Potts said...

There has to be a balance and it takes a while to find what's right for you. When I first started the blog, I spent hours and hours per day on it, and my writing became an afterthought. I had to cut back. So I've learned to limit.

I think it would be crazy for an author to ignore an online presence though. Let's face it, unless your someone a publisher is going to throw money at for promotion(not the case for 99% of first- time authors), then you need all the help you can get.

Adina West said...

@Rachael: I agree that it's never too early to establish an online presence. Waiting until an agent or publisher tells you to 'start a website' or get an online presence happening seems like lack of forethought to me. Better to be prepared!

@Lisa: From everything I hear you're right about publishers not spending big money on promoting first-time authors the way they do their 'guaranteed sellers'. Seems shortsighted IMO but that's the way it is. So it's up to us to work on that whole 'writer's platform' thing...

Marieke said...

I'm still trying to find my way blogging, too. Trying to find the right schedule, interesting topics, the right people to connect with... But I do think platform is very important. Not to mention, a good way to reach out to other writers and wannabe-writers in similar positions! :)

Quinn said...

I started blogging last year after I finished writing my first book. Only now am I getting more active with it and really enjoying it.
I definitely think that writers need to start establishing a platform as early as possible. That's why I joined in Rachel Write's platform-building crusade. Glad I found your blog!

Megan K. Bickel said...

I'm loving this crusade already because I'm discovering all these other blogs I didn't know about!

And in response to the question, I think it is necessary, but also wildly intimidating in a way. Putting myself "out there" as a blogger is not something I thought I'd be doing when I first started writing. But I totally see the value and I'm really enjoying it so far!

Adina West said...

Hi Marieke, Quinn and Megan - nice to have you join us! Will be checking out all your blogs in the near future.

@Marieke: Schedules aren't really my thing so I think my blog postings will continue to be haphazard and um, unpredictable. Good luck in finding the perfect balance!

@Quinn: Same for me - on submission with first completed book and then started blogging (though only recently - I'm a slow starter!)

@Megan: I find putting myself 'out there' intimidating in any context, so I know where you're coming from. But funnily enough I've found blogging a bit less intimidating than, for example, asking a real person to read and comment on my book. I don't know why - maybe because blogging requires no face to face contact?

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