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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Building that Bridge


I’m taking part in Rachael Harrie's wonderful platform building campaign. I think it’s a fun, community building event and I like poking around other people’s blogs, having them poke around mine.

But there’s a bit of controversy about author platform building. At conferences, everyone attends the platform building session. There are online classes on it on Writer’s Digest, Media Bistro and Pennwriters Online, to name a few.

And agents weigh in on it’s importance on their own blogs and in agent chats.

So everyone’s talking about it. But not everyone agrees that it’s a good thing. Some say that the author platform is the single most important investment of time and resources a writer needs to expend. These people are usually selling something. Others say that the only thing that a writer should do is write – the rest is someone else’s job. These people are usually living in their dad’s basement watching too much Comedy Central.

So here are the pros and cons as I see it.
Pros:
Learning
If you are a newbie, or you are newly committed to making writing a priority, having a blog (and following other blogs) tweeting, facebooking, google+ and whatever else the evil geniuses come up with - it's all good. It will all add to your knowledge of the industry and other writers. 
You're name in lights! 
You can be googled (for more than your lame tumblr pics). An agent who requests pages, or who just likes the sound of your query can find you online and see  that you are engaged in a professional way.
Discover your voice
Nothing begets writing like writing. How you communicate across your platform says a lot about you. I don't mean that your writing voice needs to match your author platform voice, not at all. But it's another way to develop your professional 'writer's' voice.
Community
Whether it's feedback on your writing, your query letters, your synopsis – or your new haircut, there are voices out there that are listening. You may feel like you are in your cubicle, closet or bathroom, typing away in solitude, but you're not. 

Cons:
Learning
What you are learning is subjective, sometimes inaccurate and often contradictory. You can't swallow it whole, you can't agree with everything or you will go mad. You need to develop discernment pretty sharpish. 
Your Name in Lights!
And your bitchy book reviews, your f-bombs, your semi-naked new year's photos. You need to be careful of what you put out there.
Discover your voice
And it's scratchy and unappealing. You sound like a teenaged seal with croup. What I mean is that you need to discover and hone your voice. And, just like in your writing you need to edit.
Community
You’re preaching to the choir. Most of your followers are other writers, not (necessarily) your reader sweet spot. Are you gaining an audience or just hanging out with other writers waiting for a reader to walk by? (I know, writers are readers.)
And the biggest con?

Time spent shoring up the platform is time NOT spent writing.


But I think that time spent thinking of writing can be just as important as writing.

Do I have to be the cornball to say it? A platform can easily be turned into a bridge (geddit?)

So, what do you think? Author platform, hype, essential or somewhere in between?

11 comments:

  1. I think it's just nice to connect with people who are also in the business.

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  2. Your social platform in many ways is as near as a writer gets to having co-workers.

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  3. While I don't think it's absolutely necessary, I do think having a platform can do more good than bad; it's just a matter of balance between writing and networking. :)

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  4. When I signed a deal for my first book, I was told to get my butt online and build a platform. Yes, it scared the crap out of me. But I did it. Not only did it help for the release of my first book, I'm in an even better position for the second.

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  5. For me, having a blog and getting to know other writers has been a good thing in terms of learning, and support. I've made some real friends too, which was a nice surprise. If I'm building a platform and helping my future career, then even better :-)

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  6. Talk to any debut author about all the things they have to juggle and you will see why it's good to learn early on how to balance your life, social media, and the all-important art of writing.

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  7. Your name in lights can definitely be a con because some people use blogs in a negative way. Great post!

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  8. Great post! Welcome to the campaign.

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  9. Hi, fellow campaigner :-)

    It does take up a lot of time, but I think if you organise your time properly (and you have a fast internet connection!) it is definitely worth it!

    xx Rachel

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