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DIVING OFF THE PLATFORM

I've been getting a lot of messages on forums, twitter and facebook from authors who want to know how to build a platform to sell their book from.

It's all very gratifying to be asked - it means I must have some sort of platform myself. But I really don't have an easy answer, and I wish I did.

Here, though, are some of my thoughts, for what they're worth.

It takes time to build any kind of platform. So often, the people asking me have their book out, or just about to be released.

Take this blog for instance. If you're reading it, you're one of hundreds who now read my entries. I have no idea how you've come across it but, judging from my referrers lists, you're either from facebook or twitter, or you know me from a forum.

I've been writing this blog for 6 years and had two previous to it. I didn't start it to build a platform, or to blog on a specific day of the week, or to do anything other than have somewhere to pop down my rants and muses. For the first 4 years, hardly anyone read the blog, but I still posted on it regularly and enjoyed posting. Blog writing is some of the best fun writing I do.

Suddenly, about a year ago, the traffic increased until, now, I get four figure hits every month.

There was no magic button. I don't, actually, promote it much - one single tweet and facebook post, and a notification on some forum sites. I don't have a mailing list (but should - if anyone knows a simple step-by-step process an illiterate computer user can do, let me know). I don't have a fancy twitter-feed thing that retweets this every hour or two. It's just that, over time, people - you, unknown person - have started to visit it.

So, to a new writer who asks me is it worth having a blog, I say, well, yes. If you have six years to spare.

So what of those other platforms? I've been on twitter a good number of years - probably about six. About three months ago I reached the heady heights of having more followers than followed. It's a small account, still - about 800 followers, all told - but with few spammy-types. It is, actually, easy to build a lot of followers on Twitter - it's hard to build real followers. (What an awful word. Twitter-mates? Twitt-zers? Something realer?)

Facebook I'm newer to, but it's probably a couple of years now. I'm in quite a few groups, for the craic. There are a couple I'm fairly active in - Grimdark Readers and Writers (who are, really, kittens with soft paws but don't them that) and Space Opera. And my family and friends are there, too, which is nice as they see something of my writing life (but I don't envy them getting all my writing posts. Sorry. I love you all.)

So, again, when a new writer turns up hoping to find the magic Social Media platform I have to say it takes time - or, at least, it did for me.

Which takes me to my other big platform. Forums. Full of sff fans. Surely they're the best place to turn up and announce your new book.

Well, no. Forums hate that, with a passion you wouldn't believe. Most ban it. Others allocate a specific thread to it.

So, let's see. I've been a member of the sffchronicles for around five years. My first internet home, I have a lot of posts there. I was critiqued there, enter their writing challenges, cut my query teeth and had some great craic. When my book came out, they were the first to call out, the first to read it. They gave interviews and shares. Yep, they did everything a new author wants their forum to do. It only took five years....

Since release, I've joined other forums. I don't do much promo (although I do link to my blog - but that's mostly because I hope the blog is useful to other writers. It's one of the big reasons I started it.) I post occasionally, I try to help other writers, I mostly try to be a unfortunately time-limited member of the forums.

So, um, again,  it took time.

Which brings me to the one single message I have. By thw time your book comes out, it's too late to build a platform for that book. You can start, of course, and it might be good for futtur books. But, if you have some time spare as an aspiring writer (because, believe me, you won't once you're published) build your website, start your SM platforms, make contacts and be ready to hit the ground running when you need to.


Comments

wonderactivist said…
I agree that it takes time but wanted to add that it's best to choose one or two social media outlets and just enjoy them. Some people seem to over-focus on the social media to the detriment of their writing.
Joanne Zebedee said…
Yes, that's true. I stick to just facebook and twitter and avoid all the others, despite hearing good things. It's possible to spend all day posting and none writing. (I don't mind the blogs, they don't take much time and I enjoy doing them. But any more platforms and I'll be a little stretchy frazzled mess. :))
Bob Mueller said…
Greetings from AW.

Tweeple is the word you're looking for.

And check out SumoMe + Mailchimp for your email list. Pretty sure those will work with Blogspot.

As for taking time, you're right on target. I've been reading Dean Smith's blog a lot recently, and he keeps hammering on the idea that we're in this for the long game. Too many people toss one book up on Amazon and expect to get a movie deal out of it. But publishing is a long-term deal, just like it's always been. It's just that the gatekeepers don't have as much control as they used to.
Joanne Zebedee said…
Tweeples. That's much nicer (could be a whole SIM world in that...)

And thank you - I'll try Mailchimp, they get good feedback. (I do wonder if I'm dragging my feet because I find being on mailing lists a little intrusive. But others seem to not mind. Hmm.)

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