Authors need author platforms. That’s how they sell books, especially for self-published, and that’s how they network and stay motivated and talk to other writers… well, the main benefit is to sell books.
But is it really necessary? Is that the best approach?
I haven’t been especially motivated to blog lately, mostly because I’ve been working on actual writing (and now have the Buffy and Angel series, but that’s neither here nor there). Then I start to worry – if I don’t work on my blog, I won’t get readers which means I can’t sell my first book when it’s finished.
Keep that in mind as you read the arguments going through my head.
The Downside: Less Focus on Craft
A long while ago, I read about this singer, John Mayer, who told students not to worry about Twitter or blogs or Facebook or anything else. If they have twenty minutes to blog, they should write a song. Taking care of the author platform should come second (a distant second) for how to spend your time to actually creating.
Think about it. Amanda Hocking was so prolific that she didn’t really need to market herself. She just didn’t a lot of really good books. Once a reader read one, they’d want to read another, and another…
That same principal is why publishers prefer series over a one-off book. Readers pick up the first, love it, and pick up the second, love it, and so on and so on. Eventually they become so invested in the series, that they’ll keep buying it, even if they don’t really like how it develops (or how often the the author publishes).
And in the end, it comes down to if you’re so busy blogging and tweeting and maintaining, when are you going to have time to write and polish your wonderful novel? Every hour you spend on social media is an hour you can have been editing or perfecting your craft.
As John Mayer said:
This time is a really important time for you guys because nobody knows who you are, and nobody should. This is not a time to promote yourself. It doesn’t matter. This is the time to get your stuff together.
More Downside: The Urge to Publish
When you have to blog and tweet and post on Facebook and all these things, then there’s always pressure to publish. You need to publish something these week, so let’s just zing out a short post or a short story. With Kindle and the ease of self-publishing, there can be even more pressure to just publish your novel — good enough, except when it’s not.
And what are fictional authors supposed to blog about anyway??? Non-fiction authors can easily identify their subject matter, but are non-writing readers really going to be interested in our tips on writing protagonists? And if you haven’t published yet, should you even be throwing that out there?
… Says the person who finds little impetice to write blogs. And who also hasn’t even published a book yet, nor is an editor.
The Upside: People and the Future
On the other hand, an author platform with tons of devoted fans and friends can be a really nice bonus on your query. Editors are in the business of selling books and if you can show them that you have five hundred people who will buy your book in a heart beat, well, you’re looking a lot better than the person without anything.
Plus, it can be pretty motivating to see what other writer’s are up to and to write about your own struggles. It’s sometimes easier to come to a logical solution when you write your problem out and examine it from all angles, instead of yelling, “Oh God what am I going to do???” over and over again. The solution just comes from your fingertips.
Like now. This post isn’t really for other people. I don’t expect authors to come here and take my word as gospel. As I said above, I’m not even published, what do I really know? But as I write this and develop the arguments, the “next step” becomes clearer in my head.
Upside or Downside: The Competition
Then there’s also the “standards” requirement. Increasingly, you MUST be maintaining social networks and a website. Your competition is and your readers (when you have them) will expect you to be on there too.
The old style where authors and other celebrities were fundamentally unreacheable is coming to an end. You can tweet to your favorite authors on Twitter or talk to them on Facebook. And readers want to talk to their favorite authors and see what they’re doing. By starting a platform now, you will be ready and practiced and not going “Oy with the poodles already – I can write a novel but can’t write a good blog post??”
See the consequences and decide
You can’t really do it half-ass. If you write a blog, you have to come up with content on a regular basis or you won’t make much progress. If you decide to tweet or go on Google+ or do Facebook (or any other platform), you have to log in on a regular basis too and really engage. Half-ass doesn’t get results, it just wastes time.
You could probably find examples of both and make compelling arguments for either. Neither one is an easy option, since both will require effort, albeit in different places. In the end, it might just come down to seriously looking at something, the pros and the cons, and going “Yeah, I’ll take that approach, even though there are hard parts.”
Again, says the person who hasn’t the motivation to blog and hasn’t published yet.
Where do you come down? Platform or focus on writing? Or a middle path? How do you manage everything?