A few years ago, I went to a writing conference where we were encouraged to start building our “platform” before we were ready to publish our book.
(“Platform building” is basically marketing of you as a writer. It encompasses those things you do to engage potential readers and includes a website, blog, and social media.)
The reasons given us for starting early were that once the book was published, we’d be busy selling it, doing author readings, autographing copies, traveling from Point A to Point C to meet fans and share our stories.
And because agents — those mysterious folks who hold the power to get our words published — prefer representing work with a ready-made audience.
But it strikes me as awfully sad that so many authors are being reduced to snake-oil salesmen on social media sites.
“Buy my book — please!” they tweet.
“I’m over at XX today. Join the conversation,” they urge.
“First forty pages written,” they announce. “Smokin’ now!”
“Follow me and I’ll follow you back,” they beg.
Doesn’t that sound needy??
Surely there’s a better way of getting your name out there and reeling in potential readers.
Some writers do an outstanding job of engaging the public. Helping readers see them as real people, building relationships of trust, and being accessible and encouraging.
Isn’t that the ideal?
Writing is hard work. It can be a lonely, daunting task to stare at a blank screen and put words on it. To create an imaginary world peopled with fascinating characters doing meaningful things.
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. –George Orwell
But those of us so inclined should remember one thing — our main job is to write.
At least, not until we have something to sell.
Platform building, worthy though it is, is akin to putting the cart before the horse for unpublished novelists.
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner agrees. She advises unpublished fiction writers to spend 90 percent of their time perfecting their craft and 10 percent on building a platform.
For if you haven’t perfected your craft, how can you expect to pull in readers?