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View Full Version : Talk to me about a writer's "platform"



thwaitesyellow
06-30-2014, 09:08 AM
Pretty please! I tried searching through old threads but didn't come up anything, so sorry if this has been asked and answered.

I picked up a copy of the 2014 Writer's Market Guide to Literary Agents because I want to know what's coming up after editing and beta reads. The point about having a platform as a writer (blogging, Twitter, etc) was belabored a couple of times and I've also seen this advice, to develop an audience before starting to query, in other writing books that I've read or skimmed at the bookstore.

So, exactly how much salt should I take this advice with? I've tried blogging in the past but could never really get comfortable with it. Obviously, the most important thing is to have something great to sub...but is not having a web presence a black spot against a new author in today's digital age? I would also say that this question is probably directed more towards people who have pursued or are pursuing trade publishing, because I imagine that authors who are self-publishing need to do their own marketing and the Internet is great for that. But I'd like to entertain thoughts from everyone.

shadowwalker
06-30-2014, 09:27 AM
I might as well give up writing if my chances of being published are affected by having a blog. JMO, but I would think agents and publishers looking at fiction would be far more interested in seeing good manuscripts than X number of followers on some social media. Let's face it - there are authors out there, published and aspiring, who are deep in the throes of hoof-in-mouth disease. Blogs are their worst enemy.

Filigree
06-30-2014, 09:33 AM
It's hard to know. Sometimes the agents and publishers want an author's 'platform' in place, so there will be some built in market for a book. I've seen this especially in nonfiction, where an existing online presence, social media celebrity, or scholarly reputation can really draw attention to the book.

In fiction, I'm not sure platform matters that much, at least for writers early in their career. Look very carefully at any editor or agent *insisting* that you have an established online presence/platform. Then ask them what *they* will be doing to promote or pitch your work. If the promotional burden falls more on you, you may want to find other business partners.

If it comes down to a choice between writing another book, or writing more blog posts, you're probably better off writing the book. That builds a potentially profitable backlist.

I have an almost accidental platform, based off art, fan fiction, and a few published original pieces. I blog about things that interest me. My blog doesn't make money directly, but it does serve as a clearinghouse for my various creative interests. That's all I expect from it.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-30-2014, 09:36 AM
For fiction, you don't need a platform. Lots of non-fiction sells based on a platform, but that's more to have evidence that the book is worth reading.

For fiction, it's unnecessary. Especially in trade publishing.

JulianneQJohnson
06-30-2014, 10:44 AM
Having a platform may not be necessary to get fiction published, but it certainly can't hurt. I've read enough agent blogs where they mention googling an author they are considering to see what comes up. I don't have a blockbuster web presence, but when you google my name, you get me. That isn't going to get me published, but every little bit helps.

Osulagh
06-30-2014, 11:02 AM
If you have no use for blogging, Facebook, Twitter and anything else, then don't do it. If an agent has to pass you off because you don't have a platform established, then wouldn't they be a bad fit for you?

A pre-established platform can make you look like you're ready to be an author, or perhaps you have readers lined up--which is rare. There's been very little success in platforms being profitable before the product was put out, and because of this news people have gotten on a band-wagon of copying it. Which, it doesn't work out most of the time.

I agree with Filigree (this rhymed :D). If it was up to me, I'd rather spend time writing than on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.

gingerwoman
06-30-2014, 12:12 PM
Well I'll provide a dissenting opinion. It doesn't hurt to sign up for free things and try them a little to show you're making an effort which in my experience is all a good publisher expects of you.

Getting followers on social networking isn't hard, you just follow people and some of them will follow you back.

In my experience a publisher will ask what you're doing, if you tell them your doing some things, they'll say "cool". You might not want to embarrass yourself by saying "nothing." If you name some stuff they'll probably be happy and leave it at that.

Literateparakeet
06-30-2014, 01:18 PM
In my experience, platform is everything in non-fiction. Without a platform you are nothing.

Here's a helpful blog post about it:

http://writersrelief.com/blog/2010/08/author-platforms-what-they-are-why-agents-and-editors-look-for-them-and-whether-you-need-one-to-get-your-book-published/

Liosse de Velishaf
06-30-2014, 01:28 PM
For the most apart, platform is neither harmful nor helpful for fiction writers. Most new authors have a platform so tiny it has no major effect on book sales.

If you have a major platform going, it's probably separate from your fiction writing, anyway.

shadowwalker
06-30-2014, 04:13 PM
In my experience a publisher will ask what you're doing, if you tell them your doing some things, they'll say "cool". You might not want to embarrass yourself by saying "nothing." If you name some stuff they'll probably be happy and leave it at that.

If a publisher asks what I'm doing, I certainly wouldn't be embarrassed to tell them I don't have a blog. I will tell them I'm working on the next book...

Filigree
06-30-2014, 04:42 PM
In fields like erotic romance, sometimes the author has no platform because they want to stay relatively anonymous for career and/or social reasons.

Most of the publishers and agents I've met, have asked their authors to have a blog, Tumblr, FB, etc. by the time there's an actual book release.

Otherwise, they tend to check out our social media presence to see if we're stable enough to work with.

Perks
06-30-2014, 04:55 PM
A platform, in this case, is just relevant life experience that uniquely qualifies a writer to expound on his expertise.

It's not important for fiction, for the most part. If you're a doctor, you might have a bit more automatic credibility for medical thrillers, but even then, it's not a requirement by any means.

You don't need a blog - at all. I promise. It's a good idea just to have a basic website, to have bought your name (or a version of your name or pen name) to use as a hub for your presence on the web, but not any sort of requirement or any prerequisite to getting an agent to look at your manuscript. Beyond that, knowing your way around basic social media is a plus, but still not a big deal.

This idea that a fiction writer needs to have a platform is a manic inflation of the fact that it's nice enough news to the industry people if you happen to have a platform, some kind of special connection to the subject matter you tackle in your work. But it's not a strike against your work, or a subtraction of your work's viability if you don't have it. Fiction doesn't need it.

I would go as far as to say that it's actually harmful to your professional reputation if you force a tedious blog of tortured efforts to make something interesting out of basic research and your writerly process. So unless you've got something really zippy to say about any given topic, stick to what you do best. That's where your best chances live.

You don't need it!

Jamesaritchie
06-30-2014, 07:12 PM
For nonfiction, a platform can be critical. For fiction, the best possible platform you can have is a novel that readers love enough to tell all their friends about.

veinglory
06-30-2014, 07:51 PM
For non-fiction do not conflate "platform" with "be all over social media and kill yourself trying to get a million twitter followers". You need to be a credible author of the material. That need not involve having an internet presence at all, depending on the material and the publisher.

And, yes, having a"platform" can hurt you. For example if you develop a populist pop science platform a serious publisher that emphasizes accuracy of over hype might not want to touch that. Any thing you do that can really help, can also harm--depending on what publisher you are trying to land. If it makes an impression, that impression can be good or bad.

thwaitesyellow
06-30-2014, 10:31 PM
Thanks to all for the kind responses. Just to clarify, I write fiction and have increasingly seen the "platform" buzzword connected with fiction authors. So I'm glad to see the different viewpoints offered here.


Let's face it - there are authors out there, published and aspiring, who are deep in the throes of hoof-in-mouth disease. Blogs are their worst enemy.

And this is exactly why I think that I'm personally better off not blogging - just in case.

Laer Carroll
07-03-2014, 02:17 AM
Part of the problem here is that you’re paraphrasing someone and doing so generally that we can’t judge just what the someone really meant. Were they specific about what the meant? Or as vague as your paraphrase?

Because “social media presence” covers a huge amount of ground, all the way from sporadic Twitter posts about trivia to focused web sites with info on a writer’s books and where they can be gotten.

I’d echo what others have said: for fiction even the most popular blog is unlikely to drum up much business by itself. The best it can do is make some people aware that you exist and give them samples of your writing. But the books will sell the books, not the blog.

Such an example is John Scalzi’s site Whatever blog (http://whatever.scalzi.com/). It gets an average of 50,000 views a day. But although I’m one of his regular readers I suspect a lot of other people have my experience: I enjoy his blog posts but his books leave me cold. After reading online the first few paragraphs of several of his books I got bored. I never even bothered checking them out of the public library which is right across the street from my apartment building.

If you're still interested in this topic, go to AW's forum for exactly this subject: Blogging and Social Networking (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=90).

Roxxsmom
07-03-2014, 08:40 AM
I went to a panel about this topic at a writer's workshop, and while the panelists all felt it's a good idea to be comfortable with social media and that interacting with fans via the web is expected of writers these days, one needn't do all platforms or take time away from your writing to build a web presence before you've even published anything. One also shouldn't expect or aspire to have a blog or site with thousands of followers before one publishes, or even after. While I know of some bestselling writers (Scalzi is one) who have this kind of web following, it's a bit much to expect of someone who isn't published yet, or even from most reasonably successful writers. The blogosphere is pretty saturated these days, and I was surprised to see how few regular followers even some reasonably well-known authors possess. One of my critting buddies and I joke back and forth about having "Tens of followers," just to give you an idea.

And yes, there are writers who I follow even though I don't read their books that much or at all. Sometimes they have amazingly good general advice or interesting ideas or opinions, or even very good taste in novels. I don't know if followers who don't read your books are useless, though. If they ever link stuff you write, or mention you in conversations with their friends, they may gain you new readers that way. And if a writer I follow puts something out that looks like it more up my alley than most of their stuff, then I'll likely give it a shot.

Debeucci
07-03-2014, 09:23 AM
I disagree. I think a social media presence to some degree is important, especially for publishers. I can almost guarantee every publisher looks up an author before they consider buying something from them, be it their facebook, twitter, website...etc.

If the author has nothing, then it tells the publisher that the author won't do any marketing himself. These days, every author has to do marketing to some degree. They also check if the author has the right kind of presence. After all, if a publisher is going to throw a six figure contract at someone, they want to know the author's not crazy or racist or sexist...etc.

I don't think it's necessary that you need a large presence, just an active enough one that they know you're willing to work. Also, find the right sort of social media that works for you. I hate blogging but I enjoy twitter.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-03-2014, 01:34 PM
John Scalzi is an outlier, of course, but also a convenient example.

I follow Scalzi's blog. I even occasionally bother to comment. It's a very interesting blog. But I only found it after I read his books. And his blog was established years before he was ever even an author.

While it's arguable that he got his first contract due to the blog and posting the novel online, that's not only incredibly uncommon, it's a bit misleading.



As Laer says, he has something like 50,000 visitors a day. But it's not like those are in anyway translatable to sales. People buy his books because they like his books; the blog is just a blog.





I don't think you need a large social media presence to be offered a contract. Generally, your agent or publisher will suggest to you that you generate such a presence once they'd acquired your book, and they'll likely have some advice about what kind of presence to have and how to create it.

For most fiction authors, especially debut authors, it's the books that drive traffic to the website, and not the other way around.

shadowwalker
07-03-2014, 05:16 PM
I can almost guarantee every publisher looks up an author before they consider buying something from them, be it their facebook, twitter, website...etc.

If the author has nothing, then it tells the publisher that the author won't do any marketing himself. These days, every author has to do marketing to some degree. They also check if the author has the right kind of presence. After all, if a publisher is going to throw a six figure contract at someone, they want to know the author's not crazy or racist or sexist...etc.

Do you have any facts/figures/quotes from publishers to back up your guarantee? Or this idea that not having something out there in social media world means you won't do any marketing (I'm assuming you mean promotion)? And does my talking about my depression mean a publisher won't buy my book because I'm "crazy"?

A lot of claims there, in other words. If this is just what you think happens, state it as such. If you're stating these things as fact, some cites would be valuable.

Perks
07-03-2014, 06:04 PM
I would take a moment here, since we're talking a good bit about social media, to reiterate one of my Author's Points To Ponder:

When deciding what to post to your blog, Facebook status, Twitter-feed, etc. do consider that everyone on your lists ("friends", followers, subscribers, whathaveyou) are there because they found you through your book (by looking it - or you - up) or they know you personally in some way. Point is, they already know you have a book out. So be choosy in what you put online.

Unless a review is very special in some way, there is absolutely no reason to tell all the people who already know about your book that Margie's Book Club gave it four stars. That review is for the people who check Margie's Book Club for reading recommendations. Other people's lists are ways to get new readers and, in general, should not be retweeted, reposted, or blogged about by you unless there is something that would be of special interest to the people who already know about your book.

Now, if the New York Times has something good to say or you make the list over at USA Today or if some minor-to-major celebrity mentions your book in an interview or gets caught on camera reading it on the beach, by all means, tell the people who already know about your book. Otherwise, think of other things to say.

Now, of course, news and links about upcoming works and appearances are fine, as are nods to interviews about your work, but I do think it's important to sprinkle those things in with other, non-your-book-centric content. If a reader has taken the time to seek more information on you or your book, they want something other than that book. If you choose to play in that sandbox, give them what they want.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-03-2014, 09:13 PM
Do you have any facts/figures/quotes from publishers to back up your guarantee? Or this idea that not having something out there in social media world means you won't do any marketing (I'm assuming you mean promotion)? And does my talking about my depression mean a publisher won't buy my book because I'm "crazy"?

A lot of claims there, in other words. If this is just what you think happens, state it as such. If you're stating these things as fact, some cites would be valuable.


I have seen several editors and agents mention looking up prospective authors online before accepting queries or manuscripts. I don't think that I've actually seen any editors or agents say that not having a serious web presence implies negative things about an author.

Perks
07-03-2014, 09:21 PM
I don't think that I've actually seen any editors or agents say that not having a serious web presence implies negative things about an author.

I've never heard that either.

Ken
07-04-2014, 02:33 AM
My guess is that if you can put together a blog that is engaging, and not just a bunch of blah blah blah as many are, then it'll help some when it comes time to submit. If an agent likes your manuscript and then goes to your blog and likes that then maybe they'll be a bit more inclined to sign you. It isn't necessary of course. A good book will get you an agent on its own. So I'd say it depends on your skills as a blogger. It isn't an easy thing to do, even though every tom, dick, and harry has one. G'luck.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
07-04-2014, 03:48 AM
I'm a digital/social media strategist by day, so I am active in lots of different channels and have been blogging since the 90s. I don't have a huge platform, but it's more than zero, and I earn a living through digital marketing. That combination gives me something of reasonable value to offer to publishers.

The editor who commissioned my book did make reference to my platform, in the sense that they will do everything they can to sell the book, of course, but it will be nice to also be able to leverage my existing audience. It also serves as a good way to keep people interested in my writing between publication dates.

I don't think a lack of digital platform is a deal-breaker, by any means. But it's much harder to establish a platform in months than in years, and can seem disingenuous (if only because it can seem as though you're setting up a platform solely to sell books, which is kind of the antithesis of social media).

Having said that, having social media accounts you don't use, or blogs you never update, can be worse than having nothing. Maybe start with one channel (Twitter is a great place for writers) and see where it takes you.


After all, if a publisher is going to throw a six figure contract at someone, they want to know the author's not crazy or racist or sexist...etc.

Ugh.

I write at length about depression and anxiety, both on my blog and for other publications. My book is also about mental illness. I have a non-fiction hook to go with my fictional story. I can articulate "crazy". I have an existing audience of people who can identify with what I have to say about it.

I would be out the door in a flash if I ever found out that someone was using that as a reason to reconsider working with me.

Mr Flibble
07-04-2014, 04:55 AM
If the author has nothing, then it tells the publisher that the author won't do any marketing himself.


It tells them they do no currently market a book/auhor that is not signed yet. And if you have no book out...why the heck are you marketing? When you could be writing?

And here you go -- different pubs seek different things, I know one editor who took on a writer who is not on the net AT ALL

We are forgetting one thing


The book is everything

Everything else to a publisher is gravy*


*unless they look you up ad you are clearly a psycho killer** Song reference.

Old Hack
07-04-2014, 11:07 AM
I disagree. I think a social media presence to some degree is important, especially for publishers. I can almost guarantee every publisher looks up an author before they consider buying something from them, be it their facebook, twitter, website...etc.

Agents and publishers might well look up authors before signing them but it's for more complicated reasons than "do they have a platform?"

A couple of years ago I read the opening to an unpublished novel by an author who was looking for an agent. I knew an agent who would love the book, and so I quietly pointed her towards the extract and sure enough, she loved what she read.

She then looked up the author's blog, and that was that. He'd spent the past three years ranting about how he hated big corporate "traditional" publishing, how they hadn't given him the chance he deserved with his earlier books, and so on; and he was a champion for every conspiracy theory out there.

She didn't have the resources to take on an author she knew would be difficult to deal with, and that was that. And I don't blame her at all.

If he hadn't had that "platform" she would have offered him representation.


If the author has nothing, then it tells the publisher that the author won't do any marketing himself. These days, every author has to do marketing to some degree.

No, authors are not obliged to do any marketing or promotion. I've never done any for any of the books I've written, and they still sell well.


I don't think it's necessary that you need a large presence, just an active enough one that they know you're willing to work. Also, find the right sort of social media that works for you. I hate blogging but I enjoy twitter.

Writing a book shows that you're willing to work. Authors without a social media presence or any sort of platform are signed every week. It really isn't required. It can be a good extra to have, but it is not required.


I have seen several editors and agents mention looking up prospective authors online before accepting queries or manuscripts. I don't think that I've actually seen any editors or agents say that not having a serious web presence implies negative things about an author.

That's because it doesn't.


I'm a digital/social media strategist by day, so I am active in lots of different channels and have been blogging since the 90s. I don't have a huge platform, but it's more than zero, and I earn a living through digital marketing. That combination gives me something of reasonable value to offer to publishers.

The editor who commissioned my book did make reference to my platform, in the sense that they will do everything they can to sell the book, of course, but it will be nice to also be able to leverage my existing audience. It also serves as a good way to keep people interested in my writing between publication dates.

If your existing audience is also a natural audience for your book then I can see how it could be useful. But if it's not, then I don't think it's pertinent.


I don't think a lack of digital platform is a deal-breaker, by any means. But it's much harder to establish a platform in months than in years, and can seem disingenuous (if only because it can seem as though you're setting up a platform solely to sell books, which is kind of the antithesis of social media).

But if your current readers and platform is focused towards your blog, and your book is about something different, then by your own reasoning you ARE going to have to establish a new platform in a few months, rather than over a few years. Luckily, you won't need to although if you want to, you won't lose anything by doing so.


It tells them they do no currently market a book/auhor that is not signed yet. And if you have no book out...why the heck are you marketing? When you could be writing?

And here you go -- different pubs seek different things, I know one editor who took on a writer who is not on the net AT ALL

We are forgetting one thing


The book is everything

Everything else to a publisher is gravy*


*unless they look you up ad you are clearly a psycho killer** Song reference.

Mr Flibble is right.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
07-04-2014, 12:20 PM
But if your current readers and platform is focused towards your blog, and your book is about something different, then by your own reasoning you ARE going to have to establish a new platform in a few months, rather than over a few years. Luckily, you won't need to although if you want to, you won't lose anything by doing so.

That will depend entirely on the way you're using social media. If you're engaging widely with people with diverse (but common to you) interests, you won't have to start again, just as you won't also have to find a new circle of friends to be interested in what you're doing.

The majority of my audience doesn't have a mental illness, but many of these people do have enough of an emotional investment to want to buy a book I write. Similarly, I buy books written by people I know online all the time, whether they are related to the original reason I engaged with them or not. That's what I mean by the disingenuousness of it; if you're building an audience solely because you want them to buy your book, then yes, perhaps you will have to rebuild every time you change tack.

Edit: Positioning is very important in social. "Anna Spargo-Ryan, Author" is quite different from "Anna Spargo-Ryan, Person". Author me likes writing, editing, reading, and talking to other people about these things. Person me likes writing, singing, football, cooking, dogs, the seaside, cakes, Sophie Dahl and web development. Each of those interests is an opportunity to find likeminded people, and establish relationships with them. Real ones, so they'll care whether or not my book bombs, and I'll be genuinely grateful when they do.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-04-2014, 04:04 PM
That will depend entirely on the way you're using social media. If you're engaging widely with people with diverse (but common to you) interests, you won't have to start again, just as you won't also have to find a new circle of friends to be interested in what you're doing.

The majority of my audience doesn't have a mental illness, but many of these people do have enough of an emotional investment to want to buy a book I write. Similarly, I buy books written by people I know online all the time, whether they are related to the original reason I engaged with them or not. That's what I mean by the disingenuousness of it; if you're building an audience solely because you want them to buy your book, then yes, perhaps you will have to rebuild every time you change tack.

Edit: Positioning is very important in social. "Anna Spargo-Ryan, Author" is quite different from "Anna Spargo-Ryan, Person". Author me likes writing, editing, reading, and talking to other people about these things. Person me likes writing, singing, football, cooking, dogs, the seaside, cakes, Sophie Dahl and web development. Each of those interests is an opportunity to find likeminded people, and establish relationships with them. Real ones, so they'll care whether or not my book bombs, and I'll be genuinely grateful when they do.



I think the point being made here is slightly different, though. That kind of social media presence is something you do if you enjoy social networking on the web. Some people do, some people don't. And many writers have blogs that don't drive much business their way. Many writers also have blogs that most of their fan-base doesn't read. It's certainly possible to drive some sales your way using social media. But it's not a requirement to be a successful author.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
07-04-2014, 04:30 PM
I think the point being made here is slightly different, though. That kind of social media presence is something you do if you enjoy social networking on the web. Some people do, some people don't. And many writers have blogs that don't drive much business their way. Many writers also have blogs that most of their fan-base doesn't read. It's certainly possible to drive some sales your way using social media. But it's not a requirement to be a successful author.

It definitely isn't a requirement. And it can be enormously time consuming (time that could be spent writing!). I'm just saying that if you are so inclined, and you have time, its value to a marketing strategy shouldn't be discounted.

bearilou
07-04-2014, 04:40 PM
It tells them they do no currently market a book/auhor that is not signed yet. And if you have no book out...why the heck are you marketing? When you could be writing?

I would like to add another (mostly rhetorical but if anyone has an answer, I'm all ears) question. If you have no book out...what the heck are you marketing?

And a general comment: Wouldn't this be a good time to understand the difference between marketing a book and publicizing a book? From my time on AW, I have slowly begun to understand that the two target different segments and that it seems that the two terms are starting to be conflated to mean the same thing. Help?

eta: Also, to add another term into the mix, promoting. (thanks Filigree!).

These terms are being used interchangeably but I don't think they are. It's confusing to the conversation and when someone who doesn't know is confronted with them, it's no wonder they're overwhelmed.

Filigree
07-04-2014, 04:59 PM
To boil down some really interesting points made by many knowledgeable people: a 'platform' can be useful, but is probably not as helpful to new writers as just writing readable manuscripts.

A minimum of effort on one social media site can establish an author's presence well enough for readers, agents, and editors. Beyond that investment? Author's choice.

I have said it here and in similar discussions: be wary about social media 'requirements' from agents or publishers. The moment any agent or publisher starts talking about my self-marketing plans (esp. through social media), I want to know their pitching/marketing/promotion abilities. Because that's *their job*. Large publishers and small publishers with loyal niche markets can often do better at cultivating sales opportunities, than most scattershot small presses. They certainly should do a larger share of that work than their authors.

I now back away quietly, the moment I hear any publisher, agent, or author spout off variations of 'Authors Must Market Themselves' . I know many trade-published AW authors who do excellent jobs of promoting their work. In every case, their publishers have also invested in strong marketing. I know authors with little to no online presence. Their publishers still sell their work.

When I see third-tier literary agents and small presses talk about 'authors are best suited to marketing their own work', I can pretty much guarantee 99% of those books are not selling well.

JustSarah
07-04-2014, 05:19 PM
Tricky and not worth it, if you write as slow as a worn out horse. I kid of course, but I find it all really confusing.

Perks
07-04-2014, 05:27 PM
Sometimes I think the Authors Must Market Themselves worrystone was an extrapolation from the very sound advice to buy your name (or pen name) online as soon as you can. That and also the advice to comport yourself as well online as you would in public to look like a professional, not a loose cannon.

To the first part - that it's a good idea (not imperative) to have your name - is more that someone else doesn't have it than that you have to do anything with it. It's very simple to have a template blog with yourname.com as an electronic business card on the internet, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't. It's just less confusing if you can manage it. jamiemason.com is (or at least was) a real estate agent in Baltimore, so I lost out on that.

As to behavior, I've always felt that marketing myself was about looking like a professional online. Now, that's not to say that I don't have fun on Facebook or whatnot, because I do in life. I enjoy talking to people, seriously and with lots of jokes, too. But I do make a habit of not saying anything online that I wouldn't say around the office watercooler.

I don't think my website or blog has sold any books for me. Not the first book, at any rate. It's quite the other way around. Some readers have come looking for a little more information on me or my work, after having read it or about it, and ended up at the blog, website or Facebook page.

The only "platform" work that could help or hinder is a cyber-identity that is known separately from your writing. However it dovetails or conflicts with what you write might be relevant to your book's marketing.

JustSarah
07-04-2014, 06:20 PM
There is the reverse though, how many times I've seen people plug their work on twitter. Even if I was going to buy those, I almost certainly can't buy them all.

shadowwalker
07-04-2014, 06:46 PM
I think we have to remember the difference between authors of fiction and authors of nonfiction, which is (and please correct me if I've gotten the wrong impression) what Anna Spargo-Ryan (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=66266) writes. Having a platform is very important for nonfiction (at least that's what I've gathered from many other discussions), but that's because platform helps establish one's credentials. What credentials are needed by a writer of fiction other than they write an interesting and/or entertaining book?

Liosse de Velishaf
07-04-2014, 10:15 PM
I think we have to remember the difference between authors of fiction and authors of nonfiction, which is (and please correct me if I've gotten the wrong impression) what Anna Spargo-Ryan (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=66266) writes. Having a platform is very important for nonfiction (at least that's what I've gathered from many other discussions), but that's because platform helps establish one's credentials. What credentials are needed by a writer of fiction other than they write an interesting and/or entertaining book?


Yeah, this is one of the sources of confusion.

JustSarah
07-04-2014, 10:51 PM
Your really don't need any credentials besides perhaps what you've researched for something like a historical novel.

I don't need to prove I have an MFA, if I don't need it to spin a decent story.

maryland
07-04-2014, 10:53 PM
Debeucci is right, if an agent, or anyone interested in you or your work finds that there is absolutely no trace of you on the internet, they will wonder why. It is necessary these days to link your blog, website, Facebook, and other ' places' like Twitter. Just appearing, suddenly, with your book on Amazon, without any backup like this - how is anyone going to know you exist on Amazon? Or are you going to have to phone, email everyone you know, and tell them you have a new book out?
Not every new book, even from an established publishing house is automatically going to be reviewed in the weekend supplements or literary magazines; some spadework is necessary first.
This applies even moreso, of course for self-publishing writers.

cornflake
07-04-2014, 11:07 PM
I disagree. I think a social media presence to some degree is important, especially for publishers. I can almost guarantee every publisher looks up an author before they consider buying something from them, be it their facebook, twitter, website...etc.

If the author has nothing, then it tells the publisher that the author won't do any marketing himself. These days, every author has to do marketing to some degree. They also check if the author has the right kind of presence. After all, if a publisher is going to throw a six figure contract at someone, they want to know the author's not crazy or racist or sexist...etc.

I don't think it's necessary that you need a large presence, just an active enough one that they know you're willing to work. Also, find the right sort of social media that works for you. I hate blogging but I enjoy twitter.

In addition to what everyone else has said - a blog or posts on social media are not necessarily any indication of someone's mental health or opinions. Plenty of people can keep their crazy off social media.

Also, who are you talking about? Just authors offered six-figure contracts? That's a very, very small percentage of authors.

Perks
07-04-2014, 11:24 PM
Debeucci is right, if an agent, or anyone interested in you or your work finds that there is absolutely no trace of you on the internet, they will wonder why.

They really won't. Lots and lots of writers don't care to host an internet presence, and even a thorough internet presence will not prompt an agent or publisher to take on a book that doesn't spark with them. And the lack of one won't make them doubt a book they love.


It is necessary these days to link your blog, website, Facebook, and other ' places' like Twitter. Just appearing, suddenly, with your book on Amazon, without any backup like this - how is anyone going to know you exist on Amazon? Or are you going to have to phone, email everyone you know, and tell them you have a new book out?
Not every new book, even from an established publishing house is automatically going to be reviewed in the weekend supplements or literary magazines; some spadework is necessary first.
This applies even moreso, of course for self-publishing writers.

People won't know to find you on Twitter, Facebook, or whathaveyou without a book on Amazon (or somewhere.) Social media is the cart, not the horse. The book is the horse.

Readers don't watch unknown writers' Facebook pages or Twitter. Your friends and family do. They already know you're a writer. Before you've got a book, most of us don't have anything to show the great, faceless, nameless Them. And that's perfectly fine. That's why we're writing - to have something to show them.

With a trade publisher, readers will find out about your book first and foremost from the booksellers, then from things like print and online reviews, interviews, giveaways on book blogs, and any ads the publisher takes out. I've never heard of a publicity team, even for a new author, that can't get some reviews and buzz going. That's their job. They know how to do it and have access to all sort of catalogs and venues to have your book mentioned to readers.

With self-publishing, readers will find out about your book through any Amazon promotion you buy (or wherever you sell your book) and through blog tours, and print and/or online reviews and ads that you've set up. If you can get your book into some Indie bookstores, that's great! That's a wonderful way for readers to find you.

But you don't need an internet presence in advance of subbing a book to trade publishers. If you're not inclined to have one after that, it won't be a deal-breaker. You don't even need one in advance of self-publishing, although you probably need to have something when you go live with your book - a home and a hub for linkage.

If you're inclined to get set up online, great! That's fine, too, and most people are perfectly comfortable with the basics. While you're polishing your manuscript and lining up in the gate for your launch, you can follow and "friend" writers whom you admire, make friendly acquaintances who may become readers, and you can get a good vantage point to watch and learn to get comfortable with how self-promo is handled.

A word of caution: If you're thinking about blogging your writerly process and your publication journey, though, think twice. Think ten times. The internet is saturated with these blogs and unless you are very funny or have some new take on it, it's hard to make yourself look good with one of those.

JustSarah
07-05-2014, 01:14 AM
The purpose of my own writing process post, isn't necessarily to find new readers. Usually its just me musing on my process for those that already read my stuff.

When (and if) I get a deal, is when I'm going to start worrying about building a platform. The only way I see it being different is if I were writing a character who was like a memoir of a biology scientist, and wanted to show they know their biology. Not my situation if I'm writing Magic Realism or Contemporary.

Seriously, I get flooded with like advice blog posts about platform building. I got to have a book to begin before I advertise. Otherwise its like unofficial pre-ordering with an end date not guaranteed. Especially if I'm not concentrating enough to write.

Now to qualify, I am building a pinterest. But that's because I want to eventually do freelance articles.

Filigree
07-05-2014, 02:00 AM
Debeucci is right, if an agent, or anyone interested in you or your work finds that there is absolutely no trace of you on the internet, they will wonder why. It is necessary these days to link your blog, website, Facebook, and other ' places' like Twitter. Just appearing, suddenly, with your book on Amazon, without any backup like this - how is anyone going to know you exist on Amazon? Or are you going to have to phone, email everyone you know, and tell them you have a new book out?
Not every new book, even from an established publishing house is automatically going to be reviewed in the weekend supplements or literary magazines; some spadework is necessary first.
This applies even moreso, of course for self-publishing writers.

Nope, nope, and nope (self-publishing aside).

Publishers and agents are interested in great books they think they can sell. If the author is reticent, so be it. That's far better than being batshit in public.

Very few reputable publishers will release a book with no marketing push whatsoever. This does not mean single-book literary reviews or weekend supplements; it means trade-based approaches to library and distributor buyers, publisher-wide advertisements, and large social media promotions. Your book doesn't 'just appear' on Amazon.

BTW, there are authors who do not wish to be publicly available, for very good reasons.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
07-05-2014, 03:06 AM
I think we have to remember the difference between authors of fiction and authors of nonfiction, which is (and please correct me if I've gotten the wrong impression) what Anna Spargo-Ryan (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=66266) writes. Having a platform is very important for nonfiction (at least that's what I've gathered from many other discussions), but that's because platform helps establish one's credentials. What credentials are needed by a writer of fiction other than they write an interesting and/or entertaining book?

I write fiction :) My platform has worked hard for me in getting that fiction published.

Let me give you some examples, since I seem to be alone in this thread! The agent I eventually signed with approached me because of a blog post I wrote. A Big Five editor asked to see my (then unfinished) manuscript via Twitter, based on other writing of mine that she had seen and the conversations we had had on that channel. I won a blog competition that got my writing in front of Random House (though I was contracted to PanMac by then). An editor from The Guardian approached me to write for them, because she was a fan of my food blog. I have a thousand people on my unofficial pre-order list, because they read my blog and/or interact with me on Twitter. Neil Gaiman tweeted about my kickstarter. I've been invited to talk on national TV and radio, because of things I've written on my blog.

I won't have a book to sell until next year, but I'm certain it would have taken much longer, had I not been putting myself out there in these other ways. Demonstrating that I can write. Publicly displaying my passion for writing, and for the subjects about which I write (fiction and non-fiction).


Seriously, I get flooded with like advice blog posts about platform building. I got to have a book to begin before I advertise. Otherwise its like unofficial pre-ordering with an end date not guaranteed. Especially if I'm not concentrating enough to write.

You can start to establish a personal (or author or clown or fish) whenever you feel like it. The product is you, and probably the writing you do outside of your novel, if any.

The main type of person I unfollow on Twitter is an author who just post links to buy their books, day after day. There's more to it than that. Why not get a head start, make people really care that you have a book coming out?

JustSarah
07-05-2014, 03:57 AM
Oh I know, that seems to be the type I continuously come across. Like this one fantasy writer doesn't even have conversation. He just baits you with a conversation set up, and then you open it and its a buy link.

Laer Carroll
07-05-2014, 05:12 AM
Again, the term “social media presence” is a hugely general term, like including apples, oranges, gum wrappers, and transmissions in one category.

There’s a whole AW forum devoted to this subject: Book Promotion Ideas and Advice (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=48). And the most important thread in that forum is this one: How to promote your book like an intelligent human being and not an SEO Dweeb (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241431).


I would like to add another (mostly rhetorical but if anyone has an answer, I'm all ears) question. If you have no book out...what the heck are you marketing?

Good question. I’ll answer it.

The time to start getting a presence is before you need it. There’s a big learning curve, which includes finding which media suits YOU: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, a blog, a web site, etc. And don’t forget forums like this one, which is also part of social media.

The key word in the phrase is SOCIAL. Listening to other talking about what fascinates you, expressing your opinion, discussing matters, making friends. Selling your works grows naturally out of that.

In AW, for instance, everyone is allowed a brief signature where you are allowed to put a link to a blog or web site. You will get a few, a very few, but steady, number of people who will visit that blog or web site from that sig. Only a few of those few will come back, but they are the important ones, who share something important with you.

Such as the European Renaissance period. And if you write a historical or alternate historical novel taking place in that period you already have potential customers for it.

Not only customers, but help. If you post first-draft chapters to your site you may get a few helpful corrections or suggestions, as I have. Though it might be better to put up high-quality second drafts! Don’t waste your fans time and patience on typos and grammar!


The product is you, and probably the writing you do outside of your novel, if any.

Or, as they say, your “brand.” Mine, for instance, is near-future tech, partly because for 40+ years I was a tiny part of creating that near-future tech as an aerospace software and systems engineer. Yours might include the European Renaissance. Someone else might be heavily into equitation, or police procedures, and so on.

JustSarah
07-05-2014, 05:45 AM
The only thing that bugs me, is the people trying to "brand" themselves by giving writing advice when I don't even ask for it on twitter.

In my own particular, its like its a competition to see who has the most tweets with some that blatantly flood look at my blog or add me on face book type tweets.

milkweed
07-05-2014, 06:06 AM
I might as well give up writing if my chances of being published are affected by having a blog. JMO, but I would think agents and publishers looking at fiction would be far more interested in seeing good manuscripts than X number of followers on some social media. Let's face it - there are authors out there, published and aspiring, who are deep in the throes of hoof-in-mouth disease. Blogs are their worst enemy.

This^ I see the same issues in the art world.

Perks
07-05-2014, 07:58 AM
I write fiction :) My platform has worked hard for me in getting that fiction published.

Let me give you some examples, since I seem to be alone in this thread! The agent I eventually signed with approached me because of a blog post I wrote. A Big Five editor asked to see my (then unfinished) manuscript via Twitter, based on other writing of mine that she had seen and the conversations we had had on that channel. I won a blog competition that got my writing in front of Random House (though I was contracted to PanMac by then). An editor from The Guardian approached me to write for them, because she was a fan of my food blog. I have a thousand people on my unofficial pre-order list, because they read my blog and/or interact with me on Twitter. Neil Gaiman tweeted about my kickstarter. I've been invited to talk on national TV and radio, because of things I've written on my blog.

I won't have a book to sell until next year, but I'm certain it would have taken much longer, had I not been putting myself out there in these other ways. Demonstrating that I can write. Publicly displaying my passion for writing, and for the subjects about which I write (fiction and non-fiction).



This is very cool and it's also unusual. Congratulations! As far as platforms go, if any fiction writer has special areas of knowledge that will be prominent in his or her manuscripts, it's probably a good idea to establish your expertise and talent online like you've done. The fruits of your labor are a great diagram of that model.

Most fiction writers will not fall into this category, though, and in those more typical cases, there's no need for them to force a platform. If you write fiction that utilizes more basic knowledge and its supporting research, there's no pressure to cobble together a weak platform by straining to sound like an expert in something if you're not. If you are an expert, say it loud and proud, but if you're not, or are just less inclined to public life, please don't worry about it. The most important thing is the work itself.

In self-publishing, an established online presence in an area of expertise that dovetails with your novel's details or themes would likely be helpful in attracting readers, but the more general have a Facebook-have a blog-have a Pinterest is not something that's going to be as fruitful before you have a book to show them. (Which doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Just don't feel panicked if it's not in place yet.)

Filigree
07-05-2014, 08:09 AM
I have a two-year-old blog I inaugurated the same month my debut novel came out. It's a catchall place for art, writing, science, and history subjects that intrigue me. The greatest number of click-throughs from the blog to my various buy sites come from AW (around 30% of hits) and my fan fiction page (around 20% of hits).

I'm not even entirely certain I have a platform. But until I start trying to publish nonfiction based on my art skills, I probably don't need it. I do it because it's fun and lets me interact with cool people.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-05-2014, 09:02 AM
I have a blog with moderate traffic. That vast majority of my hits come from tumblr and search engines. Th topics range from science fiction to fantasy stuff, to some YA stuff--like my Male YA list--and some general commentary about being a blogger. I highly doubt I'd sell any books based off of that blog.


Which is fine, because I do it just for fun, mostly separate from my writing.


I've dropped off of tons of blogs that started out as not all about book promotion. Lauren Oliver, for example, has dropped the promotion bomb on her blog during the time I read it, and it turned me right off. John Scalzi is one of the few bloggers I know whose blogs I have continued following after they had mainstream publishing success, because he does a good job of balancing book promotion with the things his blog is actually about.

maryland
07-05-2014, 04:30 PM
The dozen or so writers I know personally all have websites, blogs and are on Facebook as well as other places. The writing and the publicity (because that's what it is, basically) go hand in hand.

Filigree
07-05-2014, 06:29 PM
No one's arguing that an integrated social media presence can't be a useful tool for some writers. It's just not the only approach. New writers need to understand that. If they don't want to be a public figure, they don't have to be. It likely won't change their sales figures that much, if their publishers are competent.

Count me in, as someone who has stopped following blogs and tweets that focus too much on promotion. Or too much 'writing advice', especially if it comes from sources I don't respect. I weigh carefully any such pieces I put on my blog. My buy links require actual reading to find. Does that deprive me of a few sales? Probably. But do I want random buyers, who might not understand my work and my genres in the first place? Probably not.

As far as writing = publicity, I occasionally post teaser excerpts on my blog or in genre review sites. I don't generally crowd-source my writing, or ask for too much story input from readers while I am in plotting or writing stages. I have to step away from social media when I write, because the distractions of AW, Twitter, FB, Tumblr, etc. just don't help the deep focus I need to manage 4K words a day.

That's just me. Other writers seem to handle it fine.

Perks
07-05-2014, 07:26 PM
The dozen or so writers I know personally all have websites, blogs and are on Facebook as well as other places. The writing and the publicity (because that's what it is, basically) go hand in hand.

Most will do this, absolutely. (I do, too.) And it's a fine thing. The OP didn't care for blogging and was concerned that her lack of web presence would be a problem at the outset of her publishing adventure. So a few of us are just explaining that it will not hinder her in advance of publishing, and that publishers don't use social media and web presence as a deciding factor on picking up new writers.

Anna is a rare and very cool example of a platform and web-presence as vanguard to fiction publishing. So, obviously, it can happen. The vast majority of fiction writers, though, will not have expert blogs or Twitter-feeds that result in publishing contracts or built-in readership when they self-publish.

Writing and publicity do not go hand in hand. Publishing and promotion do. It's important to understand where you are in the chain of things. If you are the writer, but not the publisher, you don't have to worry about marketing, promotion, and publicity. (Although, hopefully, you'll be comfortable enough to participate with your publisher's publicity team. If not, it's not like they haven't seen that before, too. They'll have a plan for the really shy types.)

If you are the writer and the publisher, then you will need to be studied on marketing, promotion, and publicity philosophies and techniques. And it is unlikely that you'll feel you've tapped all your work's potential without significant online efforts.

To recap:

- if you're inclined to write a blog and splash about in social media before you're published - do it! (I did. I enjoy it.)

- but as a note of caution: a dull, droning blog or a social media feed that's a one-note tenor could actually be a detriment to your efforts. If it's not your thing, don't sweat it or force it. Just because you're a writer doesn't mean that your talents are suited to every type of writing. It doesn't make you less of a writer that you don't shine in 140 characters or blogging about your trip to the local yard sale. Lots of us don't.

- agents and editors do not consider lack of web presence as a strike against taking on a work they love, and conversely, a huge Facebook friends list and a hopping blog will not entice them to take on a work that doesn't spark with them

- trade publishers will probably suggest that you establish a basic website and Facebook page, Twitterfeed, etc. in advance of your book going to print - but only if you're comfortable with it. (There are plenty of trade published writers with no web presence at all.)

- if you're looking to self-publish, a web presence (a basic website, at the very least least) will probably be part and parcel of your promotion efforts, so go ahead and dip your toes in the water as soon as you're ready. (Keep in mind that your own blog, especially if it doesn't generate much traffic, might not be the best use of your internet presence. Popular book review sites will often take review copies in exchange for posting a review. Also, giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing and whatnot might prove to be much more valuable to your success than breaking your brain coming up with clever blog posts you didn't want to write in the first place.)

JustSarah
07-05-2014, 08:19 PM
Even on the website end, I'm finding it a slow process even learning ruby. I'm not sure how long it would take to learn html.

And I consider my blog not related to my poetry book, and future children's stories. That's more like a bar hang out with me and my friends so to speak. I've had to make some of my blogs private, because I just don't like the public presence bit. (I'm a huge introvert.) I don't like the word publicity, makes me sound egotistical.

Perks
07-05-2014, 08:27 PM
Even on the website end, I'm finding it a slow process even learning ruby. I'm not sure how long it would take to learn html.

If you buy your name and/or pen name, you can just tailor a WordPress (or some other basic blog site) template if you don't want to code your own website.

And sometimes that's too involved, if mucking about on the internet isn't really your thing. In that case, you might want to look into a web design service or bribe your tech-savvy niece to do it for you.

Old Hack
07-05-2014, 08:39 PM
I write fiction :) My platform has worked hard for me in getting that fiction published.

Let me give you some examples, since I seem to be alone in this thread! The agent I eventually signed with approached me because of a blog post I wrote. A Big Five editor asked to see my (then unfinished) manuscript via Twitter, based on other writing of mine that she had seen and the conversations we had had on that channel. I won a blog competition that got my writing in front of Random House (though I was contracted to PanMac by then). An editor from The Guardian approached me to write for them, because she was a fan of my food blog. I have a thousand people on my unofficial pre-order list, because they read my blog and/or interact with me on Twitter. Neil Gaiman tweeted about my kickstarter. I've been invited to talk on national TV and radio, because of things I've written on my blog.

I won't have a book to sell until next year, but I'm certain it would have taken much longer, had I not been putting myself out there in these other ways. Demonstrating that I can write. Publicly displaying my passion for writing, and for the subjects about which I write (fiction and non-fiction).

You can start to establish a personal (or author or clown or fish) whenever you feel like it. The product is you, and probably the writing you do outside of your novel, if any.

The main type of person I unfollow on Twitter is an author who just post links to buy their books, day after day. There's more to it than that. Why not get a head start, make people really care that you have a book coming out?

I've got lots of paid work (writing, public speaking, training etc) from blogging and tweeting, I've got to know agents and editors I didn't already know, and I've met all sorts of interesting people. Ian Rankin, Peter James, Neil Gaiman and others have commented on my blog or retweeted links to my blog posts and articles, and it's been tremendous fun.

I had several offers to write the-book-of-the-blog, but I felt the blog did the job just fine and it was the interaction between the readers which made it what it was.

Apart from those offers, what my once-huge social media presence didn't do for me was get me any deals which I couldn't have got without my blogging and tweeting.

What I don't see in your account is how your social media presence got you a book deal. Especially how it got you one which you couldn't have achieved without such online work. Did agents ever turn you down because they felt your online presence wasn't good enough? Did they ever accept you because of that online presence, rather than because of your work?

It's easy to assume that a social media presence has got one an agent when really, it's the writing that did it, and the offer of representation could easily have been achieved through querying in the usual way.

JustSarah
07-05-2014, 08:45 PM
If you buy your name and/or pen name, you can just tailor a WordPress (or some other basic blog site) template if you don't want to code your own website.

And sometimes that's too involved, if mucking about on the internet isn't really your thing. In that case, you might want to look into a web design service or bribe your tech-savvy niece to do it for you.

That last bit gave me a winded chuckle.

Its just so easy to accidentally say the wrong thing, when you mean it as a joke. So I've been trying to change how I approach blogs.

I saw an actual published writer recently that had a long political post, which sort of turned me off. Now I understand why people don't want people doing that sort of thing on blogs. Makes me laugh at myself a little bit.

All that to say, only use social media if you know what your doing.:P

shadowwalker
07-05-2014, 09:26 PM
One thing I've always wondered about (and intuitively it seems counter-productive to me) is how much time/energy/money(?) is spent getting people to notice your online presence versus getting your book actually published. And then contrast the best case scenario chances (ie, the chance that your online presence will actually produce the desired results) and that time/energy/money with the chances that your book will get picked up without it. (I guess I'm talking about a cost/benefit type of thing.) Seems to me thinking that one has to have that presence (or that it is of significant benefit) would mean that someone like me (who bears a very strong resemblance to a social troglodyte) would be spending an inordinate amount of time on the web presence considering the benefits of doing so. And again, I'm talking about a writer of fiction.

JustSarah
07-05-2014, 09:35 PM
One thing I've always wondered about (and intuitively it seems counter-productive to me) is how much time/energy/money(?) is spent getting people to notice your online presence versus getting your book actually published. And then contrast the best case scenario chances (ie, the chance that your online presence will actually produce the desired results) and that time/energy/money with the chances that your book will get picked up without it. (I guess I'm talking about a cost/benefit type of thing.) Seems to me thinking that one has to have that presence (or that it is of significant benefit) would mean that someone like me (who bears a very strong resemblance to a social troglodyte) would be spending an inordinate amount of time on the web presence considering the benefits of doing so. And again, I'm talking about a writer of fiction.

Pretty much, I'm the same way. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to say, I hardly even say anything on twitter.

The only "platform networking" I do is pinterest, the others are pure social in a limited sort of way.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-05-2014, 11:18 PM
Even on the website end, I'm finding it a slow process even learning ruby. I'm not sure how long it would take to learn html.

And I consider my blog not related to my poetry book, and future children's stories. That's more like a bar hang out with me and my friends so to speak. I've had to make some of my blogs private, because I just don't like the public presence bit. (I'm a huge introvert.) I don't like the word publicity, makes me sound egotistical.


What are you even using Ruby for on an author's website???


/digression

DarthLolita
07-05-2014, 11:31 PM
- if you're inclined to write a blog and splash about in social media before you're published - do it! (I did. I enjoy it.)

- but as a note of caution: a dull, droning blog or a social media feed that's a one-note tenor could actually be a detriment to your efforts. If it's not your thing, don't sweat it or force it.

Ah, this is kind of scary for me. I have a personal blog and twitter, which I use to ramble about things in my life. Usually just friends read through it,maybe some online acquaintances, but nothing major. I don't have anything close to a professional-ish blog, which I'm assuming is what most people are talking about? Not sure.

Old Hack
07-06-2014, 12:23 AM
One thing I've always wondered about (and intuitively it seems counter-productive to me) is how much time/energy/money(?) is spent getting people to notice your online presence versus getting your book actually published. And then contrast the best case scenario chances (ie, the chance that your online presence will actually produce the desired results) and that time/energy/money with the chances that your book will get picked up without it. (I guess I'm talking about a cost/benefit type of thing.) Seems to me thinking that one has to have that presence (or that it is of significant benefit) would mean that someone like me (who bears a very strong resemblance to a social troglodyte) would be spending an inordinate amount of time on the web presence considering the benefits of doing so. And again, I'm talking about a writer of fiction.

Agents don't sell social media presences; publishers don't publish twitter accounts.

Agents, publishers and editors only earn money when they sell books.

Blogs and twitter accounts are not books.

Blogs, twitter accounts and Facebook pages are promotional items only. They are not the meat of the deal. They are the sauce on the side. By all means have your sauce. Books frequently do very well without the extras of a social media presence.

Perks
07-06-2014, 12:33 AM
Ah, this is kind of scary for me. I have a personal blog and twitter, which I use to ramble about things in my life. Usually just friends read through it,maybe some online acquaintances, but nothing major. I don't have anything close to a professional-ish blog, which I'm assuming is what most people are talking about? Not sure.

This is exactly what I'm talking about in the vein of don't-worry-about-it. Enjoy your interaction online as you're inclined to do it. Talk about other stuff. When it's time to talk about book deals and book promotion, it'll be there and you'll want to rein yourself in to not drive everyone crazy, but when DarthLolita publishes this great book and I want to know a little bit more about her, then I'll find her online and and see what she's up to and about.

It's fine not to have a writerly blog and probably mostly advisable.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
07-06-2014, 02:38 AM
What I don't see in your account is how your social media presence got you a book deal. Especially how it got you one which you couldn't have achieved without such online work. Did agents ever turn you down because they felt your online presence wasn't good enough? Did they ever accept you because of that online presence, rather than because of your work?

It's easy to assume that a social media presence has got one an agent when really, it's the writing that did it, and the offer of representation could easily have been achieved through querying in the usual way.

Of course a social media presence doesn't make a terrible manuscript saleable. I'm also not talking about the adverse effects of not having a digital platform, but of the ways that having one has helped me, specifically.

For me, having an existing platform:

- Helped me get the book finished, both because I met my mentor through social media and because I have great writer friends in this space who are excellent cheerleaders. I'm a sad idiot who needs external motivation, and without this I'm sure the book would still be half-finished.

- Got the book in front of people outside of -- and faster than -- the normal querying process, because I had a) already established relationships with them (because they're rad, not because I wanted to leverage them) in social, and b) because they had expressed public interest in the manuscript.

- Allowed me to grow genuine friendships (some that have become real-life friends) with brilliant, generous, wonderful people who also have established platforms, and who act as my (and my book's) advocates to their own audiences.

- Helped me to establish a group of buyers, ten months before the book is due for release.

- Gives me more than zero chance of name recognition in the store.

If I hadn't had one, I would have finished my book, sent it to some agents, hopefully got it read, signed a deal, got it published. As I said, these are positive things that have come out of having a platform, not reasons why no one can make it if they don't have one.

Perks's summary is excellent, and reflects my general thoughts exactly. Do it if it tickles your fancy, half-arsing it is worse than not doing it at all, and you're not going to blow your chances if you don't have one.