Friday, May 31, 2013

When Platform-Building Bites Back

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
I read a post recently  (yes, I’m about a month behind in my Feedly reader) that I thought was a very interesting read…and I found myself wincing in sympathy for the writer.  The post is “Floundering” by Stevie Libra, guesting on Robert Lee Brewer’s  My Name is Not Bob blog.
Stevie seems to be relatively new to writing and to platform-building.  She stated that she’d participated in Robert’s  30-day Platform Challenge in 2012, which resulted in setting up a presence on different sites.  As she put it, getting established on these sites created “a monster that required daily feedings of intensifying proportions.”
It’s an interesting post because Stevie analyzes some of the problems she was experiencing while trying to keep up with her platform building.  These included email collection for newsletters, fighting spam on her blog, what to blog about, and finding the time to do any of these things when she was struggling with her writing.
Stevie reports that she solved some of her problems by cutting back and simplifying what she’s doing online. 
I was glad to see that she was cutting back.  As Jane Friedman put it in a post entitled “Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer’s Attention” on the Writer Unboxed blog, she stated:
If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing.
Therefore, build your platform by writing and publishing in outlets that are a good fit for you, lead to professional growth, and build your network. The other pieces will start to fall into place.
I think that’s fantastic advice.  I will say that I think it’s important to set up a few basics, even for new writers:
A professional email address (your name, perhaps) with gmail, outlook, or another free provider.
A home base of some sort, as a writer.  For me, it’s the blog.  My blog is the one place online where I consistently interact with other writers.  That’s been a critical source of support and encouragement for me as a writer.  For you it might be some other site you enjoy: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
For the harried, published writer:
If we regularly update our website/home base (blog, etc.), and we need to cut back…I can’t see the harm in it.  I used to blog every day until my schedule got so crazy that I cut back to four days a week.  I know several successful “slow bloggers” who post once a week, but are very consistent and have large followings.  Again, I think it’s important to stick with what we enjoy…if we enjoy Facebook more than blogging, then that’s what we should focus on.  The important thing is having a way for readers to connect with us, if they want to.
Eventually, I’m imagining (and it’s already technically possible, but I haven’t seen it employed in any ebooks that I’ve read) that eventually we’ll get to the point where our platform is located inside our digital books.  Honestly, it seems to me where this makes the most sense to connect with our readers…through the books themselves.  I’ve seen live links to authors’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, but it seems like we could have more of an interactive book club type thing…forums, discussion boards, etc. in the books.
How do you juggle social media and writing?  Have you cut back your time online?