Thursday, 27 September 2012

Je Ne Regrette Rien? Thoughts on Author Platforms - Lucy Coats

Two years ago I gave a talk called "How To Sell Your Book on the Internet".  It was, needless to say, about the "Author Platform" we writers are supposed to be standing on top of, dominating the world of books, and gave handy hints and tips about how to use things like Facebook, Twitter and blogging for the uninitiated writer.  I wasn't the only one talking about the subject.  Our very own Nicola Morgan has, until very recently, been giving brilliant advice about it on her Help I Need a Publisher blog (much better advice than mine, I can tell you!).

Last week I read a thought-provoking piece by Candy Gourlay on Notes from the Slushpile.  She asked this question:

If everyone's now got a platform, how are you going to stand out?  

I hope Candy will forgive me for using her excellent pictures to illustrate this point (on the 'picture is worth a thousand words' principle).

How it was....

How it is now....
The question I want to ask is:

How do you feel about those two pictures? 

I can tell you how I feel.  Kind of relieved actually.  What Candy said in her piece chimed with my own feelings. It meant that the misgivings I'd had recently about all this jockeying and jostling were not so stupid after all.  Don't get me wrong.  I love blogging here (and reading about the myriad facets of writing life from my fellow bloggers).  I love running the current series on mythological beasts and beings on my own Scribble City Central blog. I love chatting to people on Twitter, though I'm not so keen on Facebook these days.  But, quite honestly, all that stuff does crunch chunks out of my writing day if I let it, however much I protest to the contrary, and that's before I've even started trying to get through the mass of links and intriguing industry bits and bobs provided by others.

The sad fact is that we live in a time poor world where there just aren't enough hours in the day to process all the information flooding over us, however interesting it might be.  I'd like to read all the interesting blogs out there - but if I did that, I wouldn't have time for my own writing.  In the final analysis that writing IS the most important thing for me.  It's what puts the food on my plate, and clothes my family. So, I've taken another look at that Author Platform of mine, and am now only doing what I have to to keep it alive and kicking, and concentrating on what I know works.  The energy and hours I've saved are already paying dividends in productive writing output.

Je ne regrette rien - building my Author Platform has taught me a great deal.  But I'm no longer its faithful skivvy, slaving away at it for fear of being left behind. I've stopped running to catch up with myself. That, ladies and gentlemen of the ABBA community, is my New World Order - and it feels good!

Lucy's latest series Greek Beasts and Heroes is out now from Orion Children's Books
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Katherine Langrish said...

Totally agree. I'm a writer not a blogger, and though I want to keep my blog running (for a while longer at least) I can't keep it at full strength AND write the books I want to write. I can't see myself doing it for ever.

JO said...

Lucy - how I agree with you. All the tweeting and blogging and facebooking - it can be fun, but it can also eat hours, and sometimes all you have to show for it is a foggy head. When what brings me the greatest joy is crafting new words, or curling up with a good book. So I keep the networking in its corner, for fun (or there's no point!), and spend most of my time doing what I love best.

catdownunder said...

I try to write a daily blog past (yes, madness but I do it) and sometimes I do wonder what I am going to write about but I can usually write something in ten to fifteen minutes. If I do not do any other writing during the day I feel I have had some writing exercise.
I have no idea how many people actually read my blog or what they think of it - comments tend to be few and from a small group - but I do know it sometimes gets read in China and Russia so I suppose it is worth doing.
I might feel differently if I ever manage to get a book published - but I still feel I need to show potential publishers that I can persist with the effort of writing.
It's probably quite stupid of me and I often wish I did not feel it was necessary!

Lucy Coats said...

Kath and Jo: The thing is, I think a lot of authors have been trying to do it all because of pressure from publishers, or fear of being left behind. We know we have to be accessible to our readers and 'out there' now, but the current model is preventing us from doing our real jobs properly. It's as if we're trying to be the writer version of Shirley Conran - SuperAuthor! What I'm trying to do is find a way forward which works - and which I'm running instead of feeling it's running me.

Cat - actually, I do think blogging is a good writing exercise, and I agree with you about showing potential publishers that you already have a platform which works for you. It's not stupid at all, but I'm with you all the way on the days when you wish it wasn't necessary!

Scattered Authors said...

You're absolutely right, Lucy.

Runs off to start writing blog, as have just realised it is my turn next...

adele said...

You are absolutely right, Lucy! I reckon the only platform one actually needs is a good book and the publicity people at your publishers are paid money to spread the word about it. If you enjoy the occasional tweet, that's fine but yes, it does eat up TONS of time and is probably more of a talk shop than a means of selling your book. Write the book, do your best to get the word out and move on to the next book. Blogging is altogether DIFFERENT! Good blogs are few and far between and work well when a lot of people contribute, like on ABBA and History Girls. I would deeply miss Seven Miles of Steel thistles, Kath but yes, it does eat up writing time. Keeping up a daily blog is very hard work indeed. I know because I'm married to someone who's posted almost daily for 9 years!! Works LONG Hours at it, too.

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

Sometimes there are very genuine silver linings to the apparent cloud of not being a published author!!

Nicola Morgan said...

*waves* And your phrase that I'd been blogging advice only "until very recently" is spot on and for exactly the ame reasons as you. Mind you, *cough*, I just started a new blog! But that's going to be completely relaxing and to be done only when i feel like it.

I'm back to being a writer. But I, too, regret nothing. Blogging changed my career, for the better, accidentally. But now it's time for it to take a back seat so that my career can take a new direction.

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