The Infamous Platform Post

So it’s happened before where I announce the start of a website or a Twitter page, and you might now be asking yourself, “What’s Platform?  Is that something new?  Is it like Facebook on speed?”

No.  Platform is a concept, not a service.

I was at a barbeque last week, and got to talking about writing with a friend of a friend.  I mentioned using Twitter for writing and that I had a website.  Not in a “oh, please check out my site” sort of way, but rather just a simple point of conversation.  She then asked me why I had a site to begin with.  This woman wasn’t condescending about it.  Quite the opposite.  She wasn’t a writer and was genuinely curious as to why I’d go through the trouble of putting a site together when my publications were so few.

A platform represents a writer’s ability to promote his or her work, and yes, it is a real part of the job.  No writer can get by only producing the work, not anymore, and it‘s been like that for quite a while.  The logic behind it is pretty sound, too.  The writer knows more about the book than anyone else.  That’s why bookstores have writer events rather than editor or cover artist events.  Unless, of course, editing or cover art is the focus of that event.

I’ve been building up my platform for…*thinks*…Christ, years, for at least as long as I’ve written this blog.  In that time, I’ve learned a few things about how to go about it.

You’re Never Done Doing it

For starters, don’t think you can knock off doing a platform in a weekend, because you can’t.  It’s like your résumé.  You’re always updating it, polishing it, making sure that it reflects you right now and not five years ago.  I evaluate my platform every few months to see what’s going strong, what’s been neglected, and what new planks can I add to it.  Updating my Twitter?  Sure, no problem.  Updating my blog?  *Clears throat and looks away*

Navigating Social Media

Social media is a big part of the promotional game, what with folks spread out all over the globe.  The Internet is a powerful tool that, like the Force, binds us together.  And like the Force, it has a dark side in the variety of outlets.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Youtube.  Pinterest.  The best thing you can do is take your time on this and think about shaping each outlet to suit your needs.  A blog is great for keeping people up-to-date on what you’re doing.  Twitter is perfect for short quips and announcements, and my website is a sort of online business card and résumé.

Would I use Instagram?  Probably not because photography doesn’t really have anything to do with my writing.  Would I use Youtube?  Perhaps later on if I have a book trailer or some other video content.  But right now I don’t, so it’s not a top priority for me.

Connectivity Is a Grand Ol’ Thing

Each piece of social media is a plank for the platform.  They’re okay on their own, but they’re stronger when linked to each other.  Because of that, I’m always making sure that my media outlets have references to each other.  My website, for example, has links on the homepage for the blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages.  Not all of these links work out.  Twitter has a link for my website, but not for the blog or the Facebook page.  If you can link at least 75% of your media content, I think you’re in a good position.  You want to give people the shortest routes to take if they want to look around at other stuff you might have out there.

It Takes People to Make Shit Work

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a writer’s community is a great thing.  A community in any field is a great thing for two reasons.  The most important is that you’ve got a sort of mental support network in which people understand what sort of hardships you‘re going through trying to get your work done.  For the purposes of this post, the other reason is a professional one.  These other writers are your colleagues.  They’ve got their ear to the ground when you don’t.  They’ll mention opportunities and job openings that you might want to take advantage of.  They’re your editors, your advisers.  In short, social media is merely a tool.  People are your real platform.

No one likes being used, so your relationships are the ones that will require the most savvy.  Be altruistic.  I’ve edited essays for writer friends not because I want them to do the same for my work later on well, yeah, I do – but also because I want them to succeed as well.  The best rule of thumb I can give for this is: expect nothing, give everything.

Know the Boundaries

This might sound counterintuitive, but don’t spend all your social time promoting.  At best, you’ll end up looking desperate.  At worst, people will think you’re trying to fellate yourself.  For example, I have my first schedule public reading a week from today.  I haven’t announced it beyond putting it up on my news feed on the website.  The biggest reason is that I just haven’t gotten around to it.  I’ve been super swamped with other work lately.  But once I do, I don’t plan on promoting every single day.  For sure, I’ll announce it today, and then the day before the event and the day of it.  But the other four days in between?  I probably won’t say anything simply because I don’t want to be a billboard.  I don’t want to wake up every day saying, “Look at me!  Look at me!”  That would be whore-ish.

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