Platforms and Publicity

For some considerable time publishers, and agents, a contrary bunch have been advising their writer clients to build an audience, to grow their fan base, to create platforms, websites and blogs. In other words find another way to connect with your audience. Show me (the agent/publisher) you have people ready to give money for your work… In all honesty, they rarely ever take any real risks, the onus is all on you.

Neil Gaiman recently gave some advice about blogging. He advised the would-be writer not to blog about their writing, or to use the blog to only publicised their work.

Now whether you agree with this or not, for many writers, blogging, and other forms of social media are a necessary evil. A way of securing their position in the marketplace.

Of course, what’s involved in being a writer these days has changed, the technological revolution not only changed how we are expected to engage with our audience: It also affected the publishing industry in ways that have radically changed how it operates.

Whether you have chosen the traditional or self-publishing route, the need for publicity, and marketing has not gone away, in fact it has proven to be of paramount importance in today’s market. Social Media has helped and proven an excellent source of putting yourself out there. I have learnt a great deal, discovered books and writers I would otherwise be unaware of through this medium. I certainly have no problems with writers using their blog to self-advertise. I have often sought out a writer’s website/blog to find out what books they’ve written, what’s available, etc,. Yet I have also read of complaints, of people using twitter, and other social media platforms to ask people to do a myriad of things such as check out their Facebook page/website/blog, and so on. In other words, it can be overdone. It can come across as aggressive.

An argument which could easily be levelled at Gaiman is

“As a successful writer you have some nerve”.

With a steady income, and established place in the fiction marketplace Gaiman’s suggestion does smack of arrogance, and yet…

He has a point. Years ago I read a blog posted on Meg Cabot’s website (I confess, I enjoyed her Mediator and Missing YA series) In this particular blog she shared with us the experiences she, her husband who worked in one of the twin towers, their friends and families went through during 9/11. It was heartbreaking, and extremely powerful. I was left in tears, in fact I’m tearing up as I remember it! Although her website does publicise her books, advertising her book signing and so on, it was fascinating to read a little of her thoughts and insights that weren’t related to her books.

In other words, you can use your blog to share something else, to introduce yourself. To showcase your skills and talents as a writer, especially to would-be new readers and fans. As well as showing your audience you can laugh at yourself or be serious.

You can also use your blog to expand on your books, doing a little expose on the characters and backstory. As well as discussing your writing process. Many fans love learning more about their favourite characters, stories and how you created that particular story.

For me, this is what Gaiman was getting at, be creative with your blog. Many writer’s blogs and websites are simple. Now, I personally have nothing against that, but it never hurts to be imaginative. But, that said, it’s important to be honest about what you can manage. Never take on more than you can handle. Finding the time and knowing how much energy you can spend blogging matters as much as considering what to blog about in the first place.

As a struggling writer, whether it is struggling to start, finish or edit that book, find an agent, or securing a publishing deal, knowing how to condense all this information, advice and suggestions into something that works for you is tough enough.

Take it one step at a time. Start a blog to write, to share, and to discover if you want to write in the first place. The one thing about blogging, much like the real world of writing, there is a deadline. So blogging can be a stepping stone, a means of developing the necessary discipline which is one of the building blocks of a successful writing career. It can also be great fun, so whatever your motive for blogging, enjoy it, and good luck.

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