Remember When Authors Could Just Write Books? Why Your Readers Might Hate Your Author Platform!

I have about 5 authors I watch like a stalker; patiently awaiting their next work of genius or maybe the next book in a series. I can picture them right now: sitting in their disheveled home office, coffee mug sitting dangerously close to the Mac’s keyboard, while they tap, tap, tap away creating pages upon pages of lyrical prose of love and lust between hot men (and voluptuous women). Lately though, I have noticed that my top five, instead of writing are more oft to be found in the hallowed halls of Facebook, Twitter or GoodReads touting their latest blog hop or giveaway. And you know what? I don’t blame them!

Although I sincerely hate the fact that writers can’t just write, I am no stranger to the fact that when you are independent you have to stretch beyond your God-given writing talents and also be your own marketer, administrative assistant, accountant, public relations expert, social media guru, etc. And I haven’t even mentioned the post-manuscript work of editing, proofreading, formatting and creating your own cover art! Even with the aforementioned knowledge, it still pisses me off! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry at the authors. I get it! I just want them to be able to write… all the time! If you have any doubt whatsoever about the importance of having an author platform, here are just a few articles on the ever-expanding necessity of reaching your audience:

Seriously, if you just followed the tips of the last two, you would be doing nearly 200 things to your platform at any given time. And I didn’t mention the myriad of other articles and listicles that outline the other 1.2 million ways to reach your audience!

via my Pinterest

Especially in sub-genres that are far from the mainstream, I personally think you have to really put yourself out there in the social media world and build that platform. Let’s face it, the publishing world is not the most conducive to these off-the-beaten-path genres. It’s not as easy to attract the general public as say maybe an M/F erotica author (Fifty Shades, anyone?). So every fan, reader you do snag you want to hang on to, you want them to know you are and what you’re all about so they continue to follow, like and read you. It’s not fair, it’s just the way it is. Or is it? Although important, the platform may not be everything.

In his article “The Dirty Secret of Author Platform (Hint: It’s Difficult!)”, Dan Blank quotes his friend Jane Friedman of Writer Unboxed when she wrote:””

I’ll make a bold statement right here that I don’t think I’ve made before.

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.

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.

Dan goes on to comment:

Jane is not saying author platform is unimportant, but rather, she is saying that the conversation around it needs to be elevated. This is a topic for serious authors who are ready to make a commitment to their writing career and establishing connections with readers. For those who are struggling to even find the time and focus to even write, it may be premature to fill up their days Tweeting and blogging.

He elaborates on the fact that an author should be finely attuned to numbers beyond the reader, even as far as to know what the author’s comps are (who’s your competition), know your reader’s demographically and know how your books would be categorized in bookstores or on Amazon (I would also throw into this mix the use of keywords on Amazon). By being familiar with these things, the author arms his/herself with the knowledge necessary to know who exactly their reader is, where they are located and how they are searching for their books. In other words, know more about your reader than just which social media outlet they prefer.

As a reader who wants to read more of your books, here’s my totally selfish advice to self-published authors: Take your personal platform down to one place! Just one. Personally, I would prefer a blog/website.

Here’s why:  You can have your blog/website update automatically and post to just about any and all social media platforms: sidebars can display your Twitter feed, Facebook button, Instagram updates, Pinterest boards, GoodReads bookshelves, etc. Use the blog/website to update readers of your current works in progress, what books are coming available in the future, your backlist (most important for the newbie to your site/books). As an added bonus, and to make it a more personal space, post about your new puppy, the photo that launched your newest book idea/character, what color you painted your home office, etc. Ask the readers questions! Get me to tell you where I’m from (demographics), how I found your books (remember: keywords!), etc. By learning about how I found you – searched for your book – you know what to use later.

I’m amazed at how many different places some authors try to be at one time. I was looking for book updates from a fave author and I had to go through their Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Amazon Author Page and two different websites (why do they have two?) only to find out they had no updates on their writing whatsoever! I was kind of miffed, not at the author personally, but because I am an auto-buy for many authors and I wanted to the ability to pre-order if the option was available. My search left me frustrated and without any idea as to where this author was in terms of a new release date.

I should mention that I am fully aware that many established self-published authors do have personal assistants who update their social media and websites to allow the author the ability to write and stay connected with their readers. I think this is great… to a point. I know a couple of authors that I follow who have them. How do I know? I can tell by the voice used in posts. I would rather have an author be honest about their PA with some sort of full disclosure than try to have an assistant replace the author when communicating with readers. Something along the lines of:

“I have a killer deadline approaching! I’m turning things over Super Suzy-Q who will keep everyone up-to-date on my writing world until I get this manuscript completed for all of my hungry readers!” — Fave Author

As someone with about 20-years of administrative assistant experience for executives, I updated many blogs and social media sites in my day. One thing I always suggested was not using my name when using full disclosure. Why? Because inevitably when I came on board a new position I was having to change the name of the current Executive Assistant and it just doesn’t look good to followers/readers, so I would always suggest a kind of pen name. The conversation went something like this:

Me: You know, Mr. Executive, it doesn’t look good to keep changing the name of your EA; I suggest changing the name to Super Woman, that way if I leave in a year you don’t have to change the name and no one sees the high turnover your company has in their administrative staff. [sly smile]

Mr. Executive: That’s brilliant!

Me: Yes, I am. 😉

This might work well with authors as well since your PA may or may not be with you for the whole course of your writing career or even the next three months for that matter.

So, yes, as a reader I have to say I hate the author platform: It takes my favorite authors – and those I haven’t found yet – away from writing the books I want so desperately to read. But I get it… I just don’t like it.

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