Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Tyranny of the Platform, by Linda Apple

When the concept of building a platform first entered the writing world—yes, I am that old—I got right on it. Publishing had turned the corner. No longer were we at the mercy of the big publishing houses, but e-books were on the rise, small presses, and even self-publishing had lost some of its stigma. All of this, of course, meant authors had to promote themselves, thus, build a platform. 

This made perfect sense to me. In my mind I visualized a rock concert with a high platform so all could see the band. If I wanted my writing to get noticed, I realized I had to stand above the bazillions of writers. So I made a better website, I started blogging, and I was already a public speaker which fit nicely into platform building. 

And then . . . 

Social media came into its own and provided a fantastic way to build platforms, get noticed, and promote. Now we are told to post on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, get on Google+, pin on Pinterest, read on Goodreads, link on Linkedin, upload on Instagram, etc, etc, etc, 

Lord help me!

Now when I am writing, in the back of my mind the little social media nag sits on my shoulder saying, "You need to post, tweet, get, pin, read, link, upload, etc, etc, etc, because if you don't why write? Who is going to see it anyway?"

So I start posting, tweeting, getting, pinning, reading, linking, uploading, etc, etc, etc, and my writerly muse sits on my shoulder and says, "You need to be writing. Because if you don't write, there will be no reason to do all those crazy social media things. 

Shades of King Solomon threatening to divide the baby between the two mothers! 

Platform is important. It is essential. But it can also be a big pain in the writer's derriere. I had to stop and consider my relationship to the social media world. First I had to know myself and my strengths. I am an encourager, a mentor, an idea person, a teacher. Then I thought about what inspires me to buy a book. Usually, it is word of mouth. Someone else has read it and suggests it to me, or I may have met an author at a conference. Most of the time it is because I'm interested in the genre. 

Then I had to consider what made me ignore a book and that was the deluge of pictures on Facebook of open boxes of books with squeee written above it, or the torrent of book covers filling up my twitter feed. I just roll my eyes and skim over them to the next thing. I didn't like feeling like I am being manipulated into buying books. However, when I know an author is truly interested in me and wants to invest into my life instead of focusing on what I could do for him or her, I pay attention. Simple huh? 

With that in mind, since I'm an exhorter, I started putting quotes and illustrating them on Facebook and Twitter. Each morning, while sipping my first cup of coffee, I pray and ask, "What should I choose today? What do people need to hear?" On Saturdays I use a funny quote and on Sundays something that reflects faith.

This works for me. It is a platform I'm good at. And no matter where I go or speak, I have total strangers come to me and tell me how much they look forward to my posts each morning. Plus, they tell their friends! Word of mouth.

Then, when I have a new book, I come right out and say "Hey, I have a new book."  No backdoor approach for me, by the way, I have a new book, if you have time you might want to check it out. Why do I feel I can be so bold? Because I have built a community. My followers do not feel used by me, instead they rejoice with me.

So this is what has worked for me. Now I would like to open this blog to discussion:

Do you agree with my frustration? Disagree?
How do you handle platform building?
Do you feel we should try and use them all? Just a few?
What has worked for you?

I look forward to hearing from you , because as writers, we should never stop learning!

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Linda Apple is the author of Writing From Your Soul, Writing Life ~ Your Stories Matter, Connect ~ A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, POW; Promises Kept and Women Of Washington Avenue, her debut novel and the first book in her Moonlight Mississippi series. Her personal experience stories have been published in 16 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her devotions have been published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with her husband, Neal, their five children, five children-in-love, and ten grandchildren.

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