By now I’m sure every Writer out there and everyone who gets sucked into a conversation with a Writer knows about the massive changes in the publishing industry, the brewing battle, as it were, between Trad and Indie publishing, and the importance of creating an online platform to market yourself as a Writer. Everyone knows that the onus is on Writers to promote themselves, whether they have a major publishing company and a contract behind them or whether they go it on their own. These things are all givens.
But what do we actually do with this glut of information? I mean, I had a fantastic time last Friday swirling down the rabbit hole of Novel Publicity’s Author Karma Friday Facebook like-a-thon. It was awesome. My Like-man-ship doubled in one afternoon and I gained several Twitter followers as well. But dear Lord was it overwhelming! It was like hosting a party and having ten times the people I expected show up. I was terrified I would run out of food, people would get drunk and puke on the carpet, and cars would get parked on the lawn. I’ll recover though. It was a damn good party!
So here I am on the proverbial morning after with an online social media platform hangover. What to do with all this information….
So far I’ve noticed that author social media platforms tend to be a bit incestuous. We cater to each other. Writers follow writers. We get out numbers up and feel happy. We blog about our writing and our experiences. And this is all awesome. I love reading about people who jumped into this same boat with me. But there’s something, a niggling little thing way back in the corner of my brain, that questions the reasons for the party.
In surfing all the Facebook pages of my new friends I found a wide variety of intent in creating a social media presence. There were the folks who’s single-minded aim seems to be to promote their book. Awesome. I’ve got a book coming out at the end of September myself and I appreciate the need to market it. But some of these sites left me feeling a bit hollow.
Then there were the sites of authors who appear to be hard at work creating an image for themselves. Is this branding? Perhaps. A lot of these pages were quite gothic. They had a strong visual impact and a clear message. Granted, a lot of the ones I came across were dark and, dare I say it, indulgent. Of course my opinion about that could be shaded by the fact that I’m not really into the whole paranormal or urban fantasy thing. But does branding really mean playing make-believe with your image or is that role best played by the characters in your books?
The pages I really loved were clean-cut, had pictures of the author in question as the profile pic (as opposed to pics of the books which, strangely, didn’t appeal to me at all) and included personal status updates and touches. I felt like these were people pages, not marketing tools. And of course as a devotee of Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide To Social Media, this makes perfect sense to me. These are the authors who are seeking to connect as themselves, make me see them as people. I like it! Of course that’s part of the point. I like it. Not everyone will. It’s subjective to the core.
Okay, so where does that leave me and the people I follow online and everyone else eager to establish a platform for themselves in hopes of hitting pay-dirt as a Writer? Should we throw parties for each other or should we go out looking to crash other people’s parties?
I think the answer is to do both.
Following and being followed by other Writers is like going to a family reunion. We all have common bonds. We come from the same background. We’re dealing with the same crazy Uncle Trad who is a little schizophrenic and doesn’t quite understand what all those wild young people are doing with their crazy Indie books and weird way of dressing. (But since Uncle Trad is the moneybags in the family and we all want to be in that will we humor him) It’s a grand old time, even if Grandma tells the same three stories every time we all get together.
But you’re not going to get a date at a family reunion. At least I hope not! To get a date you need to go to other parties. You need to venture outside your circle and look for folks who share common interests with you. That’s why I routinely search for keywords like “medieval”, “romance”, and even “renaissance faire” and “SCA” on Twitter and WordPress. The book I’ve got coming out in September is a medieval historical romance told in a modernish voice, a la A Knight’s Tale, so those are the people I think would like it. Those are the parties I need to go to right now.
We go to our family for support. We look elsewhere for consummation. Both are important. So if we’re going to ace this whole author online platform thing we need to make sure we’re going beyond Author Karma Friday and looking for People Who Like Medieval Things Wednesday or SCA Saturday, if you’re me that is. You get the point. Again, we all know this. Consider this my friendly reminder to get out there and crash some parties.