Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday's Focus: Are You Building a Platform? If so, Why?

Have you ever stopped to realize all the demands that are being made on you, as an author/writer? How many times have you heard or read or been told that you "must" have a platform, and that you "must" build it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked-In, and heaven knows how many other "social networking" sites? How many times have "they" ( whoever they are) told you it's all about getting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and Barnes and Noble, and having 100s if not (preferably) 1000s of followers?

And speaking of "followers," did you know that there are people who are paid to be followers, and that if you have 100s and possibly even 1000s of followers, about 90% of them are paid to follow you? Sorry, but it's true. These are not people who think you are absolutely wonderful. They don't know you, don't want to know you, and could not care less about what you write or even if you write. All the care about is the money they get paid to follow people of every description on Facebook and Twitter.

But I digress. Times change, the publishing business has changed, and even the online world we must live in has also changed. Numbers no longer count. They don't represent how many books you have sold, or how many truly interested people are following you. They have just become cold, hard, meaningless numbers.

What does count is you interacting with real people. Sure, in today's world, those real people are usually on the Internet and may live half a world away from you. But if they are "real" they are truly interested in you and in your work, and you can tell this from the kinds of comments they leave on your blog ( which really IS a must-have), comments made about your posts on Facebook and Twitter. These are the people who have something in common with you, and who are the most likely to go out and buy your books.

But if you are like so many authors/writers today, you're not really concentrating on that. You are pushing like mad to "get the numbers" on your "Like" pages on Facebook or Twitter or Amazon. For what purpose? Do you really believe your 5000 followers ( one of my author friends claims to have this many) are going to buy your book, so at the end of the day, week, month, or year, you have sold 5000 books because of your Facebook followers? Dream on, my friend!

I personally have also been told I "must" do a blog tour, and "must" have a paid company put one together for me. Are you kidding me? First, I am not going to spend money for something like that, with no guarantee of ANY increased sales because of it. Second, those things are horribly time-consuming and exhausting. Some go on for 2 or 3 weeks, every single day, some for even a month. So when do I have say nothing about write? And who, may I ask, gets the money from this tour? well, the company does, of course. I think if you have a tour "host," this person also gets paid. But the people whose blogs you visit don't get paid, and aren't they the ones doing all the work? They have to review your books, write up interview questions, and often even set up give-aways, or figure out contests so you can give a few books as prizes, and so on. Where is the pay-off for them? For that matter, where is it for you? Do you really expect to make the 1000s of dollars from book sales that you probably were told to look forward to by the tour company? I think not.

Then there are the newsletters that you are supposed to do, to help in that platform you are building. Personally, I hate newletters. For one thing, they are often nothing but a marketing device to get me to buy the author's books, and if I already know the author, I either read or don't read his/her genre. If I read it, chances are i've already bought the book or have it on my list to buy, so i don't need a newsletter to push me. If I don't read that genre ( like Romance novels, for example), the newsletter is going to do nothing to encourage me.

For another thing, newsletters are very often nothing more than grocery list of what the author has been doing/writing/selling, and if I follow that person's blog, i already know all of that because it has been on the blog. If I don't follow the blog, it is usually because I don't care about the author on a personal level, so I don't care to read the blog, therefore I don't care to read the same stuff in a newsletter.
A personal opinion, but to me, newsletters are both annoying and a total waste of time.

So is there any good news about platforms? Yes, if you go about it in the right way. Interact with the people who leave comments on your blog, who respond to a post on Facebook or a 'tweet' on Twitter. Respond to every comment left on another blogger's blog when you have been interviewed. You can post about "freebies" or that your books are on sale for $.99, and then respond to anyone who asks about those posts.

You don't have to blog every day. Once or twice a week is sufficient, but make sure your posts have something to say, and if they generate comments, be sure to reply. If you DO want a blog tour, set it up with just a few friends who blog, or a few authors/writers who write in your genre, and have it go on for 5 to 7 days. Period. At the end, make sure you have replied to everyone on each day who has commented, and also, send a small gift of thanks to your blog hosts.

In short: overkill is a thing of the past. Having 1000s of followers is unnecessary and even a little stupid, since you are never ever going to be "known" by 2or 3 thousand people. Have a blog, post on Facebook and Twitter, or any of the other social media, but do it with reason. And do it FOR a reason, not just because some one said this is what you "HAVE" to do. Let people get to know a little about YOU as a person, as well as a writer, but never EVER put personal information out there, thinking it will add to "letting people know you." It WILL come back to bite you in the...well, you know.

Build your "platform" by being honest, compassionate, and true to yourself. Forget now and forever what "they" say to do. Remember,  in social media, as well as in life, a little goes a long way.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.