On The Value Of Your Authorial Platform

34 comments

  • Yes. Very wise words all of them. You are right. Followers don’t equal sales. But, but, but the time is rapidly arriving when publishers and agents will look at an author’s platform to decide if the writer has the “presence” to carry book sales. Some already do this. When they find out about Klout scores, we’ll be done for. Well, not me, but that’s another story.

    So right now your author’s platform is jack. In the next five to ten years, it will be your gold-pressed latinum.

  • April 12, 2016 at 9:19 AM // Reply

    Hey, just because you’re being professional doesn’t mean you can’t print that tweet out, emboss it with gold leaf, and have it framed. ;)

    • …And stand next to it oh-so-casually whenever visitors come around, with your fingers resting ‘near’ it in a vague pointing gesture until someone asks about it. And then laugh ‘modestly’ and go “Oh this? Well, I don’t like to talk about it really BUT…” ;)

  • I’m with you. For me the reason I have a platform is to have fun. So I want my readers to get nice new stuff to read so I’m happy to recommend books – especially good deals or freebies (if they’re good). Like you, where I get the sales is if those other authors are chuffed I recommended them and recommend my stuff back. Karma.

    Cheers

    MTM

  • Thank you for this. I am as Paul on the road to Damascus. I am going to write out ‘Your “platform” is mostly bullshit’ and stick it above my desk. PS My strongest performing post this month has been a cartoon I shared of a dog deleting homework from a laptop. I know Kristen Lamb says we must do this, but I feel so dirty!

  • Its funny that I mostly find myself reading most of your tweet streams in reverse, because that’s the way twitter rolls, Makes it interesting though.

  • I would like you to know, Chuck, that I bought your first book because I read your blog for about six months. You were consistantly funny, insightful, and very snarky. When you alluded that Blackbirds’ main character would have your same sense of humor, I thought that sounded like a damn fine idea.

    You didn’t let me down.

    However, your thoughts on platform track in the experience of myself and those other writers that I know.

    ALSO, you may be pleased (or enraged?) to know that someone quoted you at a panel at Emerald City Comicon – AND they sited you appropriately!

  • Congratulations, but, again, why is this split into separate chunks if it’s all the same discussion? It is literally, really, honest-to-gosh nauseating to try to read related thoughts that are presented as a series of bulletin boards or fortune cookies or tweets or whatever the heck this latest app thing is. Are you intending parallel ideas, where each little box’s idea has equal value with the others and there’s no rhetorical value between the separate boxes/tweets/fortunes, or is this a set of related sentences that builds and supports a single, cumulative thesis? (In other words, is it a paragraph?) If they’re each separate ideas, I could maybe try reading one a day or something and not wind up in a migraine or throwing up, but If they are related ideas, then, again, why not just present a normal paragraph? Short version: just because a toy is new doesn’t mean it does anything worthwhile.

    • Related Read: http://www.amazon.com/The-Shallows-Internet-Doing-Brains/dp/0393339750
      The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr
      Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic―a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption―and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

      Another related read. Especially, note the access issue re. Storify — ironic for an article about gadgetry making people ill. http://simplyaccessible.com/article/balance-awareness/
      “Note: I originally published this over on Storify, but as I looked more closely, I noticed a lot of things that I couldn’t control and were causing some significant accessibility issues. So, I’ve updated this article and pulled it over here where I have full control over it.”

      • Final note: if this post is a series of parallel ideas of equal weight, the way to present them that would be accessible to everyone, i.e. including people with learning disabilities or neurological disorders, would be as a series of bullet points. This would avoid the access issues with the endless tweet/fortune boxes. I suspect one of the nausea/migraine triggers is having to weed out the repeated borders, redundant date information and other distractions while simultaneously trying to actually read text for content. The problem with this presentation is you’re mixing short-term image scanning (and rejection of that image as unimportant, i.e. without message) with simultaneous language processing involving standard syntax and sequence. Two different parts of the brain trying to make your eyes quite literally move in two directions at the same. Hence, barfing.

    • I think this is a form of short-attention span mind control. Tweets are designed for Pokemon addicts who can’t focus unless the screen blinks rapidly regaining the reader’s attention.
      I
      Could
      Be
      Wrong.

    • I’m sorry you find it nauseating, but it is an aggregate tool I use here from time to time. Twitter is not new, and neither is Storify. Apologies, but you may want to stick to the more traditional blog posts. Thanks.

  • Only book platform I’m interested in would be one built in a tree, with a nice ladder since I’m not into climbing these days, and comes equipped with a roof, comfy chair and a drinks dispenser/kettle and tea pot. Oh and lots and lots of books.

    • April 12, 2016 at 10:44 PM // Reply

      That sounds great. And probably just as effective for selling my books as all my social media :p

      But Chuck is right about the effect of someone ELSE recommending a book. A good review on a writer’s or even better, a reviewer’s, blog can lead directly to sales. (In my case, my numbers are low enough to make the correlation a pretty safe bet as causation).

  • Yes, yes, YES. This is one of those things I always have to remind people at work: I can post all day on our social media, but you have to give me something worth posting about at least some of the time.

  • Wish I’d read this a few years ago after going down the path of publishing with a publisher and having to use my own fricken platform to promote and sell. *a real facepalm moment there… or rather, many of those moments* I feel better now I write for me and to write rather than for stats, etc etc etc. although that in itself is a little demon that still pops its head up every now and again.

  • Yup.

    Chuck, you validate what I already know from business studies: the financial ROI for an artist’s social networking activity is poor. Different audiences. Different consumer groups. And yet, all my newly published author friends are told by their publishers that it is ‘expected’… whether or not there is any sensibly determined scope for such activity.

    If you were to offer that kind of advice to a room of venture capitalists without offering any evidence or projections, you’d be flamed. It bothers me how readily such activities can overtake the goals they serve; it can very easily become a self-licking icecream.

    On a related point, the thing that most intrigues me about social networks is the recent business reporting about the existential threat they all face for want of original content. Of all things. I’d imagined something more melodramatic, like a Carrington effect, but, what the hey.

  • Boy (not friend, at least not in THAT sense matter how fond I am of your rank persona!) Please, spell it out for us. As in not howling into the wilderness is good. As in folks like myself reading your fiction is/are (whatever) good.

    Dost thou say, all the you know what being slung re B – U – I – L – D your platform is utter nonsense?

    OTH, you are the “man” for lots of writers. Not a big enough audience?

  • Fantastic post, Chuck! I personally dislike “platform” because it sounds too much like terminology used when running a political campaign (glad to hear you survived Pennsylvania’s Trumpocalypse, by the way).

    I’ll admit when I first heard about platforms, I thought they were awesome because I’m a 1+1=2 kind of guy and the whole concept was simple and straightforward. At first, I thought I was supposed to advertise and promote and generally pimp myself as a writer. I caved in on that early on because it made me feel too much like some hack selling snake oil. Good snake oil, but snake oil nonetheless.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been reevaluating the role of blogging and social media and what they both mean for us as writers. Between this post and Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking TED Talk, the real value of social media is that you get to connect with readers, other writers, agents, and so on.

    Build a relationship with the audience, let them know you do have a story (again, I’m reluctant to call it a “product”), and then allow them the freedom to decide whether or not they want it.

  • Chuck, just start using lots of affiliate links low-price unicorns and fancy butt plugs. You know your readers buy more of that stuff than books! Get in on the market and you’re a made man!

  • This is really interesting because when I read a book I love I immediately hunt down the author on Twitter (in your case it was probably after I met Miriam Black and fell in love). There is a growth now of fans becoming passionate about people in intimate ways due in part to the role of reality tv in showing us everything about a person and then expanded upon in YouTube where these young people make videos about their thoughts, vlog their entire day, and are still available on various social media but for them these things translate to a lot of money and many make book deals that sky rocket to the top of best seller lists. There is one YouTuber (Marcus Butler) who has released a song, written a book and makes a ton of videos. Other YouTubers have been in films, etc. Is this where fame is going? Multimedia ventures with little to no privacy for the “star”?

  • Thanks for providing this “unorthodox” advice that is both refreshing and helpful. I agree that the writing is definitely the most important part. Readers care more about how good the book is than the number of followers an author has. I wonder, therefore, why the common advice is to focus on building a platform? Perhaps it has more advantages than just slightly boosting sales?

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