Feeding the beast

[This blog post appeared on LearnHowToWriteANovel.comLearnHowToWriteANovel.com in July 2018].

There is one word that is guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of aspiring writers.

That word is uttered by agents and publishers alike in ten-minute speed dates at writing conferences, and conjures pictures of mountains of work and a great horde beyond the gates to be enticed into the fold.

That word casts doubt in a writer’s mind that they understand people enough, don’t have the first clue about technology and, at times, challenges their raison d’etre as an author.

That one word?

Platform.

Almost every writer I’ve spoken with over the past three years has spoken of their platform in mixed tones of both reverence and almost revulsion. They have spoken of their “getting to like their newsletter” or learning about Instagram on the fly.

Developing and maintaining a platform as a writer is a commitment, because the platform is a hungry beast. Why do think social media describes content as a feed?

Your web site, your social media presence, newsletters, and everything else that goes into your marketing toolkit require a constant stream of high-quality content. Your writing life may only be in its embryonic stages, but the pressure is there to keep the content flowing, and to keep growing the platform.

Why do we do it? Well, your platform does a number of jobs:

  • It shows the quality of what you do (and how you do it) to the industry.
  • It shows your commitment to reaching new and uncharted audiences to develop a platform for sales.
  • It helps you to draw in potential readers and find new pockets of readership.
  • It gives your existing readers a reminder of why they connected with you in the first place, and keeps you top-of-mind.
  • It connects you to other writing professionals, enabling you to both reach out and fight the isolation and also help others deal with theirs.
  • Your platform allows you to source information to help get you out of a writing jam.

I’ve got an advantage over many writers. My career (all 25 years of it) has been spent in corporate communication and marketing. I’ve worked with my clients in the social media space for 10+ years, so I’ve been immersed in writing content for what feels like forever. I’m used to feeding the beast.

But when I turned my attention to fiction, I still had to learn how it applies to authors, and while the principles remain the same, there are some challenges that are specific to authors and their writing journey. Perhaps you feel these as well.

  • We’re all pushing hard to keep to deadlines, either imposed or self-enforced. Most of us have day jobs, families, responsibilities, communities and a life. Producing social media content, for example, is just another task to add to a to-do list groaning under significant weight. If you haven’t got the time, you won’t keep the beast fed.
  • Many writers I speak to are introverts. That brings with it a whole level of questioning about the value of what you post or put into your newsletter. Why would people want to read about me? Why would someone respond to my random thought? Why does this make me so uncomfortable to talk about myself? All these questions make it harder to come up with material to feed the beast.
  • Wondering if it’s worth it. You put in a lot of work into your platform, and you often don’t see the results quickly (or at all). It’s a long-term investment, but the workload (and juggling act) is a short-term issue. If you
  • Knowing how you’re going. I’ve heard three different agents talk about required platform numbers quoting three different targets: 10,000, 5,000 and “the thing that matters is quality of engagement, not numbers”. That’s a frustration – how do you know if you’re on track, or even reached the finish line? It’s like running a marathon unsure of whether or not the race has 10 miles or 100.

 

In the blog post, I’m going to post some ideas to help you feed the beast. But first, this question: what is your greatest challenge in developing your platform? It might help me tailor my ideas to your needs.

 

 

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