Today’s reading recommendation, primarily for authors and writers with publishing goals, considers — and questions — various platforms used to build a web presence and brand.
When you have to make a choice about how to spend your writing time, choose your book first. Every. Single. Time. To approach your writing career any other way is a mistake.
— Stephanie Bane, “‘Platforms’ Are Overrated“
Note: We share this reading recommendation with our entire readership, but the ideas and suggestions here are targeted to authors, writers, and even NaNoWriMo participants whose primary goal is book publishing.
In our Recommended Reading series, we’ve focused on book recommendations, but I wanted to highlight a recent article in Creative Nonfiction by Stephanie Bane, “‘Platforms’ Are Overrated,” which might be of interest to authors, self-publishers, and professional writers working on books and long-term projects. The piece resonated with me because ultimately, it asks writers to evaluate where they invest and how they budget their time, and I think this is worth thinking about, no matter your goals and reasons for blogging.
We talk a lot on The Daily Post about building your blog and personal brand and using social media — including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram — to expand your online presence. These resources are meant to educate and introduce you to different options, and it’s up to you to decide whether creating a Facebook fan page, connecting your blog to your LinkedIn profile, and using other platforms makes sense for you.
When considering their web presence, Bane pushes authors and professional writers to evaluate the best use of time and money:
As a recent MFA graduate who’s wading into the world of publishing, I’ve been counseled to start a blog, scare up a couple thousand Facebook friends, consider Twitter. This pressure to promote myself, in addition to writing a book and working full-time, could break my will, make me consider giving up writing altogether. . . .
So I feel lucky to recognize this advice about “platform building” for what it is: bullshit.
First, Bane considers Facebook. If you have a brand/author page on Facebook and aren’t using paid posts to build your audience, not many people actually see your content. Roughly six percent of your fans see your unpaid posts organically, and the more fans you have, the lower this percentage gets!
The bottom line is that managing a separate author page — unless you or your publisher is paying to build your fan base and promote posts to your fans — is almost a complete waste of your time, especially when you consider the number of books you can expect to sell.
Don’t have the money to spend? Leverage your personal Facebook profile instead, says Bane. You’re limited to a maximum of five-thousand friends and can have unlimited followers, while research conducted at Stanford University suggests that you have a better chance of promoting your content within your network as an individual — rather than as an author or brand.
Bane also discusses Twitter, which might be a better digital marketing tool for an author: it takes less time to generate content, but is also a rich community for authors who take part in current conversations around writing and publishing, and use the platform in innovative ways. (Think @MargaretAtwood, @tejucole, and @neilhimself.)
Twitter is the best place to start. If you’re diligent about following agents, publishers, and fellow authors, and about commenting on relevant conversations, you can build a meaningful personal network in the same amount of time you already spend goofing off online.
When it comes to blogging, Bane ultimately questions its effectiveness. Unless you’re selling something expensive that’s profitable, is blogging worth all the time you invest each month?
Spending twenty hours blogging every month is worth it if you’re selling something expensive and high-margin, like consulting services, and if you can feed yourself from the proceeds. It’s not worth it if you’re selling books.
Remember: These ideas are primarily for writers working on books and looking for the best ways to promote themselves and their work.
The best reason to blog? You have a compelling angle and unique story worthy of a book deal, she says. (The WordPress.com bloggers at Raising My Rainbow, Mommy Man, and Moon Over Marlborough are examples of people who have landed book deals.)
Bane on the blog-to-book process:
The blogs came first and got the authors’ creative energy. The books came later. For most of us MFA types, the books come first. The blogs are a publishing industry marketing suggestion, a means to an end.
Forget about blogging, she says, unless your Big Idea for a blog translates into a book.
You might not agree with some of these points — and hearing the message not to blog might feel strange — but it’s worth a read, especially for those of you working hard writing books, promoting yourselves, and figuring out the most effective ways to spend your time. Ultimately, The Daily Post is here to provide resources and create discussions that push you to think critically about your work.
Read the entire article at Creative Nonfiction.