I want to talk about the push on the internet for new writers like myself to create an “Author Platform” so I can promote myself to the fullest. The skeptic in me is questioning the premise. Do we ALL need one and should we be paying for it.
I understand my need to establish a presence on the internet using the social media sites available. By putting my writing out there, many different people from all over the world can read it and provide me with feedback and comments. I was quite surprised to get real support from both new and established writers. I get to improve my abilities and become a real person within the writing community. These social sites do all this without any cost to me other than my time (my son helps too) to set up and maintain them.
That being said, we all know that the internet, like all free societies, has its unsavory characters lurking in the dark corners. They wait patiently for their opportunity to make money using the naivety and the innocence of the citizens.
I’m starting to believe that the “Author Platform” equates in many ways to the “Hallmark Holidays”. Did you know ‘Mother’s Day’, ‘Father’s day’, and the biggest of all ‘Valentine’s Day’, along with many others, didn’t exist until the greeting card companies pushed governments to create them. They were originally minor religious and social events that were converted to holidays. The idea of trading greeting cards and in some cases following expensive themes for these days was generated by commercial propaganda with profits being the objective.
Twenty years ago, writers were stuck, alone, with their computers and had no interaction with the public until they hit the big time with a best seller. With the extensive use of social media, a very formidable group of both successful and aspiring writers has emerged. I’m sure there are some savvy business people, who would consider this group a workable market. Unfortunately it’s very ego-driven and that makes it very susceptible to focused marketing. For example some of the products and services, used to build the Author Platform are being flogged as the stepping stones to becoming a high profile author and imply ultimate success for any writer shrewd enough to pull out his credit card.
I have an extensive business background, working 40+ years in business management and accounting, before retiring and taking up the pen. I think the “Author Platform” is being used, much like the “Hallmark Holiday”, to allow various products and services to be sold to writers. Given the numerous internet businesses willing to show me how to establish my platform, I have to ask why anyone would be in that business unless it was profitable. Perhaps the real focus is not on promoting me, but rather on making money.
The concept of “Author Platform” can be found everywhere and I’m sure that the majority of the articles and blogs are quite legitimate and discuss the idea fully without ever asking for a dime. The bottom line is my platform must be created by me. It’s just not something I can buy. I wonder if some of these writers and bloggers are unwittingly providing ideas that could be used by the more unscrupulous to profit from the internet writing population.
One blogger claimed that publishers just don’t always have the funds or time to promote each book, so you really have to do it yourself. Therefore the ‘platform’ was imperative even when you have contracted with a publisher. According to this blogger, publishers are suffering from lack of proper staffing, cost cutbacks and the downturn of the industry and need to pick and choose which of their books they support.
This is only my interpretation of what was written, but it sounds like this blogger is saying publishers will publish a book and then not fully promote it? Business sense is tingling again – why publish and then not sell. Sounds like bad business and I don’t think the Big Five or any established publisher got where they are today, doing it wrong. I’m sure there are books that proved to be lemons and just didn’t make it. They may be stored in the back of the warehouse, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get the publisher’s full support when they were launched.
In the more questionable writings, there are NO distinctions made between self-published and publisher produced books. That lack of distinction between those two very different methods of publishing, again get me buzzing. If I self-publish, I’m aware I will need to spend time and money establishing an impressive website and promoting and selling my books. The costs involved will be mine and so will the profits. However, if I manage to secure a contract with a reputable publisher, I know my work will be promoted by that publisher and the costs of selling my books will come out of their fees.
I thought writing good material was the whole point and that if I had the talent and the patience I could become a successful writer. According to numerous articles and blogs I’ve read on the subject of Author Platforms, a platform could be very useful to a writer. The concept is embraced by many who gain nothing from sharing their opinions. They are not selling anything or providing any service, other than their advice. These are the people who know what they’re talking about and since there are no financial motives, their take on this subject could be quite valuable.
We live in the marvelous age of digital worlds, internet personalities, unlimited imagination and extended credit. As a writer, the internet provides a world-wide forum to have my work read and put me in touch with writers everywhere. But even I need to remember: spending all my time on the internet or spending my money on every new concept, will never make me a great writer.
I am immersing myself in the written word. Writing will help me become a better writer.