Indie Writer Code Words: Platform

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well.

Which brings me to my first word: PLATFORM.

This isn’t really a secret code word. This concept is an industry standard.

A “platform” is kind of like… well, literally, visually, it’s having a platform on which to stand so you’re up where everyone can see and hear you. It’s having an established audience via channels like a blog, pod cast, TV or radio show, loyal book following, a million Twitter followers, etc. If you already have a platform, you are more likely to move books. Or at least, you’re more likely to land an agent or big publishing deal. (Which most wise indies don’t want anyway—those folks aren’t much help anymore.)

For example, if you’re Snookie and you write a book, the publisher figures people already know your name and watched you get drunk on TV, so, sure, we’ll publish your book. You may or may not have anything worthwhile to write 200 pages about, but it’ll sell, so who cares? You already have an in-built audience. If we take a chance on you, someone is going to buy that book.

If you don’t have much of a platform, then few people know your name. You’re not a guaranteed sales machine. And when you publish your own book, aside from your mom, very few people are automatically going to be aware of its existence.

Part of the reason an indie writer may have a blog is to have such a platform. To perhaps attract a regular readership who may then translate into book buyers. If they like reading your blog, they may take a chance on your books, too.

I’ve also heard some more successful indie writers say that they gave up on the blogging and social media because they saw no correlation to actual book sales. Trying to build such a platform from which to shout from the rooftops was a waste of time. That time, they decided, was better spent writing fiction than whispering nonsense into the ether, assuming anyone was going to follow that trail back to Amazon or Kobo.

And for me, I have to say, that makes more sense.

If I spend my very limited time blogging and hanging out on Instagram or “liking” cat pictures on Facebook, is that really going to draw the masses to reading my fiction? And the question that would then follow would be, “What fiction?” Because if I’m wasting time posting pictures of my dinner or saying how disappointing I was in the last season on Netflix, who’s writing my novels? Not me.

It takes years to build an effective platform, and “effective” is a relative term. And results are not guaranteed. You might decide to forego penning your beloved novel series and force yourself to blog about TV shows instead. Everyone loves bingeing those shows nowadays, right? What better way to build a following?

So you spend all your spare time between your job and family and trying to get 6 hours of sleep every night, watching TV and bombing the internet with your opinions on it. And your books don’t get written. And while you’re talking about Game of Thrones, so are 100,000 other blogger and facebookers, and no one really notices you anyway.

So how effective is that platform you’re building to sell your books (that aren’t getting written)?

I say, Screw it.

Of course the platform works for some people. It probably worked better a few years ago than it does now. The indie writing landscape changes constantly, after all. The bandwagon that worked last year now has so many people riding on it that the tires have gone bald and it doesn’t run anymore.

But unless your voice or expertise in your chosen field on your chosen platform is different and more attractive than most of the others, who’s going to know you’re there? You’ll blend into the crowd. Just like your fiction writing. If it doesn’t stand out amongst the millions, who’s going to know it’s there?

So, for me, I’d rather be putting that effort into the fiction than the pre-fiction. If I get a platform built, I’ll build it on a stack of my books, not my opinions on… whatever.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony of this situation: I’m metablogging. I’m saying blogging may be a waste of my time, while at the same time perhaps hoping my writing about that attracts people to my blog. It’s like putting a mirror up to a mirror. Weird, huh?

I hope this doesn’t come out sounding too dismal or pessimistic. I’m just thinking through the reality of the situation. And for me, my choice, is to write the fiction, not the blogs. Or the Facebooks or Twitters or Goodreads or whatever.

That’s not to say I won’t interact with you. Contact me directly and I’m all in. I’d love to hear from you. But if you’re commenting on a Facebook post and hoping I’ll notice… You might be waiting a while.

In fact, I’d love to get rid of FB altogether. I say that a lot and I really mean it, but I’m also afraid that if I sever all ties to social media, then literally no one will know I’m here. But I do plan to downsize. Downsizing is good. Simplify. Consolidate web sites. Stop spending time and money and stuff that no one really sees, etc.

In the meantime, I apologize if my website and facebook seem to always be about what new story or novel I have coming out. It’s just that I have spent my constructive time writing those things instead of watching Netflix. And maybe someday I’ll build a following for my fiction instead of my unsolicited opinions about… whatever. 🙂

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