Questioning Conventional Wisdom Re: Platforms

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to Nerdy Words. I’ve been seeing a lot – that is, A LOT – of advice to new and aspiring writers urging them to create a “platform” by posting regularly to not just one, but at least three, different forms of social media. The reasoning is by posting content to a variety of social media, you (the author) will garner lots of likes and followers, which publishers then assume will translate into sales.

But is this really true? Or are the opinion-makers of the publishing worlds simply foisting their theories off onto new and desperate authors, effectively making them guinea pigs in their new marketing experiment?

These questions came to me when I was dutifully taking one piece of common advice: look at your favorite authors’ social media presence to see how they interact with their followers. I quickly realized that most of my favorite authors either don’t have any social media presence at all (Daniel Woodrell, for example), or only recently started Tweeting, long after their best-seller status was attained (Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King). The ones most likely to have regularly updated blogs and/or Twitter feeds were non-fiction writers (Dave Barry, Mary Roach).

The content of these Twitter feeds was mostly a collection of random thoughts – Stephen King’s musings on hamburgers, Dave Barry’s quips about World Cup players’ hair. People obviously aren’t following these feeds because they are full of helpful, interesting information. People follow authors’ social media accounts because they are already famous – i.e., their books are their platform; the blogs and Twitter feeds are simply treats tossed out to already-adoring readers.

Think about it a moment: would you follow or like some unknown writer unless either a) their blog/newsfeed offered actually useful or interesting content, or b) you had already read their book and liked it? If Stephen King weren’t already a best-selling author, would anyone care what he thinks about hamburgers? (No offense to King).

Maintaining even one social media account – a blog, for example – is time- and energy-consuming for writers, many of whom already must divide their scarce time between writing and a day job. Most social media is not “monetized” in any way, so essentially, publishing pundits are demanding that authors put in a great deal of time for free, on the assumption that it will somehow, down the road, translate to more sales.

I submit that’s BS. What translates to more sales is two things: national visibility and more sales. More sales, predictably, beget more sales – hitting Amazon’s best-seller list tends to give books a bump. But more visibility doesn’t mean daily posts on Twitter about what your dog threw up; it means book reviews in mainstream publications and websites, it means interviews on national TV and radio. People see or hear about the book and think to themselves, “That sounds interesting…I should read that!” No-one sees an unknown author’s Twitter feed and thinks, “Wow, her observations on pantyhose are so insightful…I should go buy her book!”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crawl back into my cave and write – a book, that is.

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3 thoughts on “Questioning Conventional Wisdom Re: Platforms

  1. If those are the kinds of blogs and posts that new writers are doing, they are doing it wrong. They should be posting about the stories they are doing, other writers they enjoy, things that happened that are going to totally go into the next book, writing itself. Cross promotion is king as well, I have bought several books because a writer I follow has complimented the work of another writer. A writer’s platform should be ABOUT THE WRITING!

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    • That is actually really good advice…yet I would venture to guess many writers don’t have much to say about their writing in that way: “I just thought of a great idea for a story…” doesn’t sound like much of a useful Tweet!

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