Sunday, February 5, 2017

WRITING YOUR NOVEL: Part 4- Life as a Cyborg (The Author's Platform in Today's Age)

Gear up, writer, you are about to become part machine....

Your book is written. Editing nearly complete. You are now ready to publish that masterpiece destined to top the New York Times Bestseller list.

Or are you?

digital you
You are not just a human but a digital entity too
Welcome to part 4 in my blog series about the process of writing a novel. So far we have explored the idea of pre-writing, laid out a survival guide for conquering your first draft, and offered you a metaphorical machete to slash and burn your way through the editing process. Before we move on to publishing there is something we need to talk about that, hopefully, you have already started in one form or another.

The author's platform.

Ugh. When I first encountered the prospect of creating my platform, I nearly choked on the staggering amount of work laid before me. The concept of an author's platform, at least in its modern iteration, is relatively new. In the past, writers focused on writing, and when the time was right submitted their work to a publisher who did most of the marketing for them. Maybe their publisher sent them on a book tour. Maybe they convinced someone important, like a book reviewer for the LA or New York Times, to publish a critique.Then boom! The book was on its way to glory.

These days things are different. The rise of social media and self-publishing have changed the way books reach the masses, and altered how we as writers must market ourselves in order to stand out among the myriad voices simultaneously shouting for attention. It is daunting. Stepping forth onto a media platform such as Twitter, the sheer volume of people calling themselves writers is staggering. You start to sound just like the others, "Fantasy novelist, coffee lover, please buy my book!" We all try to convince each other that our book is great and original. Some of us (hopefully you, hopefully me) are right.

Here's the curse of self publishing. It's called the "Friends and Family 50." What it means is that, sure you can self-publish your book on Amazon and theoretically your book is easily available to the biggest market we as of yet know of: the world. Most likely, however, given the other 10,000 books whose synopses sound startlingly to yours, you will probably only sell around 50 copies to your friends and family. Fifty copies is not enough to support you. Its barely enough to pay for a single day of hard work. Perhaps some of these writers had a story idea in their head and they just wanted the pleasure of being to label themselves an author. For them selling 50 books sounded great. If that's you, then don't worry. But if you were hoping for more, then you better have an audience. And that precisely what the author's platform is.

The title of this blog post comes from a great book on this very topic by Kristen Lamb called Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World whose concept I found intriguing. Lamb explains the process of building your platform far better than I can here in this limited space. Here is an excerpt from her synopsis on Amazon: "The new author in today's publishing world is a cyborg of sorts—part human, part machine. The machine part allows us to compose series of words, copy them, email them, and then send them across the globe with a push of a button. We can research faster and more accurately than ever before. We can communicate with people all over the planet real-time and virtually for free. The new power technology has given writers has made us, in effect, superhuman."

There is a bevy of information out there about building a platform. Buy this book, or another, and read about it. I suggest, as always, using multiple sources for your research. But to sum up, if you want to sell books to more than just your friends and family, you need to get connected on social media, build an author website/blog and fill it with great content, start a mailing list and get people to sign up. (By the way if you want to sign up for mine, I will love you forever!). Your platform is an engrossing thing, and can be as multifaceted as you allow. It can also include things like getting involved in writer's groups, writer's conferences, volunteering for literacy outreaches. Anything you can dream up that allows you to get your name, your ideas, and your brand out there.

But how important is this platform business? Is it still possible to succeed without it? Sure it is. Taking the traditional approach to publishing (i.e. getting an agent and being published by a professional publisher) is still possible without spending countless hours on a platform. But even if you are focused on going this route, why neglect the marketing, the exposure and the potential to reach new audiences that platform building provides? Every little bit will help you become the most successful writer you can be. And judging by the many self-published writers on Amazon who have one or two reviews of their books, we all need all the help we can get.

So go out, become part flesh, part digital being. And sell those books!

As always, thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, found it useful, or just plain want to hate on me, consider commenting or signing up for my weekly mailing list. Not only will I love you forever, but I will reciprocate by reading, signing up for and actively commenting on your blog as well. I blog about everything from the novel writing process to the Fountain of Youth and more.

Read Part 3 of this blog series: Slash and Burn- Turning Your Brick into a Book

All posts in this blog series:

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions

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