Tuesday, January 23, 2018

One-year Blogiversary and Thoughts on the Author's Platform

A year has passed since I penned my first blog post. For nearly a decade prior I wrote in blissful solitude, convinced that the strength of my manuscript alone would be enough to propel my work to a sizeable, lucrative audience. It was just over a year ago, however, when I began querying my last novel manuscript, that numerous authoritative sources informed me this was a dream of fools.

Authors can no longer rely on publishers or agents or anyone else to launch a successful marketing campaign, they said. Authors are responsible for it all themselves. 

Books have been published elucidating strategies for the so-dubbed "author's platform." In fact, a fair number of writers, like Jane Friedman, have built careers largely on marketing and platform advice for aspiring authors.

Generally speaking, platform advice is mostly redundant and basically rather simple: be omnipresent and diffusely visible. Use every available  tool on social media and the internet to build an audience and promote yourself and your work.

The problem now is that this playbook is no longer a secret. Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of writers are all marketing using the same methods: gain heaps of Twitter followers, join writing groups on Facebook, entertain fans with pithy anecdotes on Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc etc. Not only must you scribe amazing stories, you must become a world-class marketer. But with all these hordes of wannabes (like me) all shouting for attention, it feels a bit like being in a football stadium, trying for your own voice to stand out among the roaring applause of so many others.

My author platform experiment is now a year old. In honor of this occasion, I will step back and take a quick look at what I have gained and what I have learned. Here are some thoughts about blogging, author platforms, and being a modern aspiring novelist.


Twelve months of delving into the blogosphere and the universe of social media has without question taught me an assortment of valuable lessons and opened my mind to a whole underground world of likeminded scriveners not so different than myself.

The habit of writing
Regular blogging forces me to write and write often. Weekly (or sometimes more) blog posts encouraged me to plumb my creative depths and explore all sorts of topics, many of which I may never have written about otherwise.

Writing Buddies
In real life, I know a handful of writers. Joining into the conversation on Twitter has opened an international community of likeminded, amazing and friendly writers to my disposal. I have learned a great deal from these colleagues and peers by reading their work and interacting with them on a daily basis. It has been great to have a community of international friends to share the unique plights we face as writers in the 21st century.

One of the things I miss about my days in college (other than the vibrant social life) is having workshops and writing groups for gaining that all-important critical feedback from other talented writers. Through the networks of social media, I have been able to get eyes on my work that have proven invaluable for my professional growth as an author.


Overwhelming Competition
I do not think of writers as competition. As individuals I think of them more like colleagues or companions-in-arms. However, as a whole it was overwhelming at first to realize how many great writers are out there penning incredible novels, most of which likely will not achieve commercial success. How do I measure against these hordes? Truly unique ideas, you quickly come to realize, are nearly impossible.

So Many Great, Unsuccessful Writers 
Success comes by many definitions. Commercial sales, movie offers and major awards are not the only measuring sticks for one's "success." However, for a person who has basically committed to making a career out of writing, a certain threshold of sales is necessary to reach that point where I could support myself by writing alone. Though much of the self-published writing I have read or attempted to read is a clear cut below what the titans of the industry are producing, there remains a shocking number of highly skilled, innovative and talented indie/small press writers who have not seen the large-scale success I think they deserve. Why is this?

Time Singularity
Blogging and platform building slurps up time I used to spend just on writing. Perhaps that's why even with a full-time job I was once able to write a 275,000 word novel in the same amount of time it took me to write the 110,000 word project that is my current novel-in-progress. Life is complicated, and full of complexities of so many varieties. All this platform construction has become a black hole, eating precious hours that I can scarcely afford. I have reached a point where I begin to wonder if the benefits outweigh this cost.


In order to be successful, writers (or anyone in a capitalistic system) need to stay ahead of the curve. So simply following the formula written out by others is probably no longer going to cut it. My goal for the future is to collapse the mold I have been stuck in and innovate new ways to promote my work, ways that can help me draw an audience and generate interest and great content that is worthy of the world.

I have enjoyed writing about all sorts of strange topics in my blog. At times I have even been proud of it. The truth is, however, that successful blogs are focused. They take on a single topic in a new and original (or very clever) way. This will focus the appeal. Otherwise, the only appeal I have is my voice as a writer. As an unproven writer, I probably don't have the credibility even to convince people to put their eyes on my work, let alone hand on my every word and tweet. But what could this focused topic could be. Writing? Outdoors? Hiking? Climbing? All of these topics, the things into which I have poured what expertise I possess, have basically reached market saturation.


I allowed a little time after the turn of the new year for a break from blogging. My little corner of webspace has become quite a drain on hours in my life. I decided to devote this creative time and energy to my work-in-progress, which I am pleased to say will reach the end of its third draft sometimes in the next two weeks. Once I have reached this goal, the new plan is to step away from this manuscript and focus on other projects, which might include this blog. I have found one of the best ways to refresh and improve on a project is to step away from it and return with new eyes.

In the meantime, I appreciate all of my followers and hope to continue to entertain and interact with all of you in the future.

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for my mailing list. When not focused on one of my numerous novel projects, I blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading!

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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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