Author Platform

Re-Blogged from my Orangeberry Book Tour

Vicky's StudyI’d like to share some pointers I’ve picked up since embarking on my journey as a writer:

1.      BEING AN AUTHOR IS AS MUCH ABOUT MARKETING AS IT IS ABOUT WRITING.

“That can’t be!” you cry. But alas, it’s true. Writing the book is the easy part. Whether you’re and indie or traditionally published author, expect to spend a large chunk of time marketing your books. You’ll find many aspects of it can be fun. Accept it as part of the process and enjoy!

 2.      YOU NEED AN AUTHOR PLATFORM.

An “Author Platform” is simply your internet presence, your visible “brand.” It’s what readers will find if they Google you, and it’s an efficient way to develop a loyal fan base. Generally, a platform consists at a minimum of a website, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, blog, and, optionally, accounts on LinkedIn, Pintrest, Google+, and/or Instagram. Don’t panic. It’s not as daunting as it sounds and it can be built over time.

3.      YOU MUST SHOW UP FOR WORK.

The good news: being a writer is great fun and there’s no dress code! The bad news: you actually have to do the work. Make a schedule and try to write at the same time and for several hours each day. Don’t answer the phone, check your email, or raid the refrigerator. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done.

4.      YOU WILL VISIT THE PIT OF DESPAIR.

It’s unavoidable. Every writer experiences bouts of self-doubt every now and again and for no apparent reason. It’s an occupational hazard like black lung disease (only worse). The best way to handle it is to recognize it’s temporary. Focus on your accomplishments, read a piece of amazing writing, polish the chapters you’ve already written, call a friend who can be trusted to talk you off the ledge. Just relax until it passes.

5.      READING IS AS IMPORTANT AS WRITING.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” – Stephen King. I find reading invaluable for three reasons: it keeps me current in my genre; it keeps my writing sharp; and it’s a relaxing break from writing. Actually, I feel like I’m still working whenever I’m reading a good book, because I’m observing another author’s style, plot development, character growth, etc.

6.      NO MATTER HOW GREAT YOUR WRITING, EXPECT TO GET DISSED.

They say you’re not a real writer until your first bad review. Regardless, it stings like hell. Learning to shrug off a bad review is essential to surviving in this industry. Maybe the reviewer just didn’t understand your book, or didn’t really read it. Sometimes, though, the reviewer has a valid point, in which case we need to take our medicine, no matter how foul tasting, and try to benefit from it. My recommendation: grow some Rhino skin.

7.      IT’S OKAY TO SHOVEL CRAP AS LONG AS YOU CLEAN IT UP LATER.

The best advice I ever received as a writer is: “Do whatever it takes to get that first draft completed.” Don’t worry about how inane or ugly it is. You can fix it later. It goes against our perfectionist tendencies, but it really works.

8.      WRITING IS A LIFE-LONG HONING OF THE CRAFT.

I’m constantly amazed at how much I learn every day just by reading other writers’ blogs, participating in author forums, or listening to readers. Remember, even after you fearlessly claim the title “Writer,” there’s always room for improvement.

9.      AN EXTENSIVE VOCABULARY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE OF GRAMMAR.

Vocabulary and grammar are both important to writing, but rules of grammar are broken more often than they’re observed in novel writing, especially where dialogue is concerned. I do little things every day to expand my vocabulary. Grammar I leave to the editors.

10.  EVEN ON ITS WORST DAY, WRITING IS MUCH MORE FUN THAN PRACTICING LAW.

Enough said!

Are you a writer? Do you actually tell people you’re a writer? If so, do you get questions like “Are you famous?” “Are your books on the New York Times Bestseller list?” “Do you make any money at it?” In the past these questions intimidated me because, in my case, the answers are no, no, and none of your business.

Why do we writers find it so difficult to own up to our profession? Is it our insecurities? Is it that no higher authority has conferred the title upon us? Is it to avoid the probing questions that inevitably follow? For me it’s probably a combination of all of these.

When I graduated law school and passed the bar exam, I proudly proclaimed to anyone who would listen “I’m a lawyer.” My practical experience in the law at that point was paltry at best, but after years of law school and a grueling bar exam, I felt I’d earned the title, and I bandied it about like a badge of honor (though some people took it more as a condemnation than an accolade).

Law Books and NovelsWhy then, after publishing two novels, did I have difficulty saying: I’m an author?

After a bit of thoughtful analysis, I believe the reason is that writing is such an utterly personal endeavor. If you’re doing it right it’s like pulling your guts inside out and exposing the rawest, most vulnerable parts to the world. I passed off my writing as a hobby for so long because I didn’t want anyone to know just how vulnerable I really was. I didn’t want them to observe my innards laid bare and say “is that all you got?”

Lawyers experience wins and losses. Every loss is a blow to the ego, but many factors, other than sheer talent or lack thereof, contribute to legal defeats—maybe the case was a dog to begin with, maybe the client made the all the wrong moves, and so on and so on. In other words, lawyers are handed someone else’s mess and asked to tidy it up as best they can. An unfavorable outcome can’t necessarily be blamed on the lawyer.

Writers on the other hand create something from nothing. We whip words and imagination into combinations as yet unknown on this earth. But if some careless reviewer or tactless acquaintance deems our creation more repugnant than ravishing, our world crashes down. We feel we somehow we don’t measure up, and we have only ourselves to blame. How ridiculous is that?

Writing is art, pure and simple.

Some will appreciate your work, some will not. If you have produced a piece of writing—be it a novel, short story, article, poem, whatever—and you’ve done your best, that, in and of itself, is an amazing accomplishment! You have a right to be proud. Claim it, own it, and have the courage to ignore others’ opinions. Shout from the rooftops “I’m a writer!” Once you wear the mantle proudly, I believe you become a better writer because you now take your role seriously.

It took some time for me to internalize this. But at a recent cocktail party, the hostess introduced me to another guest by saying “This is my friend, Vicky. She’s a lawyer too.” I shook hands with the gentleman and promptly set the record straight. “Actually, I’m an author,” I said. “I haven’t practiced law in years.”

The man nearly swooned with envy. “That’s fantastic! I bet you don’t miss the practice of law at all.”

His reaction made me smile. You know, I haven’t missed the law for a minute!

Do you ever balk at telling people you’re a writer? If so, why? For those of you who declare it proudly, when did you first feel comfortable calling yourself a writer?

Illustration by DB Burns

(Illustration by DB Burns)

Today I’m stepping out of my little author cubbyhole and plunging into new territory – I’m starting a blog! That shouldn’t be so difficult for a writer, you say. Not so! We writers (or most writers I’ve met, at least) are devout introverts, vehemently opposed to change, frightened to dip our toes into the Olympic-sized pool of life with the towering diving board, preferring instead to sit in the safety of our backyard kiddie pools with our trusty garden hoses.

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, folks, the publishing industry has changed. These days an author needs to build a platform which, believe me, can be much scarier than standing atop the high-dive on “Splash” while the audience cheers for you to execute a perfect ten.

“What is an author platform?” the uninitiated might ask. It’s simply a buzzword for social media presence. Translation: authors must be highly visible, readily accessible, and closely connected with readers and other authors via the internet. “Why?” So people will buy your books, silly. That means an author must have two, or preferably more, of the following: an author website, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page, a Pintrest page, a LinkedIn account, Google+, Instragram, and, you guessed it, a Blog.

Jumping into the mind-boggling morass of social media can be rather intimidating for someone like me who didn’t even have a personal Facebook page until 2011. But, since publishing my first book, TRANSCENDER: First-Timer twenty four months ago, I think I’ve done fairly well at building my platform … and, surprisingly, I’ve had a ton of fun doing it. Currently, I have a website (newly revamped), three Facebook fan pages, a decent Twitter following, and a modest presence (which needs expanding) on both G+ and LinkedIn. I’ve had some wonderful help along the way, but developing an internet presence turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.

Most in the industry agree, however, that blogging is one of the best ways to interact with readers and get yourself noticed on the web. Up until now, I’ve shied away from blogging for two major reasons: First what do I write about? And second, where will I ever find the time?

The answer to the first question came from my son, sage teenager that he is: “Write about things you’re interested in, mom. Do some book reviews, and have some giveaways, that kind of stuff.” The kid’s a genius! And, unexpectedly, the answer to the second question followed naturally from the first.

Since I already spend a good amount of time nearly every day posting on my Facebook pages, tweeting, writing book reviews, and/or participating in promotions or giveaways, much of that, especially the reviews, can be captured and posted on my blog without putting in a ton of extra hours. Plus, I put in a decent amount of time searching for ways to remain inspired and to perfect my craft as a writer. The juicy insights I pick up along the way can also be readily shared.

So, those are the types of things you will see here in the future. I expect to have as much fun with the blog as I have with my other forays into social media, and I hope you will enjoy the posts to come. Thanks for stopping by. Come again soon!

Note to authors:
If you’re interested in learning more about building an author platform, this is a nice post.
Bookbaby’s Blogging 101 is a free download to get you started on the road to blogging.
Also, the World Literary Café website has many resources to help authors bolster planks in their existing platforms, (register and click the “author” tab).

About


I’m the author of the Transcender Trilogy, TRANSCENDER: First-Timer, STREAMING STARS, and the upcoming ILLLUMINOSITY, which blends science-fiction, fantasy, and romance in an exciting cross-dimensional adventure.

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