Friday, 9 October 2009

Friday Coffee. Platforms and Presence

The train now arriving at Platform Two is for

Fan Base

Good morning Racers. Welcome aboard The Writer Express. Coffee, tea and Kit Kats are being served in the buffet car. Please make your way to the front of the train.

Everyone got a seat? Good.

We are constantly advised that if we want to be a writer who sells, we need to cultivate a strong online presence. Today's market is obviously ├╝ber competitive and we're told that we must use 'online platforms' such as blogging, Facebook, personal websites and Twitter, to the fullest extent, to make our presence known to the widest possible audience. (And the platforms will no doubt keep multiplying).

At the moment my online presence is minimal and as an unpublished writer
who is still writing, that's fine. I blog somewhat erratically, use Facebook as a weapon of mass procrastination, and that's it. No website. And definitely no Twitter. But I like to watch and learn and I look at those amongst us who are working hard to spread the word with blog tours, competitions and all manner of clever and imaginative ways. And as well as cheering them on, I'm also thinking 'phew, that looks exhausting'.

So my questions to you are ...

-How strong is your online presence?
-If you're unpublished, are you looking forward to boarding the virtual promotion train?
-If you're published - although I realize it's par for the course - is it daunting just how much you are expected to do or do you embrace and enjoy it?
-Is there a writer, established or not, whose 'online platform' you regularly check (apart from our own Racers of course)
Personally, I greatly enjoy Marian Keyes' monthly newsletter which drops into my inbox. It combines publicity and personal news in a humorous way and never feels like a sell. And she's ever so 'umble. Which is nice.

So - over to you.

And enjoy the ride.

ps there are a couple of new posts below this which you might not have seen.


Leatherdykeuk said...

I have a middling online presence with four blogs, all updated daily and irregular twittered haiku. I don't follow Twitter as it would eat my whole day if I did. I read a lot of blogs -- mainly writers and publishers and poets.

JJ Beattie said...

I do love trains, but Spiral Jen and I had better check it's not going to Scotland!

Well I blog and it's a combination of writers and Thai interest but I'm not sure it quite qualifies for an online platform.

I have considered doing a website for the fun of it (and procrastination possibly) and then I realise I don't know what I'd put on it. So, uhm, I haven't.

I know it has to be done these days, and yes, I'll go all out to do it at the right time!

Helen said...

Yes I twitter and the title of my blog posts are sent out in tweets. I've found it really useful actually in establishing myself as a freelance feature writer. I follow similar people and have been given the name of contacts which has really helped.

Writing for Trash helped get my name known so hopefully, if I can maintain it with these other tools, when I finally get around to plopping my MS on an agent's desk they may have already heard of me...

...or not. But I'm willing to give it a try.

Debs said...

I have a vague online presence I suppose, although as an unpublished writer I think that's probably fine.

I also have Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Trisha Ashley's newsletters popping in to my In Box from time to time, and am on Facebook and Twitter a little.

In fact, I should really be doing less online and more of the writing.

ChrisH said...

Good question, Lane - and sorry to miss last week; too much stuff going on. Hmm, feeling quite crap and useless today and full of writerly doubts. Ho hum.

Yes, you're right, it feels as if there's a huge amount of pressure to build a writing platform. I'm not on Facebook, because my daughters regard it as a deeply tragic activity for parents, although I do wonder, as a writer, if I'm missing out (will hopefully find out a bit more today through this). My stepson put up a website page for me - which has nothing on it. So that leaves me with my blog, I write that because, in the main, I enjoy doing it and love reading people's comments. On the other hand, I hate feeling as if I'm shouting 'Oooh, look at me, everyone!' in cyberspace. We're told that agents etc look at these 'platforms' but with so many writers out there waiting to be noticed, this feela bit like some sort of urban myth. Sorry, told you I was feeling a bit rubbish today!

Graeme K Talboys said...

I have three blogs. Two for me and one for a character in some of my books. The only one I update regularly is grumbooks. I'm on Facebook but that is simply to keep in touch with friends and family. I don't have a higher profile for reasons I won't go into on an open forum.

Frankly, I believe they are fun but a waste of time in terms of boosting sales. The only writers' blogs/sites I visit are people I already know in other ways. None of the sites are 'promotional' and their sites are just a means of staying in touch with folk who are now widely separated.

As for agents and editors trawling blogs looking for talent... If they are reduced to that, they clearly aren't getting much in the way of submissions, which tends to raise the question of whether they are any good.

Should I ever earn enough from my writing to become financially independent, I would have a website, but only as a means of answering the sorts of questions that would otherwise have to be dealt with on an individual basis.

Rowan Coleman said...

Well I should I have a website and don't, for some reason the idea of it scares me, I have a blog which i haven't updated in months, which is a shame because I enjoy it but just can never find the time these days and facebook which is where readers can find me if they want to. I do think its important to have an online prescence, but I still think that without the weight of your publisher behind you doing the hardwork on the front line in most cases a website and a facebook page is a drop in ocean when it comes to building reputation and a following as a writer. it is nice to have place where people can contact you though, and you can occaisonally big yourself up and post information. As for twitter, I am on it I don't get it.

Fia said...

Now that I'm no longer commuting to Waterloo, I love train journeys. All those rows of gardens, people's washing, the homes behind them...

What were you saying? Publicity and all that stuff. I realise it has to be done and if I ever get published, I'll have a go.

My attitude is summed up by my son who commented on my facebook: 'Don't show off,' when I mentioned some shortlist I was on.

Rowan Coleman said...

The thing is in some instances you have to show off, some people are very good at this and others (me) are not. I always feel terribly embarassed about it.

HelenMHunt said...

I think the crucial thing to do is find a balance between all the online profile building and actually doing the writing. I am way too easily distracted - especially by Twitter.

My own blog tends to be used as a bulletin board of what I'm up to more than anything these days. But I will never forget that it was that blog that put me in touch with all my lovely writing buddies in the first place.

Working with Cathy on the Bookersatz blog has a been a good way of making links with publishers who now consider us as potential reviewers. That's been really interesting and has opened up some great opportunities.

I see Facebook as mainly a social thing and I don't go on there a huge amount. I think the procrastination opportunities of getting sucked into quizzes and things like Farmville, Yoville etc are just too huge and too dangerous.

I do spend a lot of time - probably too much time - on twitter. But I think the time spent on there is potentially helpful. That are no end of people twittering about writing and publishing and giving out really useful generous advice.

I was very impressed by the author Josa Young when she did a guest spot on my blog and I think she has a brilliant online presence. I love to read all sorts of writing and publishing blogs because I do think it's a good way of learning.

Fia said...

So agree Rowan.

I wonder if it would be easier to do it all in third person?

I love showing other writers off and am very proud of my writing buddies here and on other sites and could happily big them up all day:)

Annieye said...

What a great topic for discussion, Lane and a coffee morning on a train! How original.

I'm like you, I think. I use FB and blog now and again, but my time is limited and being unpublished I tend to use my free time to write.

If I am lucky enough to get published I think I'll feel a bit uncomfortable about self-promotion. I wouldn't want my friends to think I was a show-off!

I did try Twitter, but was scared I would get in trouble at work and there didn't seem much point in giving myself one other thing to keep up with evenings/weekends.

I don't, for one single minute, think my agent is the slightest bit interested in my humble blog and the ramblings it contains, let alone any publishers who might come across it. So I think I'll just carry on as I am and cross the publication bridge when I get to it.

Cathy said...

I started with just a blog but after I had a couple of small things published I decided to set up a website too, though its very basic and I forget to update it! I'm on Facebook and Twitter and then of course there is Bookersatz, which I set up and then got a little overwhelmed by when life got hard, so I'm really pleased that lovely Helen stepped in to take a lot of it off my hands.

I think its important to find a balance between using social networking for fun and letting it become a chore. It's also important to watch what you write just in case you become famous one day...

Tam said...

Lessee, I've got a website, Twitter, a much neglected Myspace and Facebook (but that's private). I'll be thinking of a newsletter at some point in the distant future. I like sorting stuff out myself but that's because I'm a control freak (as my agent is rapidly discovering!). I reckon it's all going to go crazy for me soon and my best piece of advice for writers (published and unpublished) is not to spread yourself too thinly. Better to use a few tools well than have a myriad of out of date sites.

For info, I know one of my publishers follows my Twitter and reads my blog from time to time.

L-Plate Author said...

I find it hard to keep my blog going at the moment, never mind anything else. I love facebook for its quickness! rather than reading blogs but I follow lots on google reader so a huge chunk of my time is taken up doing that. Why? I just like it.

As for twitter, I too can't see the point of it. I may if I ever get a publishing deal get started on it for promotion but I'm in the not sure it really sells books camp. But who knows, in a rapidly changing world, it's all about making a buzz.

I do have my own website but as yet I've been too chicken to publish it. Well, what can I say over and over...I am still waiting for that deal. It gets boring after a while.

Maybe, just maybe, if something happens, I'll get on the band wagon with glee...x

liz fenwick said...

Good question and something that came with an agent in a workshop I was in September - if your unpublished it good but not vital (getting the book written is more important).

Me, well, I love blogging but have been finding it a struggle with all the travel of late. I love twitter and I use facebook mainly as family and friends thing. My website works for putting up sample chapters and I only update about 3 times a year.

\two best selling authurs who don't blog were told by there agents that they had to Twitter - both were scared but now love it.

Love train journeys but always seem to be stuck on planes these days!


sheepish said...

Is there a window seat left? A fascinating question and interesting answers. All these on-line "things" are all very well but seem to me to be very time consuming. I don't seem able to blog regularly while I am writing which quite a few of our fellow racers have also mentionned. Being a bit of a technophobe doesn't help either. I suppose like everyone else when I want to get published I will do whatever it takes.

Karen said...

Hope I haven't missed the train. I'll have a lukewarm cup of tea, I'm not fussy.

I don't have a strong online presence - just my blog which I love dearly and suspect I'd be nowhere writing-wise without - and a bit of Facebook when I remember.

If by some miracle I was published, I'd much prefer the written 'blog tour' or newlsetter (I get Marian Keyes too!) type publicity than the face to face sort, where you have to actually TALK about yourself and your writing to real, live people!

Obviously I'd do it if I had to, but it would be a struggle.

Liane Spicer said...

I've got a blog-cum-website as I'm resistant to the idea of maintaining two sites. I haven't done a tour, and I don't tweet. I belong to this group and an author group blog, and have a Facebook account.

I admire the authors who are everywhere and doing it all, but I find the mere idea daunting and exhausting.

CC Devine said...

Sorry I'm extremely late! No internet access at home (again (:) at the moment.

Great post Lane! I worry about this...I think that it's important to raise your profile but do agree that for those of us who are unpublished it's more important to get the novel written than spend too much time on other online activities.

I'm not the most consistent of bloggers at the best of times but this year has been a disaster for me personally and professionally which has affected my inclination to blog. Certain topics I may have blogged about became off limits and it would have been difficult to blog about other things that were happening without potentially upsetting relatives/friends.

On top of that I've been battling with my internet provider for being crap (long story) and have had very intermittent access since February. By the time I've checked my emails and done a few other bits either at my relative's place or from an internet cafe I have little inclination to blog or read others' blogs.

My hope is to get back on my feet shortly and get back into the blogosphere more regularly as I've learned an awful lot from fellow bloggers and believe that that's useful and not just from a profile point of view.

On the plus side I've been doing alot of writing these past few months so that makes me feel a tad less guilty about being incommunicado on the blog (and Twitter, Facebook etc.) front!

Lily Sheehan said...

Mine is getting better, but I'm not tweeting much now that draft one is finished and my facebook isnt writing related. I need a kick up with butt with it all really! Great post btw - its making me think

Kate Lord Brown said...

It's an interesting question ... Online presence is necessary. As a newbie, I've found blogging the closest thing to a writer's group I can manage at the moment (home with small kids). But then I've been writing to a deadline recently and haven't blogged so much. Hard to do both effectively :)