Should Unpublished Novelists Be Platform-Building?
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media, and the vocal response in the comments confirmed that many of you feel the same way. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, most of us are just trying to keep up. We all recognize the potential hazards of social media—mainly, the TIME it takes. The question we each have to answer is: How can we use social networking to the extent that it’s positive and helpful, but no more?
There are two things I’m constantly stressing on this blog:
(1) Building a platform using social networking is important.
(2) Mastering the craft of writing is crucial.
But for some of you, the two are not equal.
Unpublished fiction authors—this is for you!
Your writing should be first priority. Spend most of your discretionary time writing and becoming a better writer. Read high quality fiction, read books on craft, get feedback from critique partners, edit and rewrite… but mostly write, write, write.
Don’t spend to much time trying to build platform yet. Get a head start, yes. Read Michael Hyatt’s Platform if you want. Do some blogging and social networking for fun and leisure, and so that you’ll know how it works. But I recommend a 90/10 ratio. Spend 90% writing, 10% on platform building.
Things change when you’re about to get published. And things are different if you’re a NON-fiction writer.
But if you’re an unpublished novelist, your writing is top priority. If that’s not working, all the rest will be irrelevant anyway.
So get off this blog and get back to work!
Whether you’re published or not, writing fiction or non-fiction… how do you divide your writing-related time? Percentage-wise… how much writing time versus how much social networking?
[…] Should Unpublished Novelists be Platform-Building? By Rachelle Gardner […]
I have been pretty lopsided. I mostly write. I would like to begin building a platform because I have a lot to say about the topic: being parented by a single mom but I don’t want to go too far off on the topic and neglect the book.
i kind of started it i just need to write the chapters i wrote a summary but not chapter 1 what should i do?
hi i need advise on how to write my bio
Excellent post, Rachelle! Thanks for the reassurances.
Not only am I absent from Facebook, I actively promote my non-member status with a “You Won’t Find Me On Facebook” link image on my blog.
I feel Facebook has reached its nadir, and a new author might generate more interest (even controversy) by not being on Facebook.
Q: “Why aren’t you on Facebook?”
A: “I prefer to spend my time writing.“
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Thanks Rachelle, this was a good reminder for a new writer like me to keep the focus on the writing and not let other things like social media get in the way of that. Well…back to revision!
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Um – to actually address the question asked — ratio of Social Networking to writing —
that is hard to answer.
My “partner in crime” and I started a blog to sort of “promote” the work — but to share details while her friends are waiting for the finished book to be available. Since we haven’t really nailed down the novel and its plot points, it has been hard to know what to post there. So, very little has been done there. .0001% of my time is spent on that …
Then I started another blog to comment on life in our fictional town, now that some “nibby-nosed busy bodies” are digging into events that happened there a few years ago. Haven’t added to that in a while either. But this one reveals some of the town’s history that may relate to the events in the novel, and may share some of the backstory.
Actually writing and posting this stuff? .000009% of my time. Thinking about the backstory and the town’s history – 12% of my time.
Time spent reading blogs? .5%
Time at Facebook reading posts? About 5-10 hours a month. Meaning, I log in once or twice a month and spend a couple of hours catching up.
I do not Twitter even though I may be a twit. Twitter makes no sense to me.
And on Facebook, I have “unliked” and “unfriended” quite a few of those that used to fill up my news feed with FB Spam — stuff that was not interesting or engaging. It was just more marketing of products or other sites that are all about selling me their product. On Facebook, I want to find things of interest — Yes, an author should share news of a books being started, having first draft completed, heading to the publisher, coming back in galley form for proof reading, and when it hits the shelves. But I sure hope there is more to the scope of the FB presence.
Rachelle’s blog is the ONLY one I have ever allowed email me when a new post is put up. 🙂 And I have “liked” about 10 authors on FB — some disappeared when the new look came out and I don’t miss them because they weren’t all that engaging and spent their FB time and space marketing the next book or even older books in their series rather than telling me about themselves as a writer or person.
I mentioned in a response to a commenter that there is one writer on FB that I “like” whose books I’ve never read but if I do, it will solely because of his FB presence. Which is kind of strange. If I’ve never read this author, how did I actually find him to “like” his FB page? Usually, I look for an author on FB after I have read his/her work and decide I might want to know more about the author. He bought a FB ad and announced he was running weekly contests for a year and prizes included copies of his books.
So — how does FB or Twitter actually help an author build a platform? I understand how blogging can help, but if you aren’t already known, how does anyone find you?
Never underestimate how famous you can get for giving writing advice.
I’m not sure I have any real advice to give, though I have been writing for years and years (mostly to entertain myself when I could not find things I wanted to read in the local Christian bookstore or regular bookstore). However, I am an extremely picky reader. Would anyone think my observations along those lines could be called “advice”?
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As a novelist, whether you decide to go Indie, POD, or land an agent who sells your work to a traditional house, you still have to do the lion’s share of promoting your book. Everything I’ve ever read about securing an agent tells me that the importance of a new writer’s platform comes in just under writing a great book and having it professionally edited. Some agent websites where you just input your book info by answering a canned series of questions require that you have either an existing platform or a rock solid idea for building one. There are so many pitfalls for the unwary rookie author that you can never be sure. The vast majority of author publishing and book promotion services promise you the moon and give you a flashlight, batteries not included, for your hard earned cash. Only a very few of these so called platform building publishing services actually care about the quality of the writing. They make their money selling the wannabe author their services while pressuring you to buy a thousand copies of your own book, which will probably end up cluttering your guest room, gathering an inch of dust. Shelf space is critical in local bookstores, especially on the ever shrinking fiction shelves. So who do you think they’re going to stock, your book from Acme Publishing or or a James Patterson formula novel that has a proven track record?
I don’t do social media, I don’t have time. As far as platform, my book’s website has been operational for about 18-months and the hit counter was recently reset after 100,000 hits.
Bottom-line: Write a great book and have it professionally edited. Editing is a duet, not a solo act. Give great care in your agent selection, don’t SPAM them, they’ll know.
Read great fiction and learn the craft. If I write 2,000-words a day, I read at least 2,000-words of great fiction the same day.
I am an avid lurker but I had to speak up after I read your post today. Thank you for clarifying this for me. I’ve been struggling for years with this need to be present online and get my writing done (while homeschooling four kids…lol). It is reassuring to hear you give the 90/10 rule. I can write without feeling guilty about not blog hopping as much as I want to. 🙂
So for me, I have about 3 hours of day that I can call “spare time.” If I spilt my time 90/10, that’s roughly 20 minutes for social media, and the rest writing. I am woefully deficient when it comes to networking, so 20 minutes sound good to me. I check a few blogs, occasionally comment here or there, and then get back to work.
However, I’m also trying to convince someone to represent me. So, do queries count as social media? I feel like at some point I should be devoting a lot more time toward getting published.
I have four complete novels and only started writing queries a few weeks ago (for some reason queries intimidate me).
So I guess my real question is: If I am in the “create” phase, 90/10 seems right. But what should my split be if I am in “get an agent” phase?
You are 100% spot-on here with this post. Amazon lowering the barrier to entry did not change the dynamics of readers who want to spend 6-12 hours with a great writer well edited and not a stream-of-consciousness rant.
Having spent ten years getting to the point where I hope/believe I’m ready to publish novels, I accidentally became a beacon for other wannabe writers (had to close my first website and open http://www.seeleyjames.com). Many beginners sent me unsolicited manuscripts for help/advice. This led me to write a reality-check series about writing called The Architecture of Writing (Foundations, structural integrity, engineering, and a bit of art).
Write to entertain (insert your mantra here) and the platform will find itself.
Thanks for this post! I loved it. It made me think about how I am spending my time.
I am about to self publish a book; however, while writing the book I hardly did anything else. I focus all my free time on writing. I even stopped painting (I am also an Artist.) It served me well. I finished the book in three months! So, I do agree with you.
Now, while the book is being edited I still give priority to all the steps before publishing it. Like formatting the work, designing the book cover and book trailer (on the works) and create all those sites to promote it. Oh! and I do read about all those subject to learn as much as I can.
[…] Yesterday, literary agent Rachelle Gardner spoke about building platforms for unpublished writers, and comes to the conclusion you should spend 90% of your time writing and 10% of your time on social media. […]
I just finished listening to Michael Hyatt’s teleseminar. It was wonderful and I will be buying his book for sure, but your post is a confirmation on what I need to be doing at this point in time.
Thank you Rachelle! I have recently read Michael Hyatt’s book Platform. It has A LOT of useful information in it. After reading it I became motivated to work on my platform and build my home base.
Since I’ve been working on that so much, I have not been writing like I should. Thanks for the reminder that for us non published fiction writers it’s all about creating good content. Without it no amount of followers will read it.
thanks rachelle!! I read this as I was listening to Hyatt’s platform teleseminar, so it what a great balancing encouragement. You mention differences for non-fiction. What are your ratio recommendations there? Why the difference?
I am so grateful for your post, Rachelle! I am unpublished and spending 90/10 writing/social media. I was getting worried that I should be doing more in social networking, but I have been focusing on finishing my WIP. So thank you!
Yay, the reassurance I need! Of course, I’m trying to continually improve and be consistent with blogging, and I’ll probably create a writing-related Twitter account at some point. But whoo for getting the book written first! After all, I’ll need something to promote once I have that platform.
God bless you, Rachelle!
One thing I try to do is streamline all of my blog writing and writing community volunteer work to one day a week. Then limit it to a half hour or so each morning using Hootsuite.
Then I can focus on writing in the other time I have between baseball games and princess parties with my kids. Translated, a bit of time in the morning while they play if I’m lucky and after they go to bed.
If I understand you correctly you write all of your blog posts in one day? Then use Hootsuite to post them when you’re ready? This seems like a much more streamlined process than what I’ve been doing and wonderful time management.
Yep, write most blogs on Monday and then use Hootsuite to post them. As often as possible I do things that way. Once in a while I get behind, but I like to get a flow going with my blogs. It works for me.
It sounds like a system that would work well for me. I use buffer to do that with my tweets, but I can see it would be very beneficial for me to do that with blog posts as well. Thanks for giving me something to check into on managing my blog better!
You bet, Nicole! We all need to help each other out in this business. Blessings.
Non-fiction for me, and I got the cart before the horse by self-pub’ing a book before I even started building platform.
So, now…I suppose you could say I’m focusing on building platform…which would be a true statement…EXCEPT…
I really think of it more as a ministry than platform-building. AND I look at blogging as yet another venue for writing.
So, I can’t nicely separate percentages into social networking versus writing…they’re largely one and the same…
This has made me feel so much better. I’m going to go back to my WIP now.
I write both fiction and non-fiction. For non-fiction, a platform might be in the form of talks to groups at libraries or organizations that might have some connection to the subject. For some of my published memoir essays, I could talk on the topic in them –grief.Oddly, I have a platform for my fiction. I self-pubbed a historical novel and have given readings and talks on the background behind the story. I am booked often.
I would say for both genres, working on your writing is very important. I’ve taken master classes at writing conferences, weekend workshops and soon going to Summer Fishtrap in ORE where I expect to take new steps in improving my writing and storytelling.
Social media has been my way to make great friends, some I’ve now met in person.
Right now — and this isn’t par for the course — I’m spending 100 percent of my time creating a new blog. Well, I’m trying to create one using wonky WordPress. I would not have done this had my agent not advised me to. I have mixed feelings about building a platform at this stage. I’m not yet at the published stage, so I feel sort of presumptuous putting up a blog about myself to pimp my books. I’m still very much a nobody in the publishing world, and I don’t expect to have an audience for quite some time. It feels very weird to me. 🙂
I’m a nonfiction writer with a number of published credits, but no books yet. I spend probably 60% of my time building platform, 10% learning (reading), 25% writing and probably 5% wasting time, pretending I’m doing one of the above. Just being honest. 🙂
Aside from the wasted time bit, I don’t know if this is properly proportioned or not. I have three proposals in process and one that I’ve pitched to great response. Everyone says the same thing: “Solid writing, good idea … but your platform is too small/weak/insignificant.” So I’m working on platform and hoping desperately that I don’t lose my writing in the process.
It’s such a challenge to juggle all of these roles effectively and with sincerity.
[…] out of e-books but staying in the e-world, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks Should Unpublished Novelists Be Platform-Building? Not surprisingly, the answer is “yes, but secondarily to learning the craft of […]
Thank you for affirming what I’ve been doing, which is “honing my craft”. Sometimes I get panicky that I’m not doing everything I need to do to get published. It’s a relief to have your “permission” to focus on writing and leave the social stuff for later.
Thank you for this post, Rachelle! I’ve always wondered how much agents really care about platforms for unpublished fiction writers. Now I know! 🙂
So needed this post! Thank you for taking a burden off my back. I feel overwhelmed at times with the whole platform thing. I believe I will be taking a break from social media, until I finish my manuscript. Thanks again!
“Things change when you’re about to get published. And things are different if you’re a NON-fiction writer.”
How is it different for the non-fiction writer?
Of course I’m building a platform. I would like to add a non-fiction book after I sell the fiction books. That’s the only way I will have a platform After all, I come out on the far left end of the Introver-Extrovert continuum and am unlikely to have any sort of following until the novels are published. I don’t divide my writing time. When I’m working on the fiction, it’s 100%. When I’m blogging or writing essays, it’s 100%.
Thank you for today’s post! Wonderful advice and I see that I’ve been “fretting” over a platform that may or may not be needed, since I’m not producing published items yet! Great perspective, Rachelle. Now, I must go and write as a very wise person instructed me to do!
This post is spot-on for me, Rachelle. As a result of a “platform building challenge” I participated in recently, I’ve been spending a lot more time with social media. Granted, I’ve learned a lot so that when the platform becomes more meaningful (as in when I publish a novel), I’ll already have the bones of one in place. But I’ve let it take too much time away from the writing. I need to re-focus, not feel guilty if I don’t post to the blog several times a week, and stop worrying about my “stats.” Thanks so much for this reminder! I’ll keep it handy.
This has been a thorn in my side for some time, since I did not want to take time away from my writing projects to take on yet another writing project such as blogging. The ratio you quoted is very much to my liking!
Thank you for this freeing post! I have been spending more and more time on social media and less time on writing. This was not by choice. I’d rather be writing my WIP than working on Twitter, FB or even my blogs. Although I had a Twitter account before I learned that writers who wanted to get published needed a strong social media presence, I only tweeted occasionally and had a very small following. Unlike many other people who’ve commented today, I only started blogging because I read that anyone who wanted to get published had to blog and have a large blog following. I started a FB page for the same reason.
Although the blogs did better than I anticipated, FB has gone nowhere fast, and I’ve gotten to a point where it feels like a waste of time to work on it. Twitter, on the other hand, took off. While this has been encouraging, it also means that it takes longer and longer to go through and respond to tweets (I follow most of the people who follow me).
I’ve been spending two to three hours a day just on Twitter. Recently I totally ignored it for a couple of days, but I felt guilty about that.
It’s been over a month since I blogged. My day job demands increased and there are only so many hours in the day.
I’ve continued working on my novels, but the time and energy put into social media has made it difficult. It has seriously cut into the amount of time I have for writing and it drains my energy.
Although I will continue visiting your blog and the other Books and Such blogs because I learn so much and love connecting with the other writers here, I now feel free to worry less about other social media and building a platform.
Thank you many times over! Chocolates will be on the way soon 🙂
Two months since you blogged Christine. I check every single day. Just so’s ya know.
Thank you for your faithfulness–and for the needed kick in the pants!
Thanks for the reminder I’m a novelist first then a blogger. By the way, I’m catching up on email at the library (as I sit behind a desk as a volunteer). 🙂
Great post, and I agree. I spend almost no time on platform building, unless you count trying to break into short story markets platform building. I’ve said it before, I hope to have at least a few of those published by the time I start querying novels. I spend about 5-10% of writing/writing-related time reading blogs like yours, articles, discussing something on Writer’s Digest forums, etc. The rest I spend staring at a blank screen with intermittent moments of rapid tapping on the keyboard.
In eb and flow; too much social, not enough writing, too much life duties, not enough writing.
I spend exactly one hour on my blog, twitter, and facebook every day. I write from 9-3. Period. Laundry is a wash, sweeping is pushed back, and discussions are discussed after 3. I usually get 3k-4k words in a day. I do nothing on the weekends except hatch new ideas and play with my kids. Somehow, it’s working. Great advice today. WRITE ON!
not to sound like a total dork, but time management apps are FABULOUS for tracking actual time spent on writing tasks. They keep me honest, and I even do monthly reports to check whether I am on target…
… yes, dork, sorry.
Unfortunately, at this point, I’m working 90% of the time on platform and only 10% on writing…I need to switch!
Well-written, Rachelle, and FWIW your advice and Konrath’s and Dean Wesley Smith’s all match on the matter.
Castleville on Facebook is kinda like writing, though, ain’t it? And Hidden Chronicles helps my mind stay sharp, and…look, a squirrel!
(hey, I actually said that this weekend – there really was a squirrel)
TOSK, I laughed after reading “look, a squirrel” because …I looked for it. Seriously.
I did both. I serialized my novel (or sections of it) for the public as I built my platform. In fact it was the first book ever written while people read on the social media giant.
My agent formerly of Writers House FOUND ME through my FB page where I am approaching 25,000 readers. As my first draft goes to S&S and Alloy Entertainment this week I would have to respectfully disagree or perhaps I am a unique case?
Can’t speak for Rachelle, but I think you’re neither a unique case nor an exception to what she was saying. If you hadn’t had something good to serialize, you wouldn’t have gotten 25K readers.
I didn’t read Rachelle’s missive as a simple “write first, blog later.” She was just saying that at first we should spend MOST (but not all) of our time creating.
Stephen, I understand what you are saying but I am hoping that when people are writing they already understand the obvious need to have decent content. It of course is prerequisite to everything and anyone who needs to be reminded of that should seek other avenues to express themselves. However, 90/10 regardless of genre would have never worked for me. For example the outline for a book can go in many directions. Demographic information available to us all today as we build our platform can influence some of our content. Not the plot perhaps but certainly the severity of the language you use. If you see that a large portion of your crowd is (13-17 yo) then of course you would want to reel in some of the adjectives. And that is just one of many examples.
While non fiction platforms may be more important; in my search for an agent the word platform was always discussed and my need for one had nothing to do with how important one was to another genre.
If a writer only spends ten percent of their time on platform I would like to know how they phrase the marketability portion of their cover letter or query.
Perhaps the true ratio is to spend as much time as you can on both never forgetting that what they will read is paramount but who the readers are and how many show interest is deserving of much more than a fractional regard.
Blogging, for me, has always been a sort of release from the pressures of working on my manuscript. I probably don’t fall into the 90/10 ratio, but am closer to 80/20, so I do agree with you. That said, one of the ways I try to maximize my writing time (an minimize my time “on blog” is to write several articles for my blog, then schedule them out over the course of a week, or even a month. That way even when I am working on my manuscript, it looks like I am posting new content on my blog 🙂
This makes sense. Right now I’m sitting on a great idea for non-fiction without a big enough platform swag to pull it off. My idea isn’t going to go stale any time soon so I’m focusing most my energies building a tribe and investing in the people who have already leaned in.
I think the most powerful takeaway from Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform (beyond all the nuts and bolts) is that a platform isn’t the same thing as traffic or hits. It’s a community, not a crowd.
In fiction, I imagine the need to preload your tribe is lessened, but when a novel ignites a community, that’s powerful stuff.
But, but, but… Now I don’t have any more excuses to procrastinate! Sigh.
Thanks Rachelle. Truly a load off my shoulders. The 90/10 rule is a great rule of thumb.
Wise words, thanks Rachelle:)
I have a really unique problem, because of who I am and what I do, I am not believed, too unbelievable to be true, so I simply get thrown to one side.
I have a book published by authorhouse but I now have the second book ready and it would be useless to pursue publication until I can get over this communication pèroblem.
What to do ?
plse see my website as to who I am.
I SO needed this. Thank you so much, Rachelle!
Another great post! Thanks, Rachel.
I am unpublished and find that I “play around” with social media more when I am blocked. When the creative juices are flowing, I pretty much ignore everything else (including the laundry!) and write, write, write.
So percentage wise, I’ll say I’m 15% social, 85% honing the craft.
I do place a lot of value on my social medial play time, though. It has taught me a lot about what direction I will go when I am published:
I love Goodreads and Twitter. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook. I wish I more time for Pinterest. And blogging takes too much of my creative energy at this point in my life…
Which is one of the reasons I admire Rachel. Your blog is always so helpful. How do you do it?
Great advice. I say this not just as a writer, but as a reader. I don’t want to read a book because the author has a great platform. I want to read it because it moves me in some way. I find myself, however, working the blog and social media more when I need a break from the book. One of my blogs is mostly ministry and I sometimes feel God nudging me to do more with it, so I do, and that recharges me to work on the fiction again.
Here, here, Connie! I’ve read more books than I can begin to count and I have never read a blog by any of those authors or “Liked” his or her FB page. I started doing social media because I read that it was an essential to getting published and selling books. However, as a reader (of both fiction and non-fiction), I have never consciously been influenced by an author’s social media presence.
This is the ONLY blog I ever allowed to email me when a new post is posted … 🙂
Re-visiting blogs is hard to do — I have a favorites list that is so long that I cannot use it to find – re-find a page I once visited. **sigh**
However, I “liked” a couple of authors on Facebook. Most spend their time just promoting their books or their blogs, where they promote their books.
I used to visit the blogs of about 5 authors regularly, but it took a lot of time to visit, read to catch up and leave thoughtful responses to their posts. Eventually, it got to be too much.
ONE author on Facebook, however, actually engages his audience in fun ways. I “liked” him, at first, because he was running contests and giving away copies of his books to each winner. I liked his posts and have continued to “like” him. And, like this blog, I actually read the comments others leave there because of the dialog that happens. The page isn’t just about him (or Rachelle, here) but a group of people … Every writer’s dream, I guess … 🙂 (every blogger’s dream and every social media user’s wish — to build a community not just a following.)
I haven’t read any of his books, yet … some are available here in the US and some may not be — he’s an Ozzie. I would admit, though, that when I do finally get around to reading one of his books, it will be only because of his Facebook page and how entertaining it is.
Most of the other author Facebook pages I have “liked” really don’t entice me to dig further into their books. They are following the “rules” some “expert” suggested … advice that I’ve been hearing since 1999 that still rings totally untrue and bogus. These authors following that advice will say “I did everything I was told but I’m still not selling my book and I’m not gathering more followers. I feel like a failure.” They aren’t the failure, it is the pressure to succeed using bad advice that is failing them …
One last thought, can anyone direct me to something, anything, that explains the value and use of Twitter? It makes NO SENSE to me at all … Twitter is the ultimate Vampire …
Thank you so much for this post. After attending a writer’s conference last year and pitching a book to several editors, I came home still feeling like a failure because I wasn’t spending enough time promoting myself. I was so discouraged that I gave up writing for a time because I didn’t think I could devote enough time to social networking. But honestly, between my family and my “real job” there just isn’t that much extra time in the day and I would rather be writing than twittering and facebooking.
So thank you for clearing this up. It may seem like a simple thing to some, but for me it was eye opening!
Bye! See you at the end of the chapter.
Based on my current schedule, I would say I’m 50/50. I use social media and networking for all three of my other gigs, plus my writing, so my social media time is higher, even though I’m currently unpublished.
Blogging actually helps me stick to my writing schedule. I have a DEADLINE for blog posts since I’ve opted to post M, W, F. Once I’m at the computer working on my blog, I naturally move into working on my MS. Blogging gets my hiney in the chair.
I’m impressed, Sarah. Great job!
Sarah, I agree with the fact blogging helps me with the deadline issue and with writing on a consistent basis. But, for me, it’s an either or. Either I focus on blogging or I turn to writing the next chapter of my novel. If I’m in my seat to write one thing, I need to do something else then return to do the other.
Ha! I addressed this in my blog post today (particularly #10 on my list). Thanks, Rachelle! 🙂
My time is broken up as follows:
20%: family (laundry, cleaning, gardening, cleaning, schoolwork, cleaning, cooking and cleaning)
5%: reading (novels and books on craft)
3%: thinking about writing/social networking
1%: arguing with characters in my head and having my children point out they aren’t real people and I can make them do what I want (little do they know)
1%: social networking
As a nonfiction writer, I know the importance of having a social media presence prior to getting published. However, I do struggle with the time ratio: pursuing my writing, growing an online presence, etc. I appreciate this post, Rachelle, but would love your take on nonfiction writers–as you mention, it is different.
I deal with social networking first thing, once the house has emptied for the day. Once that is out of the way, I throw a load of laundry in. Then I write/edit/cry/edit/write. Then another load goes in and I clean something. I just got a few pages back from an editor, so I fall on the floor and wail. Then another load goes in the wash. See, I already live the glam life of a writer.
After the house has settled for the night, I spend 2 or 3 hours on the WIP.
I try to not spend TOO much time on social networking in the early stages of my career, because that demand on my time will come later.
Write / edit / cry / edit /write … right there with you, Jennifer, although I haven’t gotten to the falling on the floor stage yet. I don’t have an editor. But each Friday, after meeting with my critique group, I go home and pull my hair out. Wig shopping is on the agenda for today. 🙂
I’ve learned I’ve got POV issues. Waaahaaaa!!!
I think I know the comment to which you’re referring. The first person one, right?
I wanted to be an actor when I was younger. After a few awards, I thought I’d attend the American Academy of Performing Arts and become a Broadway musical character actor. God had other plans, but the gift carried forward. Get into character. Feel what they feel and just write. Start with a short story and expand. You’ve got the talent to write first person very well. Trust me on this. You’re quite a character! (I just HAD to throw that in)
Thanks PJ, I appreciate your encouragement!
For the past 8 years or so, I’ve shifted my focus from nonfiction to fiction, though I continue to publish some nonfiction. I’m a real latecomer to social networking, having spent pretty much zero time on it until the past year. I spent decades writing, reading about writing, and reading all sorts of excellent writing in a variety of genres, and I can’t say I regret it, though I do feel out of touch with the Facebook/Twitter crowd. I’ve only recently caved in to the increasing pressure to get involved in social networking. I am finding that it does relieve some of the isolation I feel as a writer, which is rewarding. This post was reassuring to me since I feel far behind those with thousands of “friends” or “followers.”
I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer to this question. One of the problems I see is that people go out to build a social media platform without a clear understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish. And it is harder for an author to build a platform than it is for literary agents and publishers to build a platform.
I believe it is important for unpublished authors to establish name recognition. It is human nature for people to want to support someone they know. That may come in the form of an agent or editor giving a manuscript the benefit of the doubt because they recognize the author. But name recognition doesn’t require a great deal of effort. There are many people whose names I recognize because I’ve seen them comment on various blogs. I may have never read their blogs, but I recognize their names.
It can take up to a year to establish a website. So I can see where it would be beneficial for a novelist to start that process early. In theory, it will take the publisher so long to publish the book that the author has plenty of time after the ink on the contract dries. Still it is good for the author to have a place where people can find out more about them. I have a several people who share my name. Some of them are not the kind of people I would want people finding when they Google my name. The sooner an author takes control of the top search slots for their name, the better.
I spend 20% of my time writing, 10% of my time social networking, and 70% of my time dreaming about being an established writer some day. What a formula for success!
Great post and very encouraging. Good reminder to shut off Facebook and WRITE when I have time.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Off to write!
I’m currently at a 3:1 ratio, writing to social networking.
Sue-That sounds like a pretty good ratio to me!
It’s working for me right now, Nichole, but I’m only doing Facebook, a 3-posts-a-week blog and Twitter. If I have to add more, I’m not sure how I’ll handle that, but I’ll figure it out!
I see your posts on twitter and know you are getting lots of writing done 🙂 I am inspired to work on my own WIP when I see your tweets! Thanks for being a great examle!
THANK you! Your perspective is a huge relief to me. I’ll definitely pick up Platform, but it’s nice to know that I don’t always have to feel like I SHOULD be surfing Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks for the encouraging post.
Can’t wait for your recommended percentage breakdown for unpublished nonfiction writers. Thought provoking post, this. Now I will go find that guy painting his hands on cave walls and see if he wants to share a grog and some roast mammoth.
My ratio is probably more like 20 to 25% SN and the rest writing.The extra SN time is because I am still learning / exploring.
For instance, even though I have read blogs about Goodreads here and on other sites, I have not figured out how to effectively use it to build relationships
I post on average two blog posts a week unless I’m actively promoting my writing (which usually entails guest-blogging or being interviewed somewhere else), but I make a habit of cross-posting my various appearances. For all of this I set aside about half an hour to an hour a day. And I’ve sold units of my novels this way, so I’ve seen that it works.
With regard to generating content, I try to provide information readers might find interesting, be it book reviews and author interviews, and just general editorial about the world around me. Because I’m also a musician, I include snippets about the music industry. The idea is to sell *around* my novels instead of just shouting “buy my book” the whole time.
99:1…but the SN side is increasing. Unfortunately.
I heartily loathe social networking, Web surfing, channel clicking…and for me the iPod Shuffle is the movement my feet make when I’m grinding one into little bitty plastic bits.
I shall now return to my cave and paint outlines of my hands upon the wall.
(Seriously, I really do hate that stuff, but will take my medicine like a grown-up and learn it.)
I won’t even comment on “social networking” — facebook, twitter, google plus, etc.! VAMPIRES, all of them. **shudder** (i.e. time vampires and so often just plain boring when done purely as a marketing tool instead of as a way to truly connect with readers — there is a huge difference! and the “advice” of the platform-building “experts” is usually bogus junk … use social media, if you must, to connect and build relationships with readers and not to market your books … not the usual advice of the experts …)
I don’t put blogging into that category — though it can be just as bad. But it seems to be a medium that is used more wisely these days mow that it has matured.
I agree that writing is the most important part of being a writer! 🙂
But, I want to comment most on the statement “Read high quality fiction” …
I’m mostly a user of e-audiobooks and love to use my local public library’s online resources. And I download lots of books to listen to. (This is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t do as much writing as I could if I wasn’t listening to other writers’ works … but I am learning A LOT!) They tend to fall into Great, Good, Fair, Awful categories — both in writing quality and the story itself. I used to turn off and delete books I didn’t like right away. I’d like to eventually write book reviews, so I am trying to make myself complete books I usually wouldn’t bother with, but that is hard sometimes.
The quality of the writing tends to be pretty good since these books had to have a certain level of competency behind them for a publisher to, first, have produced the book in print form and then for another publisher to produce an audio version to come out concurrently or after the book has proven itself financially successful enough to warrant making the leap into audio.
However, just because a book is financially successful, that is not proof it is “high quality” writing. The masses are not noted for their love of high quality, but does it fit their desire for a certain level of entertainment value.
And, I guess some of it is a matter of taste. I recently listened to a book that entertained me, engaged me, got me interested in the fate of some of the characters, and was actually very well written. But I can’t recommend it because … I think it was my fault, but after reading the book’s description I really was not expecting another YA dystopian novel. And I am very tired of the dystopian YA novel genre. This book ended up in my reading queue in the wrong place.
Yet some are just awful — formulaic and full of continuity flaws. Mistakes that someone should have caught long before the novel got anywhere near the actual printing stage. For instance, in a mystery, one of the prime suspects is identified as having been in the town just minutes before the murder victim was found, but later both the police and the amateur sleuth accept testimony that the person was in another town all night. (The amateur sleuth is the one who saw the person and reported that to the police who identified the person.) Someone — author, reader friend, agent, publishing house reader, editor — should have caught that before I get to read it or hear it in the finished work. Author is the least likely to spot it — knows the manuscript and what it is supposed to say too closely to see those things. But someone else along the road to publication (not self-publication) should have caught it.
Or, am I naive? Maybe no one actually reads entire manuscripts these days before offering a final contract and going to print? Does a book actually sell based on those three to five opening or sample chapters?
I am discovering what I like about certain novels and what I don’t like. So, even books that are not high quality are learning experiences. Unfortunately, some of these things I’ve decided “work” and “don’t work” in the novel are hampering my own work … I’m letting the inner critic nag me, even at the first draft stage. 🙁
I love your comments to a great post!
aww .. thanks **blushing**
Your post is a touch too wide-ranging to get the thorough response it deserves.
First, tell your inner demons Out! Out! Write the dang draft, letting your creative forces drive you to the point where you can happily write “The End” at the end. (don’t actually do it, though; editors will laugh at you if you do) But the rough draft is supposed to be rough. You’ll find as you go through a second time that you’ll be clearer as to what worked and what did not, but the draft is not the place to rein in the horses of creativity.
That said–taking careful note of what works for you and what doesn’t is a very useful activity. It was funny how many errors in professionally-published books I started noticing after I started writing. There are a great many writers who’ve written about writing (go figure) and they all pretty much agree that you have to read critically in order to write successfully.
Just don’t let it stop you from writing. And don’t try to compare your work with the efforts of someone who’s been doing it for years (and likely went through an editorial board with the work you’re reading).
THANKS for the encouragement.
I think the first draft WILL have “The End” on it … but not the one I submit **snicker**
My partner in crime” for the current WIP has bee slack in doing her homework for me — it is her story really (based loosely on events in her life 20 years ago) — but recently she got an iPad (I guess it is the newest one) and discovered she can dictate to it and it does a FANTASTIC job of transcribing and getting the spelling and grammar right … absolutely amazing.
Anyhow, that has gotten me to at least record on my mp3 player / recorder any thoughts I have on the project before I forget them. The brain gets ahead of the hand and its ability to hand-write or type those ideas … I prefer to hand write but then I still have to type it but if her iPad is so good — she can read it all in and get IT to do the typing for us … hmmm … it may get easier to complete this WIP.
Also, I found in the last couple of days that talking the ideas into the mp3 recorder keeps the inner critic quiet or at least I can talk louder than it! LOL!
Thanks for the encouragement, though, I really appreciate it!
I agree Rachelle – 90/10 sounds about right. And you are right to say get back to it- social media is distracting me!
Off I go back to work…
Awesome post and so well timed. I have been pondering this topic for weeks. Ive been worried that not having one at the moment was a bad decision I would love a social platform but all I want to do is write. All the time! I troll the blogesphere for great resources and to stay relevant, but I feel that my time is best spent writing and honing my craft. Of course when I’m about to be published things will all change but for now I just want to write.
I actually started blogging before I considered writing something to be published. Yes, I’d already written a novel by that point, but it wasn’t anything good enough to put out there to the public. Just an idea I had to get on paper and it was great practice. When I started blogging a lot changed.
So many writers started coming to my website and they were inspiring me to try my hand at another book. By this time I’d learned so much more on the process and felt a lot more prepared to put together a serious novel. Even then I continued studying the craft and the publishing process. I wanted to be prepared and know all I possibly could. Social networking helped with that. It’s how I found some great beta readers who helped me polish my work.
Now I have a large following and many people interested in the novel I’ve written. They don’t know more than the basic premise, but they are interested because they’ve gotten to know me. I feel that gives a boost for when (and if) it gets published. The query process is about to begin for me, but it would have been so much more difficult without the platform I already have. There are so many more experienced people who have helped me along the way.
Do I spend a ton of time blogging? Not really, but enough that it keeps me up to date on the latest trends and keeps my following there.
Thanks for taking the time to write and share your wisdom. I always get so much out of your blog and the timing is amazing. Just thinking of the novels I could have created had I put as much energy into them as I have (in the past) to blogging and Facebook and ezines motivates me to make a change – as does your post. So thank you again!
Thank you for a post that was perfect for me and all the other unpublished fiction writers out here. I only follow a few blogs and it is mostly for advice and news. I write whenever I can but I have to be mindful because once I start, it turns in to a two hour affair. Between editing one manuscript and writing a new one (and working full-time, having a husband and two dogs), my time is important to me. I love my characters and can’t wait to write their next lines and feel their emotions. It’s as if I’m spending time with friends when I’m writing.
Thanks for this post, Rachelle. That’s me! An unpublished fiction novelist. I blog, but only post once every TWO weeks (with occasional guest posts that work well for a resume or for exposure). I’ve also cut back my Twitter and Facebook interaction drastically, only posting a few times a week. And with this, I’ve had more time to work on my short stories that I’m submitting to some high-quality literary magazines, as well as get further on my novel. I’ve also had more time for reading, and thus, improving my own writing. I agree that social media is very important to any writer (I work in it for a living), and can help a writer build a loyal readership that will someday turn into book-buyers, but making your writing top priority is the most important thing. I’m glad I was able to confirm my sentiments today, from your post!
It’s great to hear that confirmed. I had started to feel like a failure of late since I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter profile for my professional persona. It always seemed like a waste of time if I had nothing to offer, and time is a precious commodity when you have a 17 month old at home.
I’m grinning like a crazy woman. These words are music to my ears, as yesterday I spoke with a friend who was APPROACHED by Bethany to submit a novel to fit their timeline and needs. Her advice to me was “If you’ve written a bunch of novels, stop. Work on your platform and marketability…”
She was able to say this because of her own background, which is largely non-fiction work and shadow writing. She’s worked with and for some massive industry names. I left with a goal in mind to get back to submitting more articles as of now.
Conversely, this is a VERY cool blog and I appreciate the true value of it. One must perfect one’s craft. Unless someone can write well, what is the point? I don’t feel like asking who’s got the right verdict because life is all about balance. As a Christian, I’m asking the One verdict that matters which way I should go from here… It can be the proverbial catch-22.
I’m thinking I need to do both. One thing’s for sure, I am not giving up. I love this gift too much 🙂
Hi. Here’s another POV from Write to Done, about bloggers whose blogs were turned into successful books –
Actually, that article really doesn’t apply to novelists, i.e. FICTION authors, to whom I’m addressing this post.
I think I just got told to scoot! 🙂 OK, but one post for the road. (Like cheesecake before the diet, right?)
80/20. Normally, I only post here, add to my Twitter, and quick run Facebook (though the majority of that is pastoral in the modern world). I blog every few days. My Facebook fan page is starving for input. This is the only blog I post on.
With four unpublished books and the third book in the Angel Blood series underway, I feel like the guy who broils hamburgers in a hotdog world. Social media reminds me that there are fellow burger flippers out there.
(If you’re vegetarian, please insert tofu for hotdog and seitan for hamburger. 😛 )
One of these days PJ, your books are going to fly of the shelves and that Facebook fan page with be flooded with people. Burger flippers rock!
Thanks Jennifer! As the one person on here who’s read them, it means a lot that you say that! I really appreciate your support and willingness to beta read!
Thanks PJ, it was an honour to beat read for you. The books were great!! I was hooked right away, and I don’t even read that genre.
Aren’t you self-published, PJ? I hate when people equate unpublished and self-published.
I was, but I pulled it all down and never promoted. So I guess I sound like a vegan with half a hamburger on their plate. Perhaps I should have said, I’m only self published with a book that got buried deep in the Amazonian jungle. I yanked it back in and started over.
Nah, I’d say you sound more like someone who looked at the hamburger and threw the whole thing away. 🙂 But you need to follow your heart, and if where you want to be is traditionally published, then go for it. Being an authorpreneur isn’t for everybody. EVERY book is lost in the Amazonian jungle for a while, frankly. My own burst out a little this last weekend–promoted in the right place at the right time and is now in the hot hands of 5K more readers. Traditional publishers sneeze 5K copies, of course, but I was quite happy. And trust me, I earned that. It’s hard work.
Then again, everything useful is hard work. I watched a show on Colonel Sanders last night while torturing myself on that evil medieval-style device known as an “elliptical trainer.” People think that man woke up one day, fried up a piece of chicken, and became a millionaire, but that’s not how business happens. It’s slow, and it’s steady, and you have to keep working up to the point where everybody else quits–and then a little more.
I was going self-pub, but Rachelle posted a blog that challenged me. I had given up too easily. My writing is better because I pushed my standards. Plus, I kept coming back here and met people like you who expanded my horizons. So, I’m on a journey that may end with self-publishing. I just don’t want to settle for it. If I do it, I have to want it and choose it as the best option. Previously, I saw it as the only option.
Hey PJ, did you know that I’ve been IN the Amazon. AND I’ve been TO Amazon.
Yeah, that’s pretty cool, Jennifer. I can’t say that I have anything close as a match. I lived in Switzerland and I eat cheese is as close as I can get.
Yeah, you played it a wee bit more safe. And no fire ants. Or shoe sized roaches. Or tree pythons. Or iguanas IN the mall, on the wall.
Thanks, Rachelle. This was really helpful. I’ve just recently gotten my website and blog up and have been putting a lot of time into that. Now that I have that foundation, I can settle into more of a 90/10 blend. That helps so much!
I followed this advice. My book is now complete. Those who read it found it profound and helpful.
An editor even said she’s very interested and wants me to get an agent to submit it.
But no agent (or other publisher) wants to even look at the book.
Why not? Because I don’t have a platform!
So… nice sentiment, this post.
Build your platform. Every day you delay is a day later you’ll be published. You’re going to need it to market the book, anyway. 🙂
You’re non-fiction though. Unless your website that says-
“A SMARTER Path to Financial Freedom (That ACTUALLY WORKS!)” is not your book.
Platform building for Non-fiction authors is a Rachelle Gardner mandate to the masses.
You’re right! I didn’t catch that this was aimed only at fiction writers. It helps if you read every word and not skim!
My bad. 🙂
So where would you “place” a memoirist in this regard? Along the lines of a fiction writer (which is what I assume) or non-fiction?
It’s non-fiction written like fiction. Therefore, you choose. Is this your one and only tell-all book? If so, I’d work on platform, so people will want to know more about you. But my lack of qualification to answer this might be obvious when you notice that I’m speaking in a whisper and looking around to be sure no one is listening. O.o
That seems wrong to me. If the editor has read the work and is interested, it is pointless for the editor to wait for an agent to submit the work they’ve already read. If anything, the editor would prefer the author not take it to an agent, for fear the agent would know some other editors who would be willing to offer more for it. This smells like just another way an editor is trying to say “Not for me” without hurting someone’s feelings.
My advice doesn’t apply to you because you’re not writing fiction.
Non fiction authors such as yourself definitely must have a platform.
So how exactly does one go about building a platform for a memoir/non-fiction story? All of these comments are helpful but how does one build a platform to a story that is written about a true occurance? I have purchased / referenced several of the recommended materials but I am still stuggling with how to develop a platform and make it appealing enough for an agent. Even with the wise advise of Mary Demuth’s examples I am finding it difficult to complete my platform. Any other ideas? I believe I have a strong and clearly written story with first hand knowledge and emotions portrayed but I am still confused on how to attract an agent with a convincing platform.
Perhaps it is just the way I look at memoir, but it seems to me that writing the book and then trying to create a platform is getting the cart before the horse. People who have experienced a newsworthy event have a ready made platform, so when they write a book about their experience, people are already interested. But if people aren’t already interested when you write the book, then you’ve got to find a way to convince them that what you experienced is important to them. I’m sure there are some examples of situations where people didn’t hear about an important event because the news media just didn’t happen to be looking that day or something. But mostly, I think that if people aren’t already interested in the event, there isn’t much chance of convincing them that they should be interested in a personal account of the event.
Thank you Mr. Fish for the insight.
I really had no intention of writing about the circumstances of my tale. As details surrounding the secret were revealed I shared the events with my friends and collegues. It was only after witnessing their tear-filled reactions that I was convinced maybe others outside of my circle of friends might be able to relate or have/had similar events occur in their lives. Therefore, I already had a story that held people’s interest without a platform. So my struggle persists with building a platform for my non-fiction story.
Thank you for this post. Sometimes we get so many messages from so many different directions and they all muddle together into one confusing pile of words and suddenly we’re trying to do it all….
That’s when a reassuring and authoritative voice is the most welcome… and the most freeing.
I’m breathing a little easier today because of your post.
Me too. To have a rough idea of where the time/effort focus should be is very helpful.
Me three. Breathing easier being reminded that writing and practicing the craft is the one definite that’s going to get me to where I’d like to be – great storytelling, and publication. I’m enjoying meeting people on Twitter and via blogs, and encouraging and learning from one another. But it so easily tips over into taking over hours of my day, when actual writing falls by the wayside. It is VERY refreshing to hear this as opposed to the popular, “Blog blog blog! Network! Create your platform or you’ll never sell any books!”
I’ll never sell any books if I don’t WRITE some first 😉
Even before I started really writing with the idea of being published, I think I did more social networking than writing. That’s where I bounced ideas and enjoyed conversations with people who understood my way of thinking. Now, with my first book out, I still network more but not by a whole lot.
I find actual networking, more than just talking to friends in various text based games or reading facebook, is difficult for me to do. It’s more the lack of face to face talking vs screen to screen that trips me up. It doesn’t feel right so I shy away from it. It’s like being a large crowd and trying to maintain some space while trying to get to know everyone. Very confusing, some times scary, and definitely not easy to do.
Great information! I’ve just finished my first memoir (just putting the finishing spit-n-polish shine on it…), and have researched the submission process. What I’ve learned from conferences/seminars, online searches/books, and feedback from my critique group and other writers is that it is VERY important to have a large platform developed BEFORE submitting to agents – especially for an unpublished writer. It’s great to hear your perspective – the agent’s point of view about it. I love your suggestion of a 90/10 ratio for writing and platform building. I suddenly feel like I can breathe again! I will continue to blog, Facebook, and Tweet because I’m having a lot of fun with that, and I enjoy the feedback from “my readers,” but I will be sure to remain focused on the writing as I ready myself for query-launching and start my next memoir! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!
I usually spend two hours a day on Mon/Wed/Fri blogging. I try to give it my first couple of hours when I wake up, before the family stirs. I spend nap time (when my two year old twin boys are sleeping) working on my writing – this is about two hours a day. The last two hours of my day, after everyone is in bed, is devoted to writing and/or reading fiction, reading craft books or social media. I think that averages to 20% of my time devoted to social media and 80% to working on my craft. For now, this is a good fit for me. Meeting other authors online has become a major highlight in my life and I learn a lot about the publishing world from them.
I was SO thankful when #4 started pre-school, I felt like God had added 3 hours to Monday, Wednesday and Friday!! You have a great schedule layed/lain/lied/layened/lainedded…written out Gabrielle. I like meeting writers too, it’s been awesome to get to know some new friends. Especially ones with 4 kids and have the initials GM.
Six hours a day! That is inspiring!! Especially considering the twin toddlers in your life!!
I visited your blog…What! You too? I am also a mother of little boys and huge fan of MOPS : )
I agree that meeting other authors online has been tremendously beneficial. I’ve learned so much about publishing and the business side of writing not only from reading Rachelle’s blog (among others) but also from listening to the experiences of other writers who are published or in the process of publishing their first books. I am particularly thankful for the group of writers who comment on this blog.
I could do better at balancing it all but I definitely give over my free time to writing (and watching TV). Most of my blog reading happens during down time at work or right before bed. I only post twice a week now which removes a lot of guilt I used to feel over lack of blogging. I’ll have Twitter open while I’m working on various writing projects, if I’m working on my computer.
I couldn’t agree more! Great post, Rachelle, and I really appreciate it because it goes against the current culture – that stresses social media at all costs.
Writing is what will ultimately sell a book, especially fiction, but also non-fiction in terms of memoir.
There are some unpublished novelists who actually started blogging because they like this form of expression and it is interesting making blogger friends and learning from them as well as how-to books, rather than those who just start a promotional blog because their editors tell them they need to.
My writing is richer because I blog. I prefer blogging to all the social networking sites. I have found critique partners, founded an online writing community, have invitations from all over the world to visit bloggers, and generally have a ball, but not as much as when I’m writing my novels. It all takes time and I make time for what I like.
At the moment, my free time ratio between writing, social networking, and playing computer games is about 0/0/100%
Lol. I see we have the same solid priorities.
At least you ‘rise up the levels’ in video games, and earn points. In writing you just stay right where you are no matter how hard you work. It is a Black Hole. Black holes have such strong gravity that even light cannot escape.
I’m curious – you said ‘Things change when you’re about to get published’. As someone who is about to enter that stage, I’d love to see a post on how exactly things change and how to handle it.
This was a great post too, by the way. Keep up the great work Rachelle!