I just came back from an inspiring SRW meeting on the weekend in which topics ranged from how we can support members who have reached an impasse in their writing life to an enthusiastic discussion about all the ways that published and unpublished writers can become known to the world by creating an online presence. Known as a "platform", this can include having a website and/or a blog, being on Facebook or My Space (which seems to be less used nowadays), and last but apparently not least, joining the world of Twitter.
I was away from the connectivity of the Internet for about a day and a half, and returned home to read the post by our guest blogger who talked on Saturday about the valuable contacts she has made at such gatherings as the RWA conferences. Mimi Barbour definitely made a case for the value of face-to-face encounters with other writers, imploring us, it seemed to me, not to ignore this type of networking, as we launch ourselves into the various resources available in the cyber world.
However, it was a lively session at our meeting as our members shared their experiences. Those of us who have not yet taken the leap asked many questions and learned a lot. It was strongly recommended by the members presenting the information on creating our Author Platform that we spend adequate planning time up front to get it right. This translated for me that I should consider very carefully how I want to present myself and my work to readers, other writers, and the world of editors, agents, and publishers. I need to decide whether I want a website, a blog of my own, a Facebook presence, and if I want to start tweeting. Choosing the right time to add these elements to my writing life will also take some thought. One of our members has decided to begin her own blog about the time that she begins to send out queries to agents. She feels this will help her to establish herself as a serious writer.
It has been not much more than twenty-four hours since we had that discussion and my mind is still a-buzz with all the possibilities. I am also feeling a bit overwhelmed as I consider this aspect of my writing life. It is not that long ago that I began to feel comfortable about calling myself a writer. As Mimi Barbour said, it's no longer a secret! But to have the audacity to promote myself on the web ... surely that's not me. Or is it? Apparently, in the current world of publishing, it is expected that writers will do all of this. Publishers no longer promote their authors in the way they used to, with extensive book tours and such.
What are the steps I need to take? My first step should be a checklist of things to do which I will try to sort into priorities. On the list will be such things as registering a domain which will reflect the name I choose as author of my work. Some writers write under different names for the various genres they write, yet they want to have links that will connect these. Choosing a host for a website should not be done without careful consideration of cost and quality of the product. There are many resources to help me do this. I just have to get busy and do some research, and also develop a clear idea of what image I want to project of myself and my work.
A huge concern for me is the amount of time it will take, not just to get set up, but also to maintain and stay current with whatever it is I choose to do. We were told it can become almost addictive, though tremendously rewarding, and even fun, to be in contact with so many people with similar interests (once the contacts have been established through Facebook and Twitter, for example, or the followers on a blog). That told me that there would have to be a checklist item for deciding how much time to allot to this particular aspect of my writing life.
I want to acknowledge that the following articles about writing were recommended by Hayley. I include them here because I feel it is especially important not to get caught up in the promotion activities to such an extent (or perhaps prematurely for those of us with little to promote yet) that we neglect to focus enough time, energy, and thought on the act of writing.
The first is Writing or Talking about Writing. I have to be careful that I don't get the feeling that I am doing a lot of writing simply because I talk about it a lot!
Next is an article that Janet also linked for readers of Janet's Journal last week. Well worth reading this one.
Final item on my checklist may well have to be: Find a way to balance all these elements of my writing life. And enjoy!
What have you chosen from the various options for establishing an online presence for yourself? And how do you make your platform work, considering that you must also produce that which you wish to promote? I would love to hear your perspective on this.