Friday, July 17, 2009

Platform, Schmatform


I admit it: I bought into platform hype as much as the next struggling writer. I’ve blogged. I’ve facebooked. I’ve even considered tweeting. And with each new trend, I’ve sacrificed a smidge of my precious writing time. As mommy to a preschooler, quality writing time is as rare as a flawless pearl. There are times I’ve wondered if building a platform is really worth it.

Then I happened on Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. I heard about the book from two writer friends, who raved enough to entice me into buying a copy. The book was published in 2001—practically prehistoric in the world of publishing-- but I think much of what it tells us is timeless. According to Maass, the best thing a writer can do to promote himself is to write a spectacular book. It’s not so much about promotion, advances and book tours that sends a book onto the top of the bestseller lists; it’s gushing word of mouth. One reader gets excited about a book and tells her friends. Her friends tell their friends, etc…Enthusiastic word of mouth can make a book’s sales skyrocket. And what brings this serendipitous, grass roots promotion? Maass beats no bushes; it’s great storytelling from writers who keep getting better, writers who take their work to the next level.

Publishing has changed dramatically since 2001, but I think what Maass says still holds true. Lately, it seems I’m reading more articles telling newbie writers to focus on craft, then worry about promotion. In other words, learn how to write, to tell great stories. It bears shades of the bipolar nutritional and parenting trends that have us spinning in circles. We eat eggs/eschew eggs/don’t use the word no to our kids/show them tough love/write/market/blog/tweet/stand on our heads.

I’m a writer. Bottom line, that means I should be writing.

On a final note, I do believe writers should promote their own work. After all, if you don’t toot your own horn, who will? But, I don’t think establishing platform should take precedence over time spent writing. First and foremost, writers write, then we sell.


Linda said...

Agreed. The writing ALWAYS comes first. But I also believe writing can become an isolating, lonely process. I have learned so much about the craft and the business, though, through 'social networks' and would be lost as a writer without them. There is a balance, as with everything in life...

Speaking of promotion, left you a teeny weeny award on my blog - fetch it when you have a chance... Peace, Linda

Greta said...

Linda, you've got it exactly right: balance is key. And you're right about the benefits of social networking, too. My problem always stems from deciding which ones to pick. The web offers us soooo many great opportunities. I feel like a cat chasing my own tail trying to take advantage of them all.

Will stop by your blog later...


Stephen said...

That's basically what Elmore Leonard says: Learn how to write a good story; the rest will take care of itself. (paraphrased)

Writing does come first, but I still think a writer needs to establish a presence. Think of those authors like Seth Harwood, who used the internet to create a stir about their book and eventually landed a contract.

Like you and Linda have already mentioned, its about balance.

Raven said...

Hi Greta,

Great Article. I've put off doing much of the "platform" work because I'd rather be writing. I'm beginning to get my work out more, so now's the time to get the blog up and running. It'll serve as many things, but I don't want to be tied to maintaining it everyday. It's a tool. It has to be useful for me to justify spending time on it.

That said, About the TAP challenge. I've been in touch with a couple of writers who mentioned the idea of setting up a Yahoo site just for this challenge. Password protected, of course. We could all report on our blogs and post questions or ask advice in the yahoo group. What do you think?


... Paige said...

Great post. It is the writing that best promotes a writer.
I do the blog thang for my entertainment and if it some how promotes me all the better
Happy weekend!

Greta said...

Ravenne~A yahoo group sounds like a great idea. Here's my email:

Paige~your blog is a stitch. I smile every time I read it.


J.C. Towler said...

Amen, sister Greta. I've taken the anti-Horse-Before-The-Cart stance ever since this Twittery Platform rave started and have felt very much in the minority. Glad to see you parse it out so logically and convincingly.


Lea Bristow said...

I enjoy your writting and totally agree about promoting your own work. It all helps get you out there amongst the big guns.


J. M. Strother said...

I was happy to see you joined Twitter today. It won't provide any miracles in platform building, but it will help you toot your own horn. You write so well I expect the word of mouth will do the heavy lifting as to building the platform.

Anyway, welcome to Twitter. Just don't let it grab you by the throat and not let go. Like you said, writing time is precious. ;)