Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

03/31/2011

Build Your Platform or Write Your Book? Which is the Chicken and Which is the Egg?


Should I spend time building my online presence or writing my book??

Recently I joined Ditchwalk (Storytelling in the Digital Age), an intelligent, well thought-out and written site…And tonight, it’s content hit me like a ton of sheep shit! It nailed me for the procrastinator-in-denial that I’ve become.

 Mark Barrett is the author of Ditchwalk and, while exploring the question of how much time and energy should be spent on building an author’s online presence as opposed to actual writing and writing production, he philosophizes on using platform building (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc) as an excuse to procrastinate on actual writing.

He exposed me in my own mind instantly!

I agree with Mark that you do, in fact, need something of an online presence…but, how much and at what time (before or after you write your book).

Mark has an incisive viewpoint on this writers conundrum and I am happy to direct my visitors to his wisdom:

Platform Evolution

Here’s a graph from my Twitter Quitter post:

A basic premise of independent authorship is that authors should establish their own platform in order to reach out to readers and potential customers. I believe in that premise. What constitutes a platform, however, remains undefined.

Implicit in the idea of an author’s platform is the creation of an online presence. Because the internet has become commonplace it’s easy to forget that an independent platform for individual artists would be impossible without it. (Prior to the internet an artist’s platform was limited by geography. Bands were limited not by their music but by their touring range.) While the advantages and opportunities provided by the internet are astounding relative to the pre-internet age, the internet is still a communications medium devised by human beings, with inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding how the internet works in a business context is an ongoing process. Two days ago the New York Times put up a paywall, attempting for the second time to derive revenue from its own online platform. (The first attempt failed.) That one of the most prominent newspapers in the world is still struggling to monetize content despite almost unparalleled visibility and economic muscle is a reminder to everyone that the platform question has not been answered.

Depending on your perspective, the tendency of the human mind to cherry pick information can be seen as either a bug or a feature. In the context of online platforms, it’s easy to see successes like iTunes as indicative of potential and promise when it’s actually the result of a unique set of circumstances. Finding gold in a stream may spark a gold rush, but only a few people will stake claims that literally pan out. The internet is no different. As I noted in a post about the future of publishing:

In return for making distribution almost effortless and almost free, the internet promises nothing. No revenue. No readers. Nothing.

Possibilities are not promises. Possibilities are chances, which is why I always say that writing for profit is gambling — and gambling against terrible odds. Determining what your online platform should be, and how much time you should devote to that platform, is an important part of nudging the odds in your favor.  

Lowering the Bar
Platform-services consultants, like marketing consultants, will always tell you that you can never do enough. Because the time you can devote to your platform is limited, but the time you should devote is infinite, these people will offer to bridge that gap on your behalf, for a fee. Because the internet is driven by technology, and because anything less than a cutting-edge platform means you’re falling short, platform consultants will also offer to sell you myriad apps and solutions, all of which they will teach you about, maintain and upgrade for a fee. (The New York Times was convinced by these same people to spend $40 million dollars on a paywall that can be easily circumvented.)

Approaching your platform as a vehicle of infinite possibility constrained only by your own feeble lack of determination is a recipe for failure. You do not have an infinite amount of time and resources to devote to your platform. Even if you did, there’s no guarantee that such a commitment would equal success. From part IV of my marketing and sales series:

In the real world, if you really did grab a pick and shovel and head out into your backyard to strike it rich, your friends and family would rightly think you a loon, no matter how deeply felt your convictions were. Why? Because it’s common knowledge that gold isn’t plentiful everywhere. Rather, it’s concentrated in veins of rock or in waterways that hold gold from eroded veins of rock.

If you try to dig in the wrong place it doesn’t matter how much time or money you spend, or how cutting-edge your tools are. You’re not going to get any gold even if you have infinite resources. Because the internet obviates geographical limits it seem to negate all limits, but as the NYT’s second attempt at a paywall makes clear that’s not the case. The internet is not an infinite vein of gold waiting to be exploited if only you’re smart enough to pick the right mix of apps, site functionality and marketing techniques.

(This false premise echoes the happiness industry’s determination to blame everyone for their own failings. If you’re not a happy person it’s your own fault: stop whining and try harder. If your platform isn’t racking up clicks and sales it’s your own fault: stop whining and try harder.)

Read and learn more

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02/06/2011

Publishing, Writing and the Super Bowl


Well, the super bowl is under way! I have been watching much of the pre-game festivities and would like to take advantage of a small teaching moment.

All interested in publishing and writing should look at this huge media event as a learning lab…and it’s FREE! Pay close attention to the writing and production of the great commercials that surface with the super bowl presentation.

The great writing, camera work and special effects on the E-Trade Baby ad and the Michael Douglas narrative on the history of the two “blue collar” teams and their relationship and values to our own country’s growth, through good and bad times, were edgy, sharp and great examples of good writing and production values. 

Whoa!!! Green Bay just scored another touchdown!!! So far the odd makers are on course.

Anyway, good people, keep your eyes peeled on the rest of the advertisement writing and any production dialogue at halftime…You just might learn something new.

Now BACK TO THE GAME!…After all, it is the main event…

04/14/2010

How Writers Should Set Goals

Filed under: setting goals,writers' goals,writing,writing goals — gator1965 @ 1:12 pm


Goal setting has never been my forte…BUT, I am working on it! Guess I need to set a goal to set better goals…At any rate, I read a great blog on GENREALITY by Bob Mayer that gives some sharp direction (what else would you expect from an ex-green beret) on setting strategic goals for writers and the tactical (or sub-) goals that lead to their accomplishment:

The Hierarchy of Goals

Overall Writing Goal. (Strategic)

Book goal. (Tactical)

Business goal (Tactical)

Shorter range/daily goals (Tactical)

So let’s talk about your strategic writing goal. It can be anything, but it’s important that you lock it down. Some broad examples:

I will be a NY Times best-selling thriller author in five years.

I will write my memoir for my grandchildren in the next three months.

I write part-time simply because it is a hobby and spend an hour a day on it.

I want to be published within 2 years by a major, traditional press.

I will have my book in print within 2 months via self-publishing.

I will write a book that will help people with —– and spend the next three years using it to bolster and complement my speaking career.

The Importance of Your Strategic Goal:

It starts your creative and practical process.

It determines your tactical goals.

Remembering it keeps you focused.

It is the core of your work regime.

It is the core of your marketing campaign.

All tactical goals must align with it in the hierarchy.

Tactical Goals.

The key to exactly knowing your strategic goal is that every tactical goal that follows is designed to support it. Thus, everyone’s path will be different based on having different strategic goals. Everything that you do and learn is filtered through your specific strategic goal. When you go to a writers’ conference, everything you hear is also filtered through your strategic goal. So two people attending the same session are going to walk out with two different impressions, each filtered through their point of view, which is shaped by their strategic goal.

What I have seen—and experienced—is that most writers do their first book blindly and don’t have a plan beyond finishing it and trying to sell it. Most writers spend too much time and effort trying to sell their first book, rather than moving on to a second and third manuscript. Rarely does a first manuscript sell. Most published authors I know sold somewhere around number two or three. At a daily level, many writers don’t have a plan for writing every day.

When you state your goals, they should be done in one sentence. The sentence should have a positive verb that indicates the action you want to use to achieve your goal. The verb must indicate an action you control—to an extent. In publishing, you control the writing and the way you approach the business. Beyond that, the publishing gods are fickle. I will become a NY Times Bestselling author in five years seems a bit lofty. But here’s the bottom line: if that’s what you want to achieve, then state it. And then develop a plan to do it. This greatly increases you odds of achieving the goal than the hit-or-miss method. I have listened to many successful authors and many of them set out with lofty goals, and then busted their butt to achieve those goals. As you will see shortly, once you have that strategic goal, it changes everything you do, because everything you do has to support that goal.

Your goal should have an external, visible outcome. Just as in your novel your character’s goal should be something concrete and external, so should yours.

You should have a time lock for achieving the goal, unless time is of no consequence to you. For most of us, time is the most valuable asset we have.

KEEP IT POSITIVE- A NEGATIVE GOAL ACCEPTS DEFEAT

Here’s another thing about stating your goal: Putting it out there, verbally and in writing, is a form of making a commitment. I know many writers get some static from those around them about all the time and money they invest in writing when they are unpublished and there seems to be no payback. If all those around you see is you sitting in front of a computer staring into space and then going off to conferences, they might start to question what you are doing. Letting others know your goal is committing you to trying to achieve it and also lets others know you’re serious about what you are trying to achieve. Then showing your tactical goals such as how much time you allocate each day to writing, attending conferences, taking workshops, etc. will make sense in terms of the framework of the larger, long-term goal.

It also puts pressure on you to stick to your goals. I know many people who are afraid to clearly state their goals because by not doing so, they can slack off day after day. Also, some are afraid to state goals because they fear ridicule.

In 1987 Jim Carrey was 25 years old and a struggling comic. He drove his Toyota up Mulholland Drive in LA. Overlooking the city he wrote himself a check for $10 million. He dated it 1995 and noted it was “for acting services rendered”.

He was wrong. In 1995, his price for a movie was $20 million.

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