Friday, March 28, 2014

Could I Injure Myself If I Fall Off My Platform?

I've been thinking a lot (well, some) about my "author's platform" since attending the Virginia Festival of the Book last weekend. I was there to take part in the Saturday "Crime Wave" (panels featuring fiction and nonfiction authors), but I arrived late for one of the panels I wanted to attend and found a packed room. I drifted back across the hall and discovered a large room where something else was about to happen. It turned out to be the next "Publishing Day" session, titled, "Building an Author's Platform". I went in and sat down, and discovered the panel was made up of two publishing experts and an author, with an able moderator (Jane Friedman, Bethanne Patrick, Gigi Amateau, and Molly Schwartzburg, respectively). The format was that the panel took questions from the audience about building a platform.

Early on, someone in the audience asked, "What exactly is an author's platform? How do you define it?" The panelists agreed that an author's work is at the base of the platform. They mentioned various types of outreach (e.g., blogs, Facebook, Twitter). Of course, that left open the question of the content of that outreach. Then one of the panelist (sorry, I couldn't see who from where I was sitting) suggested that we should build our platform on the topic(s) or cause(s) about which we feel passionate. That made sense to me.

The question is what do I feel passionate about? I've been pondering that and how it relates to what I might tweet about (my efforts in that direction has been dismal), put on my Facebook author's page (where I started to do a photo essay about Albany and then lost interest), or Pinterest (same story). I could even do an occasional blog post on my own website (intended to post there occasionally when I debuted my new website). But, although the idea of building my platform on what I feel passionate about sounds promising, I'm going to have to push myself to get started.

I think I'm going to go in a different direction with the photo essay on Facebook. Instead of walking around Albany (the location of my series), taking photos of buildings and street scenes, what I'd really love to do is a photo essay inspired by urban explorers. These are the people who go exploring in boarded-up buildings and old warehouses and other dark, deserted places. I have no intention at all of going into these kinds of places. First, because I'm afraid of rats, roaches, and whatever else might be in those places. Second, because trespassing is against the law. But I am inspired by the idea of doing a photo essay of whatever catches my eye – an overflowing garbage can, the glow from a lamp post, a black cat walking down an alley, the exterior of a creepy, old building. Trying to get those kinds on shots would be fun and would be a part of my story about the Albany in my series (six years of so in the future and in a parallel universe – a bit more noir and moody than the Albany I capture by taking photos of the Empire State Plaza in bright sunlight).

I could also do more on my website about some of the issues that my characters are dealing with in the near future. I do feel passionate about climate change and surveillance. I could post and tweet about those topics. Albany history also would work. Instead of doing a full-fledged blog post, I could actually do the "Research Notes" I had planned to do. But this time with a clearer focus.

I've been looking around the web for discussions about author's platform. I found this post by Jane Friedman, one of the members of the Festival panel:

http://janefriedman.com/2012/03/13/author-platform-definition/

There seems to be general agreement on the web that having an author's platform is important. The question often posed is how to make creating and maintaining a platform as painless as possible. Some commentators observe that it is even more complicated because authors are dealing with two distinct audiences when they build their platforms: (1) other writers (published and unpublished) and readers (current and potential). These two audiences do not necessarily overlap and writing for other writers does not necessarily sell more books (but does build community). Authors are advised to give some thought to the target audiences for the various activities that they engage in. But it is really about connecting, says the experts, about finding "your people" and achieving name recognition, visibility, and trust. Going broad and trying to reach everyone who might be interested in you and your work may seem appealing, but it may not be as effective as "going deep" (finding your niche and digging in).

Lisa Scottoline (who was the wonderful guest speaker at the Crime Wave Brunch on Saturday morning) loves book clubs. She interacts with them a lot. She also invites 400-500 book club members to her home for a party each year. Most of us can't afford to go quite that far, but some platform experts note that although we often focus on the Internet when we discuss platform-building, face-to-face interactions still matter and can be an important tool in building a platform. I find that comforting because I enjoy going out to libraries and other places to speak. I connect better in person.

However, I am going to give this more focused, passion-driven approach to Internet/social media platform building a try. I'm going to try making it fun. Today, I'm going to put my camera into my coat pocket and see if anything catches my eye. It's a rainy day in Albany, much more interesting than all the sunshine we've been having for the past few days. A perfect day to get started.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie, I don't know what happened to my earlier comment. The link you gave was just fabulous. Thank you.