Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Platform without product

We all know we need a platform, but how do you do that when you don't have a product yet? When there is no book to promote? You've got a blog, but now what do you do with it? 

Computer cats are cute, but rarely helpful

The Don'ts
This cat doesn't care about you word count
First, let me give my two cents on what you shouldn't talk about. Your writing. Honestly, there are thousands of blogs out there run by pre-published authors (Oh, hi there *waves*). So many of them focus on the author's own journey toward publication. I made that same mistake myself when I started this blog almost three years ago. This may have worked ten years ago when the behind the scenes of an author being shared publicly was a novelty, but not anymore. 

I'm gonna lay down some hard truth here. No one cares where you are in the drafting process or that you've hit a plotting snag. Unless you have  books out and people are actively waiting for the next one, no one cares about your word count. I'm not saying you don't have friends that care about your progress. But the masses (which I'm assuming you would like to come visit your site) do not. 

The Dos
Here are a few ideas for things you can write about on your blog before you have a shiny book to share with the world.

Give me a topic, any topic
Subject specific
Write science fiction? Create a platform that talks about all the sciency goodness you love. You could focus on new advances in technology, your favorite comic books, fan cultures like Star Trek or Star Wars, or your favorite genre books. This can work with any genre or subject. Write romance, talk about modern day love stories, your favorite romance novels, ways to improve your relationships, etc. The options are limitless.

If you write across genres then consider talking about subjects in your age group. This is especially helpful if you write in the MG or YA market. Talk about news that is relevant to your age of reader.

Book reviews
This is a controversial issue among authors. The question is always how to handle reviews for books that you really just didn't like. So here's a not so controversial answer. Only review books that you like. If you didn't love something, then don't review it. If you accepted the book for review from an author or publisher and don't like it, then quietly (and privately) tell them that you can't give it a good review. Since you can pick your own genre to review, you can build up a familiarity with readers who you know like what you write and have grown to trust your opinion.

If you don't want the pressure of being a full-time book blogger then don't accept books from others.
What do we have going on over here? It's news!

Simply review or discuss whatever you are reading. A book doesn't have to be new and shiny to be in the spotlight. You can always highlight the books that you loved growing up or that made a difference in your life.

The industry
What is going on in the world of publishing? Lots, and the scenery is constantly changing so you have plenty of options here. You can focus in on news about a certain genre or even branch out into an age group. Share tips on new developments that will help authors such as the Amazon pre-sale option, or discuss reader focused developments like new subscription services. With news constantly flying out of so many sources, not to mention exciting conferences and book awards, there is no shortage of material here.

According to this, the internet loves cats
Before you get cranky, let me clarify that talking about yourself is not the same as talking about your writing. I'm suggesting you blog about the you that lives on the other side of your computer screen. What other hobbies do you have that readers might find interesting? Do you have a gazillion funny stories? Tell us. Is your life one series of hi-jinx after another, can't wait to hear about it. You are in interesting person. You have stories. You are a story teller. So tell the stories that are really happening. If you don't know where to start, I highly recommend checking out The Bloggess. She's got a bit of a potty mouth, but, in my opinion, no one does the personal blog better.

In conclusion
There isn't a magic science behind creating a successful blog. You might have to go through a few iterations until you get it right. Lord knows this is not the same blog I started out with. And that's okay. Everyone is still figuring this out, even me. So give something a try. If it doesn't work, then try something else. 

And...if you hate it. As in you absolutely dread updating your blog, then stop doing it. Seriously, stop blogging. You can always create a static website for your readers once you have a book out. Don't let the hype of "Get a Platform Now" force you to do something that is only going to drain your creative energy and push you further away from your publication goals.

Find what makes you happy and do it!


  1. You're talking to me.

    Last October, I set up a Facebook Author page, just like everybody in the publishing industry preaches is absolutely necessary, but the SciFi manuscript Marisa had asked me to submit was still waiting for her verdict. I was casting around for a way to entertain any followers my page might pick up in the meantime, and I landed the idea that eye-catching photos with story captions (something that garnered plenty of positive feedback for me from my G+ photographer friends, and put my writing style out there) was The Answer.

    A few weeks of that, and I was happy with the direction it was going. People seemed to enjoy them, and occasionally even shared them. My following was growing. Life was good.

    Then I met Elliot -- at least, he looked like an Elliot to me -- a tiny, unusual snail that showed up on the pillar outside my front door, an empty, pointy shell beside him as he trekked away in his shiny new digs. I hurried to grab my phone to take some pictures before he ran off.

    Back at my laptop, I figured I could turn three of the shots into a mini-trilogy. Boom! Three days taken care of in one swell foop! But on the second day, one of my readers was so excited about Elliot's pursuit of wider horizons, she clamored for more. So I scrapped the third photo, and Elliot's Adventures (under my Live to Tell the Tales umbrella), a light-hearted, laugh-at-itself fantasy/adventure serial, was born.

    That was November 23, 2013. Today, the epic has reached novel proportions and is in the throes of its final climax. People from all over the world read it everyday. One guy shares it faithfully, and many have said they would buy it if it were a book. Some have suggested marketing plans beginning with presentations at local schools; others have encouraged ebook publication.

    In the meantime, Marisa has requested I re-work the SciFi manuscript and re-submit it. Do I feel blessed? You betcha! And that's happening, too. Not as quickly as I'd like, but that's on me. Yet I believe the time I've dedicated to creating a daily serial has honed my writing more effectively than anything else I could have done, and Outside the Mainstream will be the first beneficiary.

    Is it a blog? Technically, I think not. But does it serve the same purpose? You're more expert than I; you tell me.

    1. Sue that is great! I love that you went with a gut feeling even though it wasn't what you originally planned. Not only are you cultivating relationships with potential future readers, you are improving your skills daily.

      Is it a blog? Who cares? Are you connecting with readers and enjoying yourself? That's all that matters. :)

  2. Last year I decided to turn my blog into a static website. Partly because I'd joined a group blog (much easier on the time involvement!), and partly due to fatigue with blogging in general. There's so much NOISE on the internet, and I didn't see how I was contributing anything but more noise.

    But the group blog ended, and this post of yours has me reconsidering my own blog once again, and maybe how I can streamline it to my own interests and the audience I want to reach. Thanks for this!

    1. Happy to help! I've heard from lots of bloggers that feel the burnout. It happens. Good for you to realize your blog was hurting instead of helping you. Finding the right niche can make all the difference in making blogging fun again! Good luck!


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