Over the last few years, authors have been bombarded with the ‘advice’ that they must have an author platform, consisting of a blog, Facebook account, Twitter account and quite often accounts on other sites such as Goodreads. The corresponding moan among writers is that these things take up a huge amount of time and don’t allow you to write, which is the whole point of things after all!
Up till now, I’ve been a bit slow getting going. On the plus side, I did start this blog a few years ago, but even with regular blogging – and I’m first to admit that has been rather remiss over the last 18 months – the time has long gone when people could get massive followings to blogs if they were not already famous. So this site is more a way of sharing my experience with anyone who might be interested in my writing process and my books when they appear, than a means of selling books eventually.
Some years ago, I became aware of Goodreads when I realised that my short story which formed part of the Decalog 2 Doctor Who anthology appeared on a book page there – except that it was mixed up with the books of another person of the same name. I contacted GR and got that sorted out, so that the book no longer appeared on that author’s page. But I didn’t follow up at the time. Then I began reading about how to bring your books to the attention of readers, and one of the recommendations was to be active on Goodreads. As the site looked rather confusing, I bought a course on Udemy on how to use Goodreads as an author, but made only a slow start on that. Finally, in May last year I joined the site and more or less taught myself from lurking around and picking up tips. Again, I’m obviously not on there to ‘flog a book’ as I don’t even have one out yet, so I have joined a few relevant groups and participate regularly, plus I record the books I’m reading, and write reviews on them. Anyone interested can find me by clicking the Goodreads button in the right-hand side bar (scroll down a bit and it’s under the heading ‘My Reading on Goodreads’).
The trouble is, it is rather a time suck, and I find whole hours have gone by while I’ve browsed threads, read about other authors’ experiences with marketing, and typed up some longish reviews.
I recently discovered a good forum for science fiction and fantasy writers: SFF Chronicles. I’ve joined the community there, posting whenever I can add something useful, and have written a couple of short-shorts for the competitions: 75 word and 300 word stories. Again, that takes up some time though far less than GR.
So that brings me to Facebook and Twitter, which are the main elements of an author platform and, from everything I’ve read, the real time sucks. Despite that misgiving, I joined FB this week and set up pages for my two writing IDs. Those are the ones I’m using for activity; I’m not posting personal information over there. Real life friends and family by and large are not on there at all or have neglected accounts, and we interact with more personal and less techie methods, such as phoning, or even (gasp) meeting in person 😉
I had a bit of a struggle to set up Goodreads integration on my Pam Baddeley FB page – the course instructions didn’t work, because the method through Facebook it describes produced a broken dropdown that didn’t show my pages. It was a help article in GR that directed me to a link at the bottom of the author dashboard in GR itself that worked a treat. Having finally got that working, I wondered if I could set up something on this blog that would enable me to post my blog posts automatically to the FB page. That led to a few hours of research into plugins, principally on the WordPress.org site. Most had problems pointed out in one-star reviews, ranging from slowing down page loads for users to plugins that crashed/corrupted the website itself, to those with downright dodgy behaviour.
At the same time I was also looking for a lightweight plugin that would put social media sharing buttons on the blog posts, without needing a lot of handcranking behind the scenes, which I presume I would have to redo every time I have to update my WP theme. Nor did I want to pay expensive annual fees demanded by some of the plugin vendors. I’m not a cheapskate, but I am a writer who has earned nowt through writing yet, and the expenses have been piling up!
After a lot of checking and dismissing, I finally came across the one I’ve installed today. It’s not 100% perfect because the ‘mail’ option brings up an error that a particular DLL file isn’t installed on the computer so I’ve abandoned the idea of using that button, but it does at least provide simple buttons to connect to popular sites and I’ve also discovered that if I’m logged into FB, it automatically picks up that I’m using my page ID and creates a nicely formatted link with some space for me to type in an introduction. Then it posts it into my page. So that saves me the work of having to manually create an update in FB, and I think I won’t bother with an auto poster now; I can just use the FB share button whenever I publish a post. So many thanks to the developers.
My next challenge will be creating a Twitter account and working out how best to use that. Some folks on GR recommend tweeting several times a day; that isn’t for me, and I wonder if it might put people off. I’m especially aware that ‘buy my book’ messages of any sort are going to be a total turnoff for most recipients, whether the medium is Twitter or an email. Also, I’m not sure if writer enclaves are the best place to hang out on Twitter; I intend to believe the advice that it’s more important to connect with readers who, after all, are the audience all writers want to reach. So as before, I intend to be helpful, to post only where I can add value, and to publicise useful resources that other writers have made available. I hope to keep my attendance on there at a manageable level. I do after all want to get on with writing, and haven’t had much chance of that this week, although I have managed a final edit on five chapters which isn’t bad going.
So, to the ROW80 goals:
- Return to the edit and get at least the first 4 chapters rechecked for the nitpicking edits, in the next fortnight – done.
- Continue the edit and get it done by end March (fingers crossed)
- Work out how to format a Kindle book including the front and end pages and what to put in those
- Edit another 4 chapters in the next fortnight
And here are those nice ROW80 people: