The dreaded word- platform.

How important is it, really?  I’m not going into that portion of the argument today.  Maybe another day, but not today.

“For many writers marketing is almost a dirty word–an ugly truth that must be dealt with in order to make money as a writer.”  (Novel Writing a Writer’s Digest Yearbook publication from sometime over the summer, page 60.)

Several social networking sites exist which can help us build a platform, connect with an audience, and interact with our peers.  And it’s not just for non-fiction writers.  The same magazine I quoted above also had a feature on why novelists need platforms.  But there are different ways fiction writers can build a platform.  You build it through critique groups, memberships in professional organizations, interactions in the local literary community, named connections that you could use discreetly to your advantage, and the stuff you write about.

There are many social networking sites to join and utilize in building your platform, be it fiction or non.

First up, is blogging.  Yeah, I’m going to talk about blogging in a blog.  Talk about meta.  (Sorry, academic nerd.)

The May/June issue of Writer’s Digest had a feature on online marketing plans.  The first step is to create a website and/or a blog.  The article says that the website is mandatory while the blog is optional.

I’m going to disagree.  I think that when starting, in the earliest stages of your career, the website is not mandatory.  What are you going to put in there?  You don’t have a book.  You don’t have a cover.  Unless you’ve got short story credits out there, the website at this point is useless.

The blog, on the other hand, is an amazing tool.  But be careful.  See Kiersten’s post about blahgs, blarghs, and blogs.  Never put something in there you might regret later.

As always, budget your time carefully.  Writing is most important at any stage in your career.

Moving on to Facebook.  I have an account over there.  And I’m very accepting.  If you friend me, I’ll accept.  Then your feed will get inundated with posts about Farmville.  But it’s the current facebook fad, so I’m kind of hip.

Some tips for Facbook:
1- Join groups that you’re interested in.  Anything and everything related to your writing.  Writing a book about zombie pirate overlords who spend their days in general debauchery?  Find a group for pirate lovers.  Join a group for zombie lovers.  Then start your own group for your zombie pirates.  (Assuming one doesn’t exist.)
2- Really into pirates?  Change your facebook default language to English (Pirate).  It’s really funny.
3- Update photos and status routinely.  Don’t let your profile page get stagnant.
4- Spend your facebook time wisely.

(All above, save the zombie pirates engaging in debaucheries taken from May/June Writer’s Digest.)

For YA authors, Facebook is going to be one of the best ways to reach that target demographic.

Twitter.  Ah, Twitter.  How I vacillate over thee.  There are so many reasons why I can’t decide on Twitter.  I know I should just stake out my little corner of it, but I’m intimidated for some reason.

From the May/June issue, again, I take the following ways of using Twitter:

1- Follow feeds of those persons or industries relevant to your audience and your writing.  Or start your own Twitter feed as the captain of your zombie pirate ship.  It can be a good way to practice your pirate talk skills.
2- If you follow, they will come- same goes for blogging
3- Have a clear goal from the outset for how you want your Twitter account to work for you.
4- Take full advantage of Twitter shortcuts to save on characters.  Things like “tinyurl”
5- Use the search function to find related feeds
6- Monitor your broadcast ability through twittergrader.com
7- Tweet from anywhere you can.  Your iPhone, your regular phone, your computer, etc.

The May/June issue of Poets and Writers featured an article titled “Are Authors Who Twitter Any Fitter?”

I’d like to quote from it a little bit.  First up, the author says, “…joining Twitter doesn’t mean automatic recognition.  It helps to have a game plan in advance: a specific reason to follow specific users’ updates and an incentive for them to follow yours.”

There are a lot of things you can do with Twitter.  Tour schedules, calls for submissions (for agents and editors), links to your works, etc.  There’s also the blahg idea where you can reveal little bits about your everyday life through Twitter.  Or you can write a mini-novel, like John Wray did.  (The article in P&W talks about it.)

Lastly, there’s LinkedIn.

I used to be on this site.  But I dropped it.  I deleted the account.  It just didn’t seem like a productive use of time.  LinkedIn is more the professional networking route.  It’s not going to help you find an audience, but it can help you connect with professionals such as editors and agents.

4 steps to using LinkedIn successfully:
1- Make a great profile that will highlight your achievements and assets.
2- Ask for recommendations.  That’s how you build your network on LinkedIn.
3- Use it as a platform for professional articles and such.  Build the logos and the ethos will follow.
4- Link everything that’s yours to your profile.

So, there you have it.  I’ve been planning this post for a while, but hadn’t gotten to it yet.  I’ll be on hiatus next week.  It’s a very busy week and I just need to let myself take a break.  I need to re-prioritize.  Plus, I work in retail and next week is a hard one.  I will still try to get a WiP Wednesday up, but that will be the only post in the week.

Q4U: Which social networking sites do you take full advantage of?  Which do you wish you were on?  Are there any you now regret having a profile on?