As writers, we are all encouraged to develop a platform—an online presence to help us market our work. But there can be a dark side to platform building that the experts rarely address.
Yesterday, I saw two Facebook status updates from writer friends lamenting the state of their followers. For one, it was people who no longer followed her and, for the other, people who ignored her and no longer commented. In the case of the first writer, her feelings were genuinely hurt. For the second, it made her angry and, she was determined to go through her list and cut out the offenders.
While the publishing gurus are urging you to develop more, bigger, better platforms, they may not be preparing you for the emotional fallout that can come with that kind of investment of your time and ego. Since taking my writing leap several years ago, I’ve worked hard to develop some kind of online presence, and yes, been a victim to both the hurt feelings of rejection and the fist-pumping euphoria of increased numbers. While I’m definitely still small potatoes in this world, I have learned a few lessons along the way:
Remove your ego. This is key. It’s a tricky balance: you want to be authentic, genuine, and transparent online, but doing so creates personal vulnerability. Remember, your online world is not you. This is a place to promote your work, not seek validation for your self. Be aware of when your feelings are hurt or you get caught up in a debate or become angry. Are you getting too invested? If so, take a breath and step back for a bit.
Numbers are just numbers. It’s easy to seek validation of who we are by the number of followers we gain and get into a comparison mode with other writers. Remember, the idea is to promote your writing and that takes time, especially if you’re still unpublished. For now, don’t get too concerned with numbers. My advice? Ignore them. Work on the quality of your posts, showcasing your passions, and building relationships.
Balance the time. When I worked my job at the college, I had my hands in many pots. While students were my main focus, I still managed personnel, a budget, and attended pesky meetings. It was part of my job. By the same token, attending to a platform may not be a favorite aspect to your writing life, but it's part of your job as a writer. Fortunately, it can take as little as a half hour a day—a Facebook status update and a few comments here and there, a blog post and reading (and commenting!) on a few other blogs, a Twitter update and a couple retweets. An added benefit: limiting your online time also ensures the platform world doesn’t become an extension of your “real” world.
Recriprocate. Which leads well into my fourth point: the online world is, like it or not, about reciprocation. I talked with a writer the other day who told me she didn't like the follow-me-and-I'll-follow-you mentality of Twitter. I understand that, but if you want people to comment and follow you, it’s good etiquette to comment and follow others. As writers, we help each other out this way. It’s also how we build relationships with people. As with your writing, there must be a take-away for people. What are you offering to others?
Keep it separate. Develop an online author presence that is separate from your personal presence. I write under the name Julie Luek because my real last name is a tongue-twister. But I maintain personal accounts with family photos and bragging (because my kids are wonderful) on my personal page. I have a Pinterest account under my Julie Luek name too and pin fun visuals and inspiration pertaining to my writing interests. Keeping your platform presence separate from your personal presence also helps you keep a little distance between what you do and who you are.
So get out there. Do as the experts suggest and build a platform. But take care to guard your heart and self-esteem a bit in the process. Put in place a few precautions and get ready to interact with people and have fun!
Do you build a platform? Have you ever felt the sting of rejection online? Do you watch numbers too much? What suggestion can you add to keep it all productive, fun, while protecting yourself a bit?
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