The difference between author platform and author presence.
As the currents of power and money circulate in the sea of publishing, and authors and publishers from traditional shores wait for an arm to raise from the water, clutching a profitable, sustainable business model, sparkling Excalibur-like in the sun, one word constantly lurks just beneath the surface: Platform. Joanna Penn (at The Creative Penn) defines the term pretty well, but to summarise, your platform as an author is the things you do to engage with the book-buying public. This includes blogging, social media (Twitter, Facebook, et al), podcasting, or any regular event where you contribute as an “expert” (such as writing workshops).
Exploring Social Media
When I first created a Twitter account (cinemanche), I didn’t know what my goal was. It was pitched to me as a great way to reach customers and sell books, but after six months of active participation, I’ve decided that it isn’t. It’s a great way to connect with people who can help, advise and inspire you, and to return the favour where you can, but these are your peers/friends/contacts; they’re not potential customers. Aside from celebrities, you do see people with thousands of followers, who are clearly marketing a product, but the value of these relationships (mostly generated by spam-like follow/auto-reply behaviour) is negligible.
My Facebook profile is for my real-life friends to stay in touch and let me know, passively in many cases, what they’re up to. Some friends have bought my book, but they were all connected with the project outside of Facebook. I put the odd post about the book on there if I feel it’s a noteworthy achievement, but otherwise, I don’t try to sell to my Facebook friends. If they wanted a copy, they’d have bought one; they’re not potential customers. I do see people on Facebook who are simply using it as a marketing tool, spamming my feed with link after link, but they get their asses hidden, if not blocked, pretty fast.
I set up a Facebook fan page
for Make a Move, and again I didn’t know what my goal was. Now it’s a great way for people to follow my progress and get updates first when they’re not on Twitter. In almost every case, my fans have bought the book; they’re not potential customers.
So if these tools aren’t a source of potential customers, what value are they to my platform? None. Because, contrary to what most people will tell you, they’re not Platform; they’re Presence.
I wrote Make a Move for me. I published it to connect with people. I know that sounds trite, but I sure as hell ain’t doing it for the money. I want real connections - not the one-way street of supplier > customer. I want to have a conversation, to learn something, to be entertained, and my Presence provides the conduit for that. I hope people see my blogging/tweeting/posting as adding value to the Make a Move experience, and that it will keep people with me as I write more books, but I’m not selling anything. It’s just me, online, having fun.
A Time and a Place
Some of the more aggressive marketers out there would say I’m lazy and ineffectual in not exploiting every available avenue to sell books, but like I said, it’s not a sales channel; it’s just me, online, having fun. When I do want to sell books, I go to places that have a uniquely important resource: book buyers who haven’t read Make a Move yet. You can check out the list of online and offline places comprising my Platform here, but note the common factor; in every case, people go to those places primarily to buy books.
I’m smart that way…
I try not to give advice on my blog, just examples of what I’ve tried and what the outcome was, good or bad. So consider this an insight into my psyche rather than a piece of advice: I’m more than happy to talk, to listen, to collaborate, to drink and dance until the sun comes up, but nothing turns me off faster than the rancid odour of a sales pitch. And I’m not the only one…