Author Platforms

October 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, I hosted the weekly Circlet Press Author Chat on LiveJournal. I shared some thoughts about changes in the publishing industry, rights issues, platform, author compensation, etc.

Below is an updated copy of my final (of three) posts. You can read comments on it there.

The bane of many authors has become even more ubiquitous in the Internet age. Now, the horror that requires us to drag ourselves away from writing stories to promote our work has been awarded a new, dreaded title: Platform.

At writers’ conferences and workshops, authors are lectured endlessly about the necessity of having a platform and how to build one. Allegedly authors are asked about their platforms by editors before they will read their work. Some authors have leveraged platforms into lucrative publishing contracts.

Unfortunately, while publishers expect authors to invest time and money in the marketing of their books, as M.J. Rose states: “We now have a situation where publishers are financially benefitting from the author’s efforts but the author is still getting paid the old way, without regard to how much we personally invest.” She covered that concern quite well in her editorial, “Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid,”on so I won’t belabor that point here.

Personally, I’ve had a presence on the web for several years, but as one correspondent wrote a few months ago, my website is “utterly pants” (British slang for total crap). I coded it myself and couldn’t disagree with him. I’m a writer and although I have a basic understanding of HTML, I’m not a graphic designer.

Meanwhile, I’ve increased my presence on the web over the past year to help promote my novels. I tweet regularly. I’ve put up profiles on FaceBook, Goodreads, GLBT Bookshelf project, MySpace, and LinkedIn. I post to blogs here, on LiveJournal, and Fanny Press.

But anyone could have said my website is pants and I couldn’t have argued.

One reason, with which I’m sure many authors could agree, is because I already spend so much time promoting my work, I didn’t want to take another minute away from my writing. While promoting the novels that came out last year, Broken and Shattered, and the one that released last month, Dommemoir, I also still need to finish the one I drafted during National Write a Novel Month 2008. And, I am blocking out the novel I will draft next month during NaNoWriMo 2009.

Redesigning a website just wasn’t on my priority list. But even updating what’s there, adding all the information about and reviews of Dommemoir, for example, takes work. My submissive, Patrick, suggested he could learn HTML and take over that responsibility. However, working on the website drove home, for him, that it is pants.

Looking, as always, for additional ways to serve me, he requested permission to work on the design. On a Monday he showed me his idea and I loved it. Unfortunately, the beautiful site he envisioned made what I had up look even more pitiful. The more he worked on it, the more I wanted it up NOW. I had planned to (and did) appear on the Speakeasy Café that Thursday, and I had signed up to host the Circlet Press chat. Both will, I hope, drive traffic to my website. I didn’t want to drive traffic to a pants website when I could drive traffic to a gorgeous one.

My sweet boy put in ridiculous hours over the following three days. On Tuesday, I left him working on the website while I drove from Bellevue to Lynwood (Seattle area where I am staying for a few weeks) to meet with a friend/colleague to catch up and discuss an upcoming project. When I returned, five hours later, he had not eaten, drunk, or gone to the bathroom. He kept up a ridiculous pace through Thursday afternoon when the pages were uploaded to the Internet just before my appearance on the Speakeasy Café.

He still has some refinements to make. The shopping page requires a more work and he wants to learn how to add some cool features like RSS feed, music, and SEO tags. But the beauty that he created is visible on every page. And the website reflects my work as a writer: dark, erotic, and seductive.

I know I’m very fortunate to have someone so devoted and talented in service, a luxury most authors do not have. (Although, I’m aware of more than one well-known author who has had a website developed and maintained by a zealous fan.)

However it’s developed, building and maintaining any kind of web presence consumes vast resources. And time devoted to blogging, tweeting, etc. is time not spent writing stories.  In the long run, if I don’t sell books, I won’t be able to get any future ones published. But, it’s easy to get bogged down with promotions and have difficulty finding time to write.

Which is why I’m taking from now through the end of November off from promotional activities to participate in National Write a Novel Month. I’ll post more details on my website in the next week or two