Distinguishing Between Straight-Up Advice and Paradigm Shift


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Paradigm shift

A couple weeks ago I wrote a column for Writer Unboxed, “Should You Focus on Your Writing or Platform?” In short, I said it’s a balancing act, but there are times when you should probably emphasize one over the other.

It generated more than 100 responses, many insightful and valuable, from working writers, established authors, editors, and agents. My colleague Christina Katz was one of the last to comment. Here’s part of what she said.

This post really makes me chuckle … I wonder how much time folks spent reading and chewing on and commenting on and spreading the word about a post ABOUT platform rather than actually spending any amount of time actually cultivating and working on their own platform?

I am a person who does not distinguish between writing, selling, specializing, self-promotion, and continuing ed, and also a person who sees all of these things as essential and necessary to my writing career success. … 

For me, there is no separation. Writing is the center. (If you read The Writer’s Workout, you saw the diagram.) But it’s all critical. There’s nothing to debate.

Read her entire comment here.

I’m (mostly) in the same boat as Christina. I find it impossible and irrelevant to distinguish between writing activities and platform building activities. My approach is far too holistic.

So why did I write a post splitting them up?

Because most writers don’t and CAN’T see them as one activity. They’re still asking questions that show they need some concrete ideas on how to manage what they perceive (and what can be) a very real split in one’s life.

There may be nothing to debate for people like Christina and myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a very real problem for writers to address until the struggle resolves itself.

Or until writers undergo a paradigm shift.

Briefly defined, a paradigm shift is “a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing.”

I can write (or speak) on the platform topic forever, but ultimately, I can’t change your mind about marketing/selling being inseparable from writing until you have your own experience or insight that validates what I’m saying. Or, I might convince you logically, but you might not feel it.

And in my opinion, this is why so much is written about platform. People are still figuring it out, trying to find what feels right, but they haven’t experienced the paradigm shift where it all starts to make sense, and they’re no longer torn on how to handle it.

Here’s one area where I partly disagree with Christina: If you commented on my post, you were participating in a community of writers, and making yourself seen in that community, and that’s indeed a part of your platform … where you’re active, the relationships you build, the places where you’re known. So make sure you’re spending time and energy on places that matter most to you and your work. Eventually it won’t be blog posts related to author platform … unless of course you’re trying to be a platform expert.

And: writing may or may not be your center. For the past two years, teaching has been my center. Much of my writing spins out of things I teach. I create instructional materials and modules, I refine them through extensive research and reading, and I put things in formal writing usually as a last step, and even then, only when I have sufficient motivation (e.g., an article assignment that pays well).

That’s because formal writing is sometimes the worst possible way for me to help someone. A conference workshop, Twitter chat, or webinar is often a better way for me to inform and engage. The topics I write and teach on can change overnight.

But it’s true that writing is the center for many of you. Just not all. Frankly, I’ve been advocating writers have yet another paradigm shift regarding writing and books. I see books as just another medium—and not always the best medium—to entertain and inform, but that’s another post for another day.

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  • http://www.turndog-millionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    Interesting thought, and links to Joel Friedlander’s post today. If a writer wants to go all the way they need to embrace the whole everything. It maybe scary, but in time you will learn to love all the aspects (or at least most of them)

    I like to think an author platform is the centre of the universe, and writing, marketing, engaging, genres, etc are all just part of it. It’s all about the author in the end of the day. They’re the one’s writing a great story, they’re the ones building an audience, they’re the ones creating something for others to believe in.

    Each of the same :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • Bob Mayer

    I believe commenting cogently on other people’s posts to be critical to a writer for a couple of reasons:

    1.  It means you’re seeking out information to make you a better writer and business person in the world of publishing.
    2.  People tend to read comments on their own posts.  It’s a way of building your platform by making comments (not self-promoting).  Focus on what has been written, then give your thoughts.

  • marytod

    I am intrigued to see the title “paradigm shift” in this article. When I consulted in the 1990′s to businesses attempting to revamp their use of technology, two colleagues of mine – Don Tapscott and Art Caston – wrote Paradigm Shift talking about the enabling effect of technology and shifts in how work gets done, how organizations integrate and the potential for inter-enterprise computing. Of course, today we take all those attributes for granted. Having followed your blog, Joel Friedman’s and Mike Shatzkin’s for more than a year now, it’s clear that not only are writers changing how they work and the scope of what they do but so are agents and publishers and the other players in this game. A paradigm shift on monumental proportions – perhaps we have only scratched the surface?

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

     For me, the paradigm shift concerning blogging, writing, and platform came when I recognized the whole thing is more like a coffee shop than a circus. Circus is about performance and entertainment. Coffee shop is about conversation among friends.

    Of course I want to sell books as well as write them, but I find I have greater favor in the marketing arena when I’m primarily a friend rather than a salesperson. This isn’t saying I don’t do sales pitches. I do. I simply shape them around the common interests I share with others.

  • http://twitter.com/jan_ohara Jan O’Hara|Tartitude

    That conversation stuck with me, so I’m glad you’re extending it. 
    I’m naturally drawn to the holistic approach and I’m still looking for the intersection of what I’m good at, what I like, and what others find useful. (And ultimately worth purchasing.) As I get clearer on my direction, though, this sentence will be helpful:”So make sure you’re spending time and energy on places that matter most to you and your work. Eventually it won’t be blog posts related to author platform … unless of course you’re trying to be a platform expert.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mer.rutter Meredith Ann Rutter

    Many years back, my sister told me I needed to “loosen up.” I think the concept applies here as well. I’m better able to see your point when I loosen up and imagine “writing” and “platform” as jiggling along next to each other on the same stagecoach.

  • Monkey

    I think what Christina was talking about and what most writers don’t get is writing is a job. It has a description, like any other job. People think the entire job description is: writing my X (book, play, television show, whatever). But there aren’t any job descriptions in the world like that. It always goes on for a page or more on what other duties you need to perform to support what your main function is.

    And there is always the catch-all at the end, “Other duties as assigned.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/PamWrites Pam Parker

    Fabulous recap and post — thanks!!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Very true. 

    I think some writers are still reading and holding onto the job description of “writer” from around 1850.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Thanks, Pam! Once integration happens, I do think people feel better. 

    I keep thinking of a probably inappropriate analogy related to Buddhism/Zen … we can spend our time seeing ourselves as separate from the world and fighting against it … or we can see that we and the universe are one.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Loosening up — that’s exactly it, too! Great point.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    :) I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for.

  • http://twitter.com/ClaudiaC ClaudiaC

    I love the inclusion of everything into ‘this is what I do.’ It’s kind of a relief to think that I can just do what I do – writing, learning, promoting, self care, holding the covers for the dog, marketing, researching, sitting on the porch, platform building, story telling – and I don’t have to segment my one brain and one life.  In the living of this life, it certainly all feels like the same thing.  I honestly believe that the authors I admire most did a heck of a lot of promoting, selling, platform building, and never considered it as anything other than writing.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Love that analogy!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    I’ve heard about that book! And fabulous point. I think you’re right—we’ve only scratched the surface.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Yes, and yes!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Like a holy trinity. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/dzmalone Dave Malone

    Jane, a little bit of Zen Buddhism wisdom goes a long and appropriate way. :) Rockin’ post. For some writers, this could prove an aha moment–and this kind of post is why I tell any writers I know, seasoned or unseasoned, if they are not already, to read your blog. :)

  • http://twitter.com/ShawnSpjut Shawn Spjut

    Jane: loved your response. I am just learning to balance all that goes with writing and finding that some things work, others don’t ( but I’m the only one who can decide what does). In every adventure we have to find the equipment that best works for us, be open to new ideas and keep our eye on the horizon.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    That’s a great place to be in!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    :) Thanks, Dave.

  • Cgblake Author

    Jane,
    While I have the utmost respect for you and Christina I am having difficulty wrapping my arms around platform building and fiction writing as one activity. As a former newspaper reporter I find it easy to generate three decent blog posts a week. I also view it as part of my responsibility to read excellent blogs, leave thoughtful comments and engage with other writers. However the process of fiction writing is much, much harder and requires a different mindset. I need to sit and tune out all the noise (no internet) and really get into the head of my main character before I can even put one word on the page. While I understand every activity is part of an integrated whole the actual writing is paramount and requires skills that I don’t use in my social media interactions.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    What you’re saying is undoubtedly true. But I don’t think it makes my point any less true. That’s the difficulty.

    “When facing a single tree, if you look at a single one of its red leaves, you will not see all the others. When the eye is not set on one leaf, and you face the tree with nothing at all in mind, any number of leaves are visible to the eye without limit. But if a single leaf holds they eye, it will be as if the remaining leaves were not there.” (Takuan Soto)

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    100% with you: “I’m the only one who can decide what does [work].” 

  • brother cliff

    As an outsider looking in, it seems if the internal/Eternal fire to communicate is fueled consistently, we will eventually embrace whatever is necessary. Love overcomes all.

  • http://twitter.com/dzmalone Dave Malone

    @Cgblake
    I certainly can’t speak for Jane or Christina, but I don’t’ think they are suggesting that platforming and writing are one activity. But I do think they would gently disagree with you that the writing is paramount.
    Another way to put it is in terms of a baseball analogy (so, as needed, please forgive me for being a fan of minor league baseball). J
    When a pitcher throws a great curve ball, a lot went into that pitch. This gorgeous curve, this gorgeous piece of fiction, has been trained, tempered by all of his or her experiences, advice taken, advice ignored, intuition, skill, and dedication. I think as writers, if we can realize that writer/audience, platform/writing are engaged in a very harmonious dance (or ball game), then it’s tough to see separation. @Cgblake, you illustrate well that there are separate parts (and we have to filter out the noise)—I see Costner in For Love of the Game (“clear the mechanism”). So, while understanding that, I think there is value in saying that these parts which appear separate aren’t really separate—for they serve the same function.

  • christinakatz

    Well played, Jane. :)

    I have a lot to say and a busy day and a daughter who is having a meltdown because her mother cannot attend her “Festival of Learning” at school this morning.

    But you can rest assured that I’ll be back as soon as I can. :)

  • Cgblake Author

    Jane,
    Thanks for that great analogy. Ultimately it is a time management issue. The writer must do both and strike a balance, with the understanding that fiction writing must come first.

  • http://twitter.com/HarrisonSolow Dr. Harrison Solow

    I think, Jane, that as, when when one is in love with a person and radiates that love into one’s circle by many means (talking about the loved person, being interested in other people’s experience of love, sharing the state of being in love, being in a spirit of discovery about the beloved – and oneself and the relationship, etc) if one is in love with one’s work, the same thing happens. It isn’t an artificial process with a set of fixed rules (as, kudos to you) you have said many times. It is a natural outcome of a deep relationship with writing, both the content and the process. One just can’t help talking about it. It becomes a mission. This is what I see as platform. I thought your observation that writing may or may not be a particular person’s center was extremely astute. It may be that a lot of people who are writing would be more comfortable being engaged with something else and communicating in other ways.

  • Cgblake Author

    Dave,
    Thanks for your comment. I think it comes down to striking the right balance between platform and fiction writing. When I published my first novel I got so wrapped up in marketing and social media that I neglected my WIP for more than a month. That is unacceptable for me. I forced myself to get my “butt in chair” and write every day.

    This is a great discussion. Thanks again.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    One hopes so.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    I don’t often like sports analogies, but I can go along with this one. ;)

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    :)

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Lovely way of framing it. Couldn’t have said it  better.

  • Anne R. Allen

    I was going to quote Bob on this subject from one of his posts last week, but he did it hisownself. I think it’s significant, and I quoted him on my blog this week. 

    People need to know that commenting on blogs is one of the most important platform building tools! Great post here. It helps people think in a new way. There’s still lots of verbiage about how “frittering away time on the Internet” is taking away from your “writing time.” Instead we have to realize they’re all one. Very zen :-)

  • Hope Clark

    Jane

    I did a presentation on platform at the Oklahoma Writers Conference this past weekend, and it was overwhelmingly successful. Why? Because I didn’t paint platform as a different task than writing. It’s inherent. It’s part of a writer’s personality. When we hold other professions, we often lead with who we are – teacher, plumber, Realtor, attorney, etc. We talk it, walk it, breathe it. However, many of us see writing as a clash with platform, as if we have to be separate entities to be successful at both.

    It’s a package. It’s you being a writer, and others wanting to know more about you being a writer. I’ve tweeted, blogged and written essays about it, but it wasn’t until I literally preached it for 90 minutes did people get it, and boy were they ecstatic about making the connection.

    Hope Clark

  • JanWritesBooks

    Your brand and your writing are separate beasties and to confuse them would be to err on the side of confusion. Platform is an all encompassing “buzz word” at the moment to describe both activities, but a blending cannot happen unless both mindsets are understood.

    Building your list and authority enables you to reach contacts and consumers. It is a permission-based reach-out activity that is akin to creating your own PR. In most cases, the writers are the brand that are the subject of promotion and not a particular book. It doesn’t matter whether you are commenting on someone else’s site, posting blogs or engaging in social media, you should still refine your brand voice and always be aware you are a representation of the brand you are creating. You must also identify your value proposition. What makes you different from every other author out there? What can you add to the industry, community, etc. that others cannot? This has very little to do with your writing but everything to do with your platform and brand.

    However, with that said your writing is your product. It is the ultimate thing you are selling aside from yourself and thus it is a pure reflection of your brand. So in that sense, they are indistinguishable from each other. The differing point is where your platform earns you the right to propose different products, ideas or earns you the right to swap gears for other products (genres, formats, etc.) If your platform is solid and your brand is well conceived your network will welcome new approaches. Your writing and your platform must have separate lives of their own, because they have different goals.

    Self = Platform / Brand
    Writing = Product marketed and sold by platform.

    I am launching my platform in two weeks. It has nothing to do with my writing, yet will build authority. Jane, if you would like a sneak preview of what I have planned drop me a note. (It’s really kind of cool and doesn’t place either me or my book at the center of it.)

    I think I have a differing perspective because I am a career marketer that has written a book and not an author who is attempting to get my head around building a platform. It is an interesting topic nonetheless, and I have enjoyed reading everyone’s perspectives.

  • sue

    I love what you are saying, Jane, and I agree that we have to integrate all the ways we reach out to others with what lies at our center. When my first novels were published in the 1990s, my center was writing and my outreach included book tours, teaching and giving speeches. I loved my life, and when e-stuff came on the scene, I ignored it as long as I could.

    Eventually, kicking and whining, I began to blog and to learn about FB and LinkedIn and et.al. but I really resented the need to do so. Finally I decided that I had a choice. I could quit writing or I could integrate.  I decided to integrate, and one of my most successful attempts to do this was to pull in my FB family and take them along with me as I write my novels. Oh my goodness, what a ball! And pretty soon the blogging and the tweeting flowed right in and I was having FUN!

    Tailoring the e-outreach to fit my personality allowed me to integrate that outreach with my writing, which remains at center. And again, I love my life.

  • christinakatz

     Excellent example. Thank you, Sue.

  • christinakatz

     Hi Jan, I’m sorry, you lost me part-way into the second paragraph. Too many buzz words for me to be able to take them all in. So, I’m going to skip the rest…

  • christinakatz

     And thanks for waving my book around, Hope. I heard it through the grapevine. Much appreciated. Agree with all you’ve shared here.

  • christinakatz

     I found this kind of hard to absorb but I think I agree.

  • christinakatz

     Great point. Often pressures from outside the author to be doing this or that throw the author (or writer) out of what he or she would really like to be doing.

  • christinakatz

     Point well taken!

  • christinakatz

     Agree whole-heartedly!

  • christinakatz

     Thanks for this comment. :)

  • christinakatz

    I don’t think in this economy that it makes sense any longer to compartmentalize in this way. Why not love all of it? Or figure out how…

  • JanWritesBooks

    Ouch.. My mistake, I thought the comments were open for conversation that may well include different perspectives.

  • christinakatz

     Excellent! Yes. We are only beginning to see the whole truth of what a writers day-to-day life is “really” like. For the most part, we are delivered the carefully publicized version. So no wonder there is little common awareness of what it’s really like to be any kind of professional writer, either full or part time.

  • christinakatz

     Maybe some are. But I think many would just really like a more truthful picture. I just had someone ask me this week to please write a post on what my typical day is like so she could better understand how I’m so productive. What I’m saying is that I do think many writers are genuinely curious and willing. These are the types of writers I work with on a daily basis. They are willing to get in their own process and stay in it for the long haul and it’s really gratifying.

  • christinakatz

     Go ahead and tackle this topic too, Jane. I hope you will. It’s the: I’m not a salesperson topic. (And thanks, TNeal, for bringing it up.) 

    I find this to be another one of those black and white thinking kinds of topics. A writer says I don’t want to be that, so I’m going to do this instead. But guess what? You are still selling. Don’t try to pretend you are not. If you have a product, and you are networking it, that’s selling.

    Bloggers who give and give and give, and then eventually ask for some kind of financial payback…were selling all along.

    Bloggers, who blog and blog and blog, and then fell like, I need to monetize this stuff. Were SELLING all along.

    I wish people would stop acting like selling was a dirty word. Selling is not dirty, if your product or service is excellence and makes the world a better place somehow.

    If you ever intend to author, then you intend to also sell. There is no workaround. There is no need for a workaround.

    So can we please stop acting as if it is holy to hate or resist selling?

    Please. Jane. Your turn.

  • christinakatz

     All smart people… ;)

  • christinakatz

     I disagree to a certain extent. Commenting on blogs does not always advance a career. And, in many cases, it can and does take writers away from more productive work.

  • christinakatz

     I would say this differently.

    I would say that blogging and reading blogs and commenting on blogs are three options for building a platform and that each writer has to decide if any of these actions makes sense for them. I do not believe that it always makes sense. I am not an ignoramus if I am not reading blogs every day. There are plenty of other ways to learn. And different people learn in different ways.

    There is only one best way to spend your time online and off and that’s in ways that make the most sense to the individual writer. I would steer clear of any gurus and echo chambers which tend to delay the development of strong individual decision-making.

    It is rare to find general advice that applies to everyone equally. Better to develop business policies that specifically advance your wants and needs.

  • christinakatz

     I am not sure that it’s possible to embrace the whole everything at every moment and still succeed. Certainly not if participation is required. But I’ve not read the post you are referring to.

    What I do think is that there are right things for our specific goals that we could be doing right now, and those are likely the best choices.

  • http://www.turndog-millionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    Like Jane says it’s a balancing act. If a writer tries to do Twitter, Facebook, Sign up to 50 Blogs etc etc then they certainly won’t be able to do everything justice

    Like you say it’s about choosing things that’s specific to your goals, and if you hit these with all you mite you won’t go too far wrong.

    It’s more about embracing everything that comes with the modern day author. The writing, the marketing, the publishing, the networking (in a nutshell that was what Joel’s Post was about), it’s all part of the process. For most, the day of only writing is dead, and if authors can embrace their platform, make it about them, be proud proud proud, well, I don’t think you can go too far long

    At least that’s my outlook :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Hi Jan, I may understand what you are saying.

    What I mostly take away from your comment is that you’re an experienced career marketer, and you tackle the process with a business mindset. So it makes sense for you to think about specific activities in terms of branding, permission marketing, etc. 

    I will admit that my post here is geared to those without a marketing background (and have no desire to see themselves as marketers), who often feel torn between the activities of selling/branding/writing. 

    I’m not entirely sure if one’s brand and one’s writing are different (at least in a way that would be meaningful to explain to the average writer who is not a career marketer!). As you point out, on some level, these things blend and become indistinguishable. That’s the key point I try to get across to writers—that the blending doesn’t happen because you’re sweating harder, or suffering, but because these things (hopefully) naturally meld.
    Perhaps on a micro-scale (or mid-scale), there are separate goals, but in the end, I see individuals as having one overall purpose. There’s a bigger picture that both activities serve.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    I think people find selling to be a dirty practice because it is so often done poorly, and we always remember how we feel around a clumsy, awful salesperson. So there’s a lot of negative association & practice to overcome.

    The fact is that we all love and appreciate salespeople who take the time out to ask us questions about who we are and what we need. We feel cared for, and that we’re not going to be sold something we’ll regret later. A good salesperson cares more about who they’re serving (and giving that person a good experience) than what they’re selling.

  • JanWritesBooks

    Exactly! I fully agree with your post and feel it brings up important aspects authors should consider. You’re right though – I have a different approach because of my background. 

    I also agree that finding a blend in daily routines that isn’t like chewing on glass is paramount for authors to stay focused and motivated. As I mentioned I really enjoyed seeing everyone’s approaches (none or wrong or right, including mine). I just thought I could add something else to chew on with regards to the meta subject of self promotion.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    I do enjoy it when marketers and businesspeople enter these discussions. It can be refreshing!

  • http://twitter.com/dzmalone Dave Malone

    CG,
    My pleasure. I appreciate your thoughts—and that needed reminder that getting one’s “butt in the chair” is so important (for me, it is down time to allow gestation of new work).

  • Melanie Marttila

    As a writer with a day job, I feel that my platform development has become/replaced my writing practice.  Yes, I can blog and critique and guest blog and tweet and like and share and G+ to my heart’s content.  I can create a virtual community of practice, but I haven’t worked consistently (e.g. more that a couple evenings in a row) on my WIP for some time.  This makes me sad, but I’m stubborn (among other things).  I’m not giving up and I feel that perhaps a personal paradigm shift is coming for me.  When it does, all the pieces will fall into place again and I will have, if not control, then at least advisory privileges, over this evolving thing that is my creative life.
    It’s all process.
    Thanks for your further thoughts.
    Excellent, as always.

  • christinakatz

    Busy, bumpy day. Sorry to be so slow to respond.

    I think another excellent blog post would be how people define “community.” It’s a word I hear so often, applied to so many scenarios. But I am not always feeling this sense of community that people are saying exists…or that could exist for me if I would only spend more time reading and commenting on blogs, I suppose.

    I’m not looking for community. I’m looking for quick intelligent reads and that’s pretty much it. Your writing, Jane and that of your guest posters, is either going to educate and delight me…or we all know I would not stick around.

    For me, reading a lot of blogs, blog comments, and responding to blogs does not make me feel like part of a “community.” Rather, it feels like time away from what I consider to be my actual work…which is how I prefer to spend the majority of my time. It’s the work I get paid for and the work I feel the best about. (And if I’m not getting paid for writing I’m doing today, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to get paid for it tomorrow.)

    This does not mean that I never read blogs. But I might read a bunch of posts quickly, all in a row, or relish subscribing to a no-commitment blog like Seth Godin’s blog.

    In truth, at this time, Seth and Jane’s blog are the only two I am reading regularly right now. I am not able to comment on Seth’s and and I very infrequently comment on Jane’s.

    You may notice that when I do decide to comment, I get in trouble pretty quickly.

    In other words, I am not blogging for “community.” I am not visiting here to do it right. I am reading blogs to hear what the best, brightest minds have to say–and that’s it..

    For me, that’s an important part of my continuing education. And even though I don’t make the rules here, I think Jane would agree that finding and reading the best and brightest minds whether you comment or not makes good sense.

    I will often pick up posts from the ethers and check them out if they are recommended by someone I respect or just sound refreshing or interesting. But my loyalty as a reader is nothing something I give away lightly. That’s my attention. It may as well be one of my organs because that’s how carefully I tender it.

    And not to be too much of the devil’s advocate over here (but I guess I’m in too deep already) I don’t understand how writing is NOT at the center of your career and life, Jane. Since writing and responding and writing some more, long and short, is what you do all… day…long.

    I’m not just talking about the stuff that ends up published in the short run. You and me and lots of other people are writing all day long. And that’s what I mean when I say writing is at the center, even if the format and the audience change gears all day long.

    But I understand that you are saying that you use research and journalism skills all day long, as well. Many of us do. And then we translate what we learn…into writing.

  • christinakatz

     BIG topic. Well covered in my last two books. As for me, my home is full of products I love that were sold to me by reputable people and reputable companies. The quality is either excellent or I don’t keep it. I try to pass along what I no longer need to others if it has value still. And based on what you’ve said, I’m thinking that my lack of cynicism about selling comes from the positive experiences I’ve had and hope to continue having. I also don’t go near anything slick or sleazy with a ten-foot pole. And I sell, but in no way consider it shameful or sleazy the way I do it. Which I do imperfectly, like everything else, of course.

  • brother cliff

     If what we are communicating is an authentic expression from inside us, we can avoid trying to sell some thing to others; for we are offering them an opportunity to engage with some of who we are, which obviously has value!

  • http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/ Chitradivakaruni

     Jane, Thanks for this excellent post on a subject so many of us writers struggle with.  And thanks to all the readers especially Christina for the very helpful comments.
     My novel will be out in March 2013, but already the publisher has given me a lot of platform building “tasks” they would like me to focus on. (I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as there are so many areas out there to work on). I realize the importance of doing this, but I also have an exciting idea for a new novel, and I want to get started doing research. When I start researching, though, I go pretty deeply into my topic & don’t feel like doing anything else as far as my writing life is concerned, so I’m holding off. And one part of me feels that’s wrong, that I’m shortchanging myself as a writer.  (An added fear: what if the inspiration goes away, and I can’t write that book later, when I make time for it?)
    My question is this: If I do really well in 1 area of platform building (for me that’s Facebook), is it OK to put most of my efforts into that? I do have a website & blog, but my FB page is the one I go to each day with enthusiasm.

  • Aine Greaney

    I must admit that I came to the ‘writer platform’ concept pretty late in my career. 

    For me, it is always a push and pull between the “actual’ writing and all the community/platform-building activities that are necessary.  I enjoy both, but each draws on very separate parts of myself and my skills as a writer. The blogging/posting/commenting stuff is more aligned with how I am in my day job. But the creative writing part (I write fiction and personal essays) uses a different narrative voice and it serves a different subset of my career goals.  Do those goals intersect? Yup! But they’re still not quite the same. 

  • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    You’ve got some tough decisions ahead! I don’t know how long your research process might take, but I’d avoid shortchanging that March 2013 release. If sales are disappointing for the publisher, you might have a hard time getting the second novel accepted.

    That said, there are ways to do both. Are you willing to invest in someone helping you with the book launch—a publicist? An intern? If you know what needs to be done, can someone be assisting you and doing prep work, so that you can hit the ground running when your research is done? 

    But to answer the question you’d *really* like answered: I think it’s fine to emphasize what you enjoy and what seems to be working for you. Again, you may want to hire someone to help with maintenance of other areas. With your website especially, that’s the area where you’re more free to “hard sell” and ask people to buy the book. You wouldn’t do very much of that on Facebook. Facebook is where you’re building awareness, and sending people to your website (or blog) to find out more about the book if interested.

    So just be careful. Facebook is a great tool, but it’s not perfect for every job.

  • http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/ Chitra Divakaruni

     Thanks very much, Jane. This is extremely helpful.

  • http://thebloggingoftheaspiringwriter.blogspot.com.au/ Bonnee

    I guess I understand how some see it as two separate things and others see it as one thing. It makes sense to me either way and I know I have to find the balance between the writing and platform aspects, whether I’m looking at them together or separately. Thanks for sharing! :) 

  • christinakatz

    Hi Jan, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to offend you. I’m saying that I am having a difficult time following your perspective. You are using the word “brand” as though we all know and agree what it means. Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble following. I am sure you are saying something intelligent but I can’t follow your logic. I see in the last paragraph that you are a career marketer, and this probably explains why I’m losing the gist. You are conversant in the lingo, but I got left behind.

  • http://twitter.com/MarinaSofia8 Marina Sofia

     You’ve spoken straight from my heart.  I am still struggling to master the juggling.  I love all that I do, that’s the problem.  But WIP has to come first – for me, for now.

  • April Line

    I would never accomplish any writing or blogging or anything if I read and commented on more blogs.  I get lost in them!  I love them.  I love discourse.  And whenever I spend the time reading other people’s blogs and “commenting cogently,” I often get material for my own blog, and new ways to frame my thinking.  

    I just spent 40 minutes, and didn’t even read 100% of the comments here, but briefly, I did comment on the last post, and think I said something along the lines of “I just need to write.  Blogging/platform building is one way to do that.”  So this post is definitely an ah ha for me.  

    Great work as always, Jane, and I am grateful for all this discourse.  

    Cheers!
    -April 

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