UR Turn: Other Social Media Platforms for Writers

With no shortage of social media platforms to consider, several may warrant attention

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...So far we’ve talked about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

But there are hundreds of other social media platforms to consider. While some platforms are obscure, others garner much more attention.

Though some of these social media outposts are worthy of consideration, my varying degrees of involvement on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest already take up too much of my time. So, I’ll not add a fifth to the mix.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Perhaps another social media platform works for you better or more effectively connects with your audience. Then maybe you should be there in place of one of the above options.What other social media platforms do you use? Click To Tweet

What other social media platforms do you use? What do you like about them?

Please include a link to your pages so others can find you there.

What to Do When You Can’t Do It All

The list of advice for writers is long, seemingly more than is humanly possible to accomplish

Advice for writers is never is short supply. Just when we regularly carve out time to write, another requirement piles on our plate and then a third and a fourth. Before long we grow overwhelmed and want to give up.

I struggled for years to find time to write on a regular basis. Just as that skill began to solidify, someone dropped a bomb on my writing world. That missive said, “You need to read as much as you write.”

Yeah, right.

Now I have to take not enough time and cut it in two.

The next bomb, the most devastating of them all, demanded I build a platform. More requirements soon piled high on my list of impossible tasks.

Here are the main ones:

Write: As a writer, we need to write every day. Or at least we must write on a regular basis. For some people that means only a few minutes a day or maybe a couple times a week.

If we claim the title of writer and aren’t writing, something’s wrong. Writing is the first requirement of being a writer.

Read: To write well, we need to be informed. This means, we must read. We need to read in our genre and outside our genre. Through reading we see what works and what doesn’t. We discover the techniques we like and the ones we don’t.

By reading widely, we cultivate our voice, develop our style, and feed our muse. Reading fuels our writing. But while the goal of spending as much time reading as writing makes for a compelling quip, it makes for better rhetoric than reality.

Still, as writers, we must read.

Build a Platform: I’ll never forget the day an agent turned me down, not because of my writing or my ideas or my ability, but over the lack of a platform. Ouch. That hurt.

It seems writing and reading were not enough. I needed to build and then grow a platform, too. How much time should I invest in platform building? One piece of advice was as much time as I spend writing.

If you’re good at math, you’re seeing the rub: 50 percent of my time writing, 50 percent reading, and 50 percent on platform. If that seems impossible, it is.

The next question is when should we start building our platform. Unfortunately, if we’re asking that question, we’re already behind.

Study: While writing is a good practice to help us improve, we improve faster if we study about writing. That doesn’t mean going back to college or enrolling in a MFA program, but it does mean taking intentional steps to improve. For me that includes reading books and magazines about writing, listening to podcasts, and taking relevant online classes. These things take time.

Network: Next we must network. We need to know other writers. We need to meet agents, editors, and publishers. It’s good to have these contacts before we need them.

Market: Last is marketing. While this mostly takes place as our book nears publication, we must also market ourselves beforehand. We need a professional writer website, an active presence on some social media platforms, and the accoutrements of being a writer, such as a headshot, business cards, an author bio, and so forth. Writers need to juggle an impossible set of expectations. Click To Tweet

Does all this seem overwhelming? It is? Does it seem impossible to give everything its due? It is.

Somehow as writers we need to juggle these expectations. We need to prioritize and squeeze things in and make sacrifices.

A few weeks ago, I ended the day with the irrational assessment that I can actually balance all these things. My satisfaction lasted for all but one day. I usually reach this place a couple times a year, which means for the other 364 days of the year, I’m pulling my hair, screaming, and crying that I just can’t do it.

And you know what. I can’t, no one can.

But as we try to negotiate this list of impossible requirements, there’s one thing we must never forget.

We must write. Everything else is secondary.

What well-intended distractions get in the way of your writing?

A Salute to Carrie Fisher and a Lesson for Writers

What writers can learn from the life and career of Carrie Fisher

A Salute to Carrie Fisher and a Lesson for WritersOn December 26, 2016 my wife and I went to see the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The next morning I learned that Carrie Fisher had died. Like most people I knew her for her iconic performance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. Her obituary revealed so much more:

  • Worked steadily as an actress from 1975 through to her death
  • Author of several semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge
  • Wrote the screenplay for the film of the book
  • Starred in an autobiographical one-woman play
  • Author of the non-fiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on her play
  • Spoke about her experiences with bipolar disorder and drug addiction
  • Mental health advocate
  • Script doctor

All these items are impressive, but the last one caught my attention: script doctor. As the title suggests, a script doctor is someone who comes in to fix the screenplays of other writers. In short, when a screenplay is good but not working as well as it should, a script doctor reworks it to make it shine.

Carrie Fisher’s Wikipedia page says she was “one of the top script doctors in Hollywood.” Who would have thought? According to her Wikipedia page and her IMDB bio, here are some of the movies she worked on as a script doctor:

  • Hook
  • Sister Act
  • Lethal Weapon 3
  • Last Action Hero
  • The River Wild
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Coyote Ugly
  • My Girl 2
  • Outbreak
  • Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  • Milk Money
  • Love Affair
  • Made in America

I’ve seen all but one of these flicks. In a lot of them she worked on dialogue or to develop a specific character. She worked as a script doctor for about fifteen years and said that at that time it was lucrative work (but apparently not so much anymore).Carrie Fisher was an actress, author, script doctor, and advocate. Click To Tweet

Carrie Fisher was known primarily as an actress, but she was also an author of books—both fiction and nonfiction—and screenplays, a script doctor, and an advocate. From her example, I have four takeaways for authors:

  1. Diversify our income stream. (She earned money as an actress, author, and script doctor.)
  2. Write in multiple genres. (She wrote fiction, nonfiction, and scripts.)
  3. Capitalize on our strengths. (She had a knack for dialogue and character development.)
  4. Use whatever platform we have to be a voice for what we’re passionate about. (She was able to use her popularity to talk about mental health issues and substance abuse.)

Thank you, Carrie Fisher. You entertained me and taught me about writing.

Should You Use Video to Grow Your Platform?

Video may be the next step in connecting and engaging with an audience

With advances in technology, and the power residing on every smartphone, it has never been easier to record a video and start a vlog. A vlog is a video blog. I’m a huge proponent of blogging and in the past tried the audio version of that: podcasting. (See The Power of Podcasting and My Experience With Podcasting.)

Moving a blog to video is the next evolution in communicating with our audience. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, videotape their podcast sessions so they end up with a two for one deal: a podcast and a video.

Though a growing number of people consume information in video format this is mostly for short-form video: content lasting only a few minutes. Video increasingly pops up in social media, and starting a YouTube channel is a great tool to share and disseminate video content.

Longer form video, however, has one key disadvantage. It requires viewers to sit in front of a screen in order to consume the content. While video can be most engaging it requires commitment on the part of the viewer to dedicate the time to watch it. With our short attention spans, few people are sufficiently patient.

As one adverse to being on camera, I know that vlogging is not for me. Yet for those who are comfortable being videotaped and enjoy the experience, vlogging may be the way to go.

A second consideration is our audience. Does our audience consume content via video? If so, this is another reason to pursue it. But if they prefer other forms of communication, then vlogging is a waste of our time.

While producing video to grow our platform and connect with our audience may be an ideal opportunity for us, don’t jump in without considering the ramifications. First, are we ready for it? Second will our audience watch it?

What is your experience with video? How could a vlog grow your platform? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.Producing video to grow our platform may be an ideal opportunity. Click To Tweet

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How Building a Platform Almost Ruined My Writing Career

The more I focused on platform building, the less I enjoyed writing. I almost quit.

A few years ago, when I was still looking for an agent, I received some unexpected feedback. The agent liked me and my writing. He thought my book had merit. But despite all that he chose not to represent me. His reason was direct: “You have no platform.” Ouch!

He didn’t say, “Your platform isn’t big enough,” “We want to see a bigger following,” or even “Your platform is too small.” Each would have been a true statement, and I could have accepted that. But no. He said, “You have no platform.” His words smacked at the core of my being. It’s as if he stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it.

I doubt he meant to cause me pain, but he did. Words have impact. I know. I write for a living.

So with renewed focus I dove into growing my platform. I studied books, took online classes, and listened to podcasts about platform and branding. I followed blogs and copied what the big-platform people did. I put greater effort into blogging, looked at each social media platform I used to make it better, and developed a consistent message across them all. I sought to engage with people online and build community.

I followed the steps of the gurus, the holders of grand, successful, platform-building outcomes. Eventually I realized the truth of the oft-spoken disclaimer: “Individual results may vary.” Indeed few of their followers ever achieved their if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can-do-it results. That included me.

With so much emphasis on platform I had little time to write. I wrote infrequently and enjoyed it less. My fixation on platform drained me of my passion for words. The size of my following became a burden, one harder to bear as time moved on.

Then one day I’d had enough. “If this is what it means to be a writer, I quit!” I gave up. But instead of relief, I grew even more miserable.

That was when I realized I could never not write.

I scaled back my mostly unsuccessful platform efforts to what was doable without being overwhelming. I cleansed the evil of platform fixation from my soul and reclaimed my joy of writing.Writers must protect their writing time and not let platform building get in the way. Click To Tweet

I suspect I will always consider platform building and self-promotion as the dark side of writing, but as long as I keep the former in check, I can continue with the latter – and thoroughly enjoy it.

Frustration with my platform almost caused me to stop writing. But it didn’t. I’m still here, and I’m still writing – regardless of the size of my platform.

What do you think about the need for a platform? How do you balance platform building with writing? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Avoiding a Spectacular Podcast Crash

Two weeks ago we talked about the benefits of podcasting to grow an audience for our books. Then we discussed possible downsides of podcasting and how podcasting isn’t right for everyone. Today we’ll look at one more consideration: the crash and burn.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, about ten altogether. Some are monthly, others twice a month or weekly, and a few are more often. Three of them had spectacular fails. As a loyal listener they let me down, and because of the increased connection that a podcast affords over a blog, I felt my disappointment in them more profoundly.

Peters Out: The first podcast started out aggressively, with daily podcasts. It actually provided too much information too often. After about one month it went to weekdays only and later to three days a week. Months later new episodes appeared haphazardly and eventually stopped altogether. After four months of silence, the host launched a new podcast, with a different format but the same theme. He’s doing them three days a week. Since the host lost my trust with his first podcast failure, I’m not so interested in following him anymore.

Goes Dark: Another podcast started with one podcast a week and kept it up for several months. Then some things happened in the host’s personal life and she missed a few weeks. She never did get back to once a week and hasn’t posted anything new for a couple of months. I have no idea what happened.

Takes a Long Break: The third podcast was also once a week. It had an established track record but stopped abruptly with no notice. After no new episodes for six months, a couple of random ones showed up, with an explanation that the host took time off to write a book. Now the regular weekly schedule is re-emerging, but my enthusiasm still lags.

With each of these podcasts the host build an online rapport with me and then effectively abandoned me. I feel betrayed and let down. I don’t trust them as much as I once did.Podcasting tips: have a sustainable schedule, be consistent, and keep listeners informed. Click To Tweet

Although the second podcaster gave some initial explanation for missed episodes, all three of them stopped without notice. Had they issued even a short podcast to explain what was happening, I’d have understood but to just go away feels disrespectful.

To avoid falling into the same trap: have a sustainable schedule, be consistent, and keep listeners informed. This demonstrates respect for your audience and reveals your professionalism.

Have you ever been disappointed by a podcaster? What do you think is a good podcast frequency? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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My Experience With Podcasting

Last week I mentioned four benefits of having an author podcast to build our platform. The reasons are compelling. But before jumping in, we need to consider if podcasting makes sense for us.

I was an early adopter of podcasting. Though I don’t have the dates, it was shortly after I started blogging, so around 2009 or 2010. Those podcasts are no longer online so I can’t even verify when.

My process was simple. I’d interview people at conventions. I used a digital recorder with a cheap mic, didn’t prep for the interview, and made no edits afterwards. I just posted the raw files. Overall it wasn’t bad – as long as my subjects were extroverts and didn’t clam up in front of a microphone. However the results were far from professional and wouldn’t meet the much higher expectations of people today.

So before you jump into podcasting, consider the following five questions:

Do You Enjoy Public Speaking? Some people can stand in front of an audience and offer an interesting monologue with little prep and no anxiety. Accomplished orators usually make for good podcasters. However, if public speaking terrifies you, podcasting won’t be much better. Yes, a podcast doesn’t have people staring at us, but we also don’t have any visual cues from our audience to know if we are connecting with them.

Are You Blogging? Are you currently blogging? Are you doing so consistently, according to a schedule? Do you have enough content ideas? The reality is that if you’re having trouble blogging, you will most likely struggle even more with podcasting.

Do You Have Time to Prep? Six years ago I got away with doing no prep work. That won’t fly today. For interviews you need to research your guest and formulate twice as many questions as you will need. If you’re not doing an interview but a monologue, the prep time is even greater, the same as for a speech.

Are You Willing to Do Post-Production Work? You will need to edit the recording. No matter how much you planned or how good you are, you will need to edit the file. You’ll also want to add an intro and an outro. Though you can outsource this, that costs money.

Will You Invest in the Right Equipment? Though you don’t need much of an investment to produce a decent podcast, you do need a quality microphone, as well as software to record and edit the results. Then you’ll need a site to post the files. (Putting them on your website or blog could crash your site if too many people try to listen at once.) You’ll also need a computer with a good Internet connection and a quiet place to do the recording.[Weigh the benefits and costs of podcasting before you begin. Click To Tweet

Starting a podcast can be enjoyable. It can also be taxing if you aren’t the right personality for the task or ready to do what needs to be done to do it well.

Weigh the benefits and costs before you begin.

Do you think you are the right personality to be a successful podcaster? Do the benefits offset the detriments? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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The Power of Podcasting: Four Reasons to Have an Author Podcast

It seems people are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon. They want to grow their audience and build their platform in order to sell their books (or whatever other product or service they have to offer).

This makes sense. Look at the recent surge of interest in audiobooks, with people who “read” books by listening to a recording. They do this during their commute to and from work, as they exercise, or when they attend to projects around the house. They have become voracious “readers” without ever opening a book or turning on their e-reader.

Podcasting extends the audiobook mindset. A podcast simply becomes another audio expression for these folks to consume.

Here are some of the benefits of author podcasts:

Another Channel to Reach Readers: A natural communication channel for writers is the written word. Blogging connects nicely with that. Readers read books; readers read blogs. It makes sense, a lot of sense. However readers who listen to books won’t likely read a blog, but they will likely listen to a podcast. With podcasting writers have two ways to reach their audience.

Another Means to Connect with Readers: When we read a book or blog post we use the sense of sight to see the words. When we listen to a book or a podcast we use the sense of sound. With audio we use voice inflections, interject emphasis, and add timing to each sentence as we speak. These benefits of audio all allow us a better means to connect with our audience.

Another Creative Outlet For Authors: Writing is a creative art; so is speaking. Both communicate but in different ways. Both provide creative outlets, but which tap different aspects of our creativity.

A Fun Break From Writing: No matter how much we like to write, we all need to take a break. After all, once we spend a full day working on our book, do we really want to spend another hour writing a blog post? Not likely, but spending that hour on podcasting provides a nice alternative to writing. Then we can return to writing with a refreshed perspective.Use a podcast to build your author platform. Click To Tweet

Given these great benefits you might be ready to jump on the podcasting bandwagon. Not so fast. First you need to consider whether podcasting is right for you. Next week I’ll look at my experience with podcasting, which should provide some more insight into this intriguing communication option.

Do you listen to podcasts? Have you ever done a podcast? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Is Your Website Responsive?

With more and more people viewing websites from mobile devices, it’s critical that our sites work well with smaller screens, that they are “responsive.” In simple terms, a responsive website is one that automatically resizes to fit the viewing area of the appliance accessing it.

In the past this meant making a separate version of each page for mobile screens, be it a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, and so forth. Now many website themes have this functionality built into them. If a theme isn’t “responsive,” then don’t use it.

Having a responsive website, one that is mobile friendly, is important for two reasons. First, we are near a point where the majority of sites are accessed not by a computer but by a portable device. Not having a responsive site hampers half our readers from having a usable experience.

The other key reason is that Google is reportedly rewarding responsive sites by placing them higher in search engine results. This means they are effectively penalizing sites that do not play well with mobile devices.

Although you could test your site with every size and type of mobile appliance to see if it is responsive, Google has provided an online tool to check for us. Just enter your web address (URL) and click “analyze.” It takes less than a minute.

If it says “mobile-friendly,” then you are all set. If it reports your site is “not mobile-friendly,” then find a responsive theme or hire a website developer to correct the problem.

Whether we are selling books or promoting something else, our websites are there for people to use. We don’t want to eliminate half the population because our site doesn’t work well with mobile devices.

Platform Building Gurus Should Issue a Disclaimer

The production of books is only the first step of book publishing; the second – and more important part – is selling them. To sell books, whether we traditionally publish or self-publish, we need a platform. This is something most authors struggle with.

Fortunately, many people will tell us how to build a viable brand-building, book-promoting, product-selling platform. Most take their personal experience, package it as a formula, and sell it in the form of a book, a class, or personal coaching. They will show us how they grew their Facebooks likes or Twitter followers or Google+ circles to astronomical heights. Others explain how to develop a huge blog following or compile a gigantic email list or generate enviable website traffic. They generally say something to the effect of, “Look what I did in such a short time. If I can do it, so can you!”

Unfortunately, I suspect that in most cases their formula is not replicable – at least not for the majority of people. When these experts experienced their success, they were in the right place, at the right time, with the right conditions. But as we attempt to follow their advice, we are in a different place, at a different time, with different conditions. With all the variables changing, it’s unlikely to expect we’ll enjoy the same results they achieved.

When they market their platform-building formula, they should include a disclaimer, similar to what is required for investments, such as “Past performance does not guarantee future results.” Seriously, this is critical.

Sure, they can likely point to a handful of success stories, but there are many more failures, of people who paid them money, followed their steps, and missed reaching the desired results. These people aren’t failures who didn’t follow directions, they are people faced with a different situation: in a different place, at a different time, with different conditions.

This doesn’t mean we should dismiss all the platform-building gurus. We can learn from them, and we can grow our platform, but we shouldn’t expect the same results, because “Individual results may vary.”