There is no doubt that a very good way to start to build a platform is to blog. Many of you already do. Many of your blogs were mentioned and visited during the Blogoffee Party on Friday.
- There are other good reasons for writers to blog, not just platform construction
- You have to blog properly for it to have effect
- The opportunity to make contacts - thereby creating a possible platform and leading to unpredictable things, such as an influential person happening to like what you do and promoting you in some small way which could lead to a big way. (You can't/shouldn't be contrived about this - just let it happen).
- The opportunity to follow other blogs about writing and by writers and industry professionals - thereby increasing knowledge of the whole business, making you more publishable and better prepared
- The opportunity to make friends amongst other writers - an excellent reason and result
- The opportunity to write - when you blog you are writing; and writing, writing anything, is GOOD for a writer. More than good: essential
- The opportunity to get instant feedback - the book you are writing now, even if it is snapped up, won't be published until perhaps two years from now. Your blog posts are published with the click of a finger and read seconds later.
Here are my rules for successful and happy blogging:
- have something to say - content is king. What you had for breakfast is not interesting unless it is interesting. We all have breakfast - why would I spend time reading about yours? People need a reason to read you and people are busy. There are countless blogs they could be reading. If you haven't got something that will hold an audience for a long post, be brief - a lesson I should really learn myself...
- be yourself - since you need to develop a voice and since you have to blog often, spontaneously, and over many months, being yourself makes it much easier to sustain.
- but, while being yourself, have a theme, a feel, a "brand". (Sorry to go all markety - call it a personal style instead, if you like.) It is possible to blog about a range of things, but people need to know what to expect when they come to your blog. For example, you expect me to give publishing advice in a more or less crabbit way; in the process, you expect me sometimes to sound off vaguely amusingly and certainly trenchantly, and to go gooey over chocolate, boots and sparkly wine. That's my "brand" - it's also utterly me.
- have links to relevant blogs on your blog. Do keep them relevant though, or sort them into topics. Again, it's about people needing to know what to expect and therefore why they should spend time with you. Why should they visit? Will they have fun, learn something, connect with others? Or what?
- if stuck for something to say one day, post links to relevant things you find - videos, articles or pics. You don't need permission to link to anyone else's blog but quoting substantially from another person's words is breaking the law, so ask. Chances are they'll be delighted. A short quote (and there's no definition of short ...) comes under "fair use " (US) or "fair dealing" (UK) and requires no permission, though you must always credit the writer, provide the source and quote 100% accurately. Some bloggers include a message about what permission you need - see mine in the bottom right column.
- keep your blog tidy and well-organised so people can find what you want them to find
- blog regularly. Two to three times a week is good; once a week is acceptable but is probably the minimum if you want to keep your readers growing.
- link to Twitter - I'll be talking about Twitter next Monday.
- your blog should not just be about you, unless you are completely fascinating. Or even, frankly, if you are. A blog has to be more giving than that. This is so important that I will now elaborate:
This sharing aspect means that you must visit other blogs, comment and get involved. What you can't do is go to someone else's blog and jump into the comments with a plug for your blog. This is very bad blog form. If by chance you've just blogged about the same thing, it would be acceptable to mention this, but give due credit and praise to the blog you are visiting. Be very polite. You wouldn't turn up at someone's house uninvited and start telling them about your success. I hope...
I've read (can't remember where) a paradigm of the rules of promotion in this context, which states that there should be 60% take and 40% give. I'd put it the other way round. If you give more than you take, I think this is better in the long run, makes you more friends, and allows for a slow-burn of success. It feels better too. Maybe that's just me but I'd absolutely hate it if people thought I was doing any of this cynically or selfishly.
There's a thin line between promoting your work and showing off. Of course, not everyone will agree where the line is...
But this brings me to a personal point: those who don't know me well may be thinking, "What, so all this apparent generosity on Nicola Morgan's part, all this providing of info for free, actually is all about creating a platform for herself? She's not really a chocolate-loving, sexy-boot-wearing, sparkly-wine-loving, pseudo-crabbit old bat - this is just a persona she has built in order to promote herself as a brand?"
- I really am that person - there is nothing contrived here at all
- I started the blog for one reason only - I wanted to help writers not approach agents and editors in really stupid ways, because I kept seeing them doing it and it really bugged me. I woke up one morning, early, and started, spontaneously, after a particularly annoying incident where some unpublished writers had shown inexcusable ignorance.
- I have continued blogging for one reason only - I love doing it, absolutely love it. I hope that shines through. But I love meeting people in all sorts of ways - parties, dinners, meetings, events, festivals. I am, frankly, a communication and contact junkie. It was only once I got going that I realised that I was inadvertently (but happily, I admit) developing some kind of "platform".
Still not convinced of the practical point? In the last two weeks alone I have been contacted by seven very decent bloggers who wanted me to do interviews or guest posts on their blogs. Two of the results are here (no need to see both, as they are the same interview on two different blogs). America Reads and What are Writers Reading? Another is going up in a few days and was amusing to do - it was Coffee With a Canine, in which my dog gets to eat biscuits on the sofa and tell squirrel-chasing stories. The others are in progress.
But wouldn't a marketing person want to measure increased sales? Maybe they would, but me? Nah, I'm having way too much fun just writing. Yes, if I could be bothered, I could list positive things that have happened, but I'm not going to. I will just say that I have learnt a lot and that value the conversations we've all had here. And if I hadn't sold a single extra book, I honestly wouldn't mind, though I know very well that I have. You've told me.
So, thank you for allowing me to blog at you so lengthily. (Yes, I know, often too lengthily.) And now, get back to your blogs and prepare for publication...
Meanwhile, I'm off to blog about Twittering, to be posted next Monday. And be aware that I'm away all this week so can't easily reply to your comments, but I will be reading them. I have eyes everywhere.