Letters from the real world: How many planks in a platform?

By Cait Reynolds
The things I get excited about...

The things I get excited about…

There are days when I am relatively on top of things. Then, there are days that start like today, where I tried to put my lipstick in the dishwasher, because my brain was thinking about blogging, whether I should try to incorporate Wattpad into my promo work, and was Reddit really an option for me?

Okay fine, maybe it’s just my brain. But, can you blame me? I’ve got a mothership website now. I’m blogging semi-regularly. I’m active on Twitter. I’m still trying to motivate myself to get on GoodReads. And every singly day, new ideas for promotional outlets come my way:

  • Be an “expert” on Reddit.
  • Get into StumbleUpon.
  • Chat in Facebook groups.
  • Are there any Google Groups out there that are worth it?
  • Oh crap, I just remembered I’ve been meaning to make a video for YouTube.
  • Is anybody actually paying attention to me on YouTube?
  • What the heck do I say on YouTube?

ARGH.

Every article I read talks about how awesome this particular social media outlet is, or how much impact you can make by doing XYZ. It all seems SO important, and I always feel SO behind because I’ve either never heard of it or have never used it. Therefore, I have the following reactions:

  • Gut-wrenching anxiety that my books will never sell because I haven’t been using this particular site
  • Panicked creation of of an account (forgetting to write down the password because I have to make sure it links up with everything)
  • Frantic scanning and skimming with SuperBrain analysis trying to figure out what the patterns are to the most popular people on the site (no surprise, it tends to be the people who write the most….)
  • Adding it to my weekly list of marketing activities
  • Feeling guilty when I forget to check in on that site…several weeks in a row
  • Riding the wave of worthlessness and despair because I haven’t instantly mastered that particular social media site (see bullet #1 for additional wave of anxiety)
  • Pissily declaring that I don’t care and am not going to use the site anyway
  • Reading another article about an awesome social media outlet
  • Lather, rinse, repeat

The point is, we all read about how we need an author platform. The question remains for each individual author, though, how many planks can you handle?

Literally, how much time do you have in your day to spend on this stuff? Where do you natural promotional talents lie? And don’t skirt the issue, every author has promotional talents, especially since 99.9% of this stuff involves writing (and not the dreaded telephone).

For me, I’ve discovered the following things:

  • I’m great at Twitter one-liners, but I suck at figuring out hashtags
  • I write great blog posts (*does yoga to pat self on the back*) but I don’t really have good traction yet with getting people to read them
  • I am a great public speaker (LOTS of experience with this…and if I can hold 200 18 year-old’s spellbound for 40 minutes, I can do anything) but I need to figure out when/where/how to get more of these gigs
  • I’m interested in a lot of things outside of writing…unfortunately, most of them are so outlandish that it’s hard to find large groups of people to commune with (i.e. Renaissance astronomy, the science of mummies, Venetian history, prehistoric cave art…yes, I speak High-Nerdish as a second language)
  • I have fantastic intentions when I join a “group” to chat and participate…and then it becomes a chore, and I become a resentful 2-year old about having to post
  • I love Pinterest and Tumblr – LOVE them…just haven’t figured out how to make them work for me, and am kind of worried that if I do, I’ll stop enjoying them

So, where does this leave me for promotional techniques? I’ll tell you: still struggling. Granted, I’m only four months into this full-time writing career, so it’s early days yet. But, I know (with the creeping urgency of years of dot-com marketing experience behind me) that I need to figure out my promotional formula sooner than later. Books don’t sell themselves, and books that don’t sell themselves don’t put money in the bank, and then the electricity gets turned off…not quite, but you get the idea.

How many planks in my platform can I handle? I have a grim feeling that it’s not as many as I want to. I’m probably like a three-plank girl. But what those are are still to be determined. It may get to the point where eenie-meenie-miney-moe is employed.

Or a Magic 8 Ball.

And sometimes, that’s the most accuracy you can hope for in marketing.

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