Re-Examining Platform

platformSo. *big sigh* Here’s my conundrum:

I’ve been blogging for two years. It’s been fun. I’ve written about all sorts of silliness, like Miniature Cannons and Urban Foraging. I’ve shared some of the things I enjoy, like the Antique Arms Show and Giving Voice to Ancient Trees, and let’s not forget the Mutter Museum of Medical History. Good times.

I’ve changed things up, posting as often as five times a week and then snipping off days until just once a week. Currently I’m on a two-day cycle. The thing is – I’m sort of feeling like the edge is off.

Traffic is okay. It creeps up, a little higher each month, mostly as a result of search engine traffic…certainly not because I’m collecting new visitors. I’ve heard all the rhetoric about building platform and luring readers to your site. I don’t think it works. The logic is fallacious. Reasonably speaking, 1+1 does not necessarily equal 2 when there are a multitude of variables outside your control. Meaningful engagement is required for connections to translate across the social media boundaries. People searching for information found on your blog do not subsequently want to read everything else you’ve produced.salesman

The idea behind platform is to figure out a more directed audience by targeting a specific demographic. I think that’s a great deal more difficult to determine, much less to accomplish. There are plenty of people willing to show you how it’s done, so long as you cough up some cash. The world is filled with folks who make a living off writers who aren’t making one.


Social media is important, providing a way for authors to connect with readers. Still, making yourself available is a good idea but it isn’t a requirement. Look around. There are plenty of authors (well-known and otherwise) who simply don’t participate in the social whirl. Platform, social media, and marketing are tools designed to get your work read. How do you handle your tools? Are you a seasoned journeyman who wields the tool bag with skill and finesse – or a bumbling inept apprentice who can’t even find the job site?

time sucksPersonally, I’m not sure where I stand in that continuum and I don’t have any answers. But I do think the time has come for me to decide if how I’m spending the hours of my day with blogging, updating the website, sending tweets, facebooking, and funneling posts through tribes is worthwhile time management. Sixty minutes a day doesn’t seem like much of a commitment but that’s hours a month I could be doing something else. Like writing. Or cooking. Or reading. Or staring at the grass and wishing I had a zombie to push the mower.

Being a big believer in empirical evidence, I like to try something before accepting or rejecting its efficacy. On occasion this has led me to experiment with some options perhaps better left untried… but how do you know, if you never try?

Most of the writers I know aren’t trying to make a living with their writing – goodness, but there are only about a million easier ways to make money. We’re trying to find the right audience to enjoy our hard work, those folks who will nod and laugh and groan with our characters, shiver with delight when happy events happen, and hunch their shoulders with dismay when things go bad for the protagonist. We search for those readers ready to fall into the worlds we’ve spilled out of our minds and onto the page.

searchingThe tricky part is finding those lovely people and connecting with them, letting them know our words are waiting to be read. So that’s where I am, re-evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t. I’d like to get better at finding my audience, even if it’s very small. I’ve got a second short story collection, a stand-alone short, and two novellas releasing between now and the end of summer. I’m hoping to connect with the people who want to enjoy them.

word of mouth

happy readers share your work

My work schedule is about to shift and a big lifestyle change looms on the horizon starting next September. Many of my regular activities may simply cease, casualties of a too-busy calendar. There’s still plenty I have to say in the blogosphere. Heaven knows, I’m not going to stop researching bizarre crap and feeling the need to share. I’ve got a lot of publishing lined up in the queue and the more time I spend here, means the less time I allocate to getting the words distributed. I haven’t submitted anything to editors and agents in months – and that’s something I’d like to explore again. As a writer, it’s smart to spread our words around to multiple outlets.

arrowWhat’s your opinion about platform and social media? How do you manage the time you have? Do you find the things you enjoy sometimes get subsumed by the tasks you must complete?

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  1. #1 by patriciasands on March 21, 2013 - 4:16 am

    Oh. Yes. *sigh* – it’s so hard to know the answer to all of this pondering about social media. I enjoy your posts and hope you don’t stop writing them. However cutting back is definitely a good option and one I am seriously going to look at in the near future. I only post twice a week and sometimes that gets cut back to one. We have to make wise choices about how our writing time is best spent and just why in the world we are caught up in all of these areas of s/m. Decisions, decisions …

    • #2 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 9:50 am

      Thanks, Patricia. I do like blogging and I doubt I’ll stop entirely, although I may explore “random” posts. I know the hard and fast rule is to post regularly but if I’m going to futz around with the rules, I might as well knock that one too! Cutting back is a regular refrain in my life, which isn’t bad, since it’s a reflection of having many interests. I do feel like being spread too thin means I can’t give the attention to specific projects which I really want to, at least not without sacrificing something else. It always feels less like a balancing act and more like jettisoning stuff over the side in order to stay afloat. I have no idea where the maritime analogy came from….

  2. #3 by Catie Rhodes on March 22, 2013 - 6:54 am

    Lesann, I saw this yesterday and left the post in my browser window because I really, really wanted to reply.

    I’m in the same situation as you. I have a relatively successful blog, but I am learning that blog views do not necessarily equal people who will be interested in reading my fiction.

    Like you, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my blog views come from people trolling around the internet looking for FREE (but well written) information. These folks could care less about the source of the information. The information could have come from me or Pee Wee Herman. As long as they got to read about whatever topic is interesting to them at the moment, they are happy.

    I enjoy researching and blogging about topics that interest me. However, as you say, there are a MILLION other things I could be doing during the hours I spend informing the masses. Including looking at the grass and wishing I had a zombie to push a mower. Loved that one, by the way.

    I will soon be moving to a self-hosted website. I am considering using the move to cut back on the number of days I blog. After all, it is possible for me to make *some* money writing fiction. On the other hand, unless I want to get into selling advertising space and doing the Amazon affiliate thing, it is NOT possible for me to make money on my blog. In addition, it does not look as though the blog posts are going to drive traffic to my fiction.

    Thanks for telling it like it is. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide to do. 🙂

    • #4 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 9:55 am

      Thanks Catie, for making the time to read, bookmark, and come back to leave a comment. I like blogging but I also like a lot of other things and it feels like too much without detracting from one project or another. I agree with your comments about people looking for free information – I’m often one of them. Internet research makes me so happy…but while I find many interesting things I don’t recall ever purchasing anything from one of those sites. Another good point was the fact that making money on a blog is possible (but I dislike all the advertising – and it isn’t my goal anyhow). For me the idea behind my website/blog was to provide a way to organize the stuff I resource during writing. As my work has become available and I’ve gotten more involved in the writing community, it’s transformed into more of a hub for things related to my writing. I’m not sure what my expectations are (which could be telling), but it’s time to re-evaluate. Thanks for weighing in. 🙂

  3. #5 by Aaron M. Ritchey (@AaronMRitchey) on March 22, 2013 - 8:47 am

    Great post, Ms. Berry. And I even quoted you on Facebook. I do a little bit of the social networking everyday. I’m more of a hands-on, look ’em in the eye type of guy, so I do a lot of handselling. Funny, I like that words better than trying to pimp myself online. But I do a little, and I do what I like: Facebook and Author interviews. If you are interested, my interviews are unique and fun. I posted two this week. Traffic is like noon in Hays, Kansas on a Wednesday. So I got that going for me. Good luck!

    • #6 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 10:00 am

      Thank you, Aaron. I feel famous – I’ve been quoted on FB! I started to say that I hang around the fringes of social media, but I’ll be honest, I’m a lurker. I think handselling isn’t appreciated the way it should be, if you think about it, it’s the purest form of social interaction. One-on-one “here look at what I did” and show’em your book. I think the online pimping works, else why do people continue to do it – but it does feel like a lot of shouting into the chasm.

      I think your point that you do what you like is critically important. Success in any medium requires a certain level of comfort. I will definitely check out your interviews and I hear that Hays is an up-and-coming place (they have buffalo!), traffic will only get better. 😉 Thanks for offering yet another great viewpoint.

  4. #7 by Christine Ashworth on March 22, 2013 - 9:11 am

    Thanks, Leslie – Both Catie and Aaron pointed me in this direction, as I’ve fallen off the blogging bandwagon (while taking a blogging class, lol). I now don’t feel so bad.

    I do enjoy it, and shall enjoy my piddling few visitors that come along whenever I post. Best of luck to you, and happy writing!

    • #8 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 10:05 am

      Hi Christine! Thanks for trundling over and visiting. I don’t want to bash blogging because I’ve found it be wonderful writing exercise, a fun way to connect and interact with folks, and a place to archive all the weirdo crap I research and then find nothing to do with. But there are times when I think as writers, we allow ourselves to become convinced that we need to keep doing something long after its usefulness has passed.

      Hmm… there may be a connection there to personality profile. I digress.

      Like anything, when an activity is enjoyable, it comes easily. I try to weigh the return happiness from any action against the outgo of energy and effort – for the most part blogging is pretty equitable until my schedule explodes. I’ve taken a few blogging classes and learned helpful and useful ideas, connected with some awesome people, and even made friends. Good luck to you and I hope you find your way back on the wagon!

  5. #9 by Bridgette Booth on March 22, 2013 - 9:15 am

    What a thoughtful post Leslie. I, too, have had to re-evalate platform, and make significant changes to my habits. Although I’d like to have a thriving social media presence, I haven’t found the fairy dust or discipline that will make it happen for me.

    Since December I have rigorously recorded my writing time on my current WIP. Nothing else but the creating, writing, revising, editing tasks. My first 6 weeks, I was 62% BELOW my time estimate for those weeks. Not that I wasn’t on my laptop, I was, but my time was being spent elsewhere. This past 6 week session I flipped that number to 1% OVER my writing time estimate. The difference? Doing very little, or no, social media.

    It’s not that I don’t want the platform with all the trimmings, but I don’t know how to mesh it into my current lifestyle while also creating fiction.. It may be possible, but I don’t know how, so I have shelved trying to figure it out until the next season.

    The link above is from a blog by Cal Newport who has written 3 or 4 NF books, focused essentially on how to think harder and better. In that particular blog post, he writes about Neal Stephenson, an author who does not answer email. Email!! I’m not ready to be that cut off, but I do appreciate the difference between his focus and mine.

    Good luck as you re-consider platform.

    • #10 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 10:26 am

      Thanks for the link to Cal Newport’s article, I’ll head over and read it in just a minute. I realize from looking at the number of comments that this subject concerns many, I think because we’re all trying to figure out how to best utilize our time to meet our goals.

      I have to try something on, in order to see how it works for me. I’ve taken several workshops with people who are considered experts on branding and social media, and I learned helpful ideas and implemented suggestions that helped me navigate to a place where I enjoy a certain level of success (all things being relative). Like you, I haven’t hit on the right combination of things that has catapulted me into the higher and more active communities of writers/bloggers but I’ve also come around to realizing I’m okay with that. Part of this I attribute to my curmudgeonly personality which would rather huddle in the corner with a cup of coffee and glower at people – but mostly it’s because I can’t imagine being more actively involved than I already am.

      Another aspect, is the fact that I don’t have concrete goals for my writing, other than getting it out in a form that people can find. I’ve watched talented and dedicated writers lose sight of what they enjoy about the creative process because selling their work suddenly takes over their focus – that isn’t a slam on Indie authors either, I see this with traditionally published friends too.

      Reading the results of your experiment in time management resonates with me. I need to cut back, I know that. I don’t want to. Giving up anything feels like a sacrifice. Next comes the difficult part of deciding what gets to stay on the schedule and what doesn’t. If I could give up e-mail, that would be divine, but the day jobs don’t allow that luxury. Talk about a time-suck!

      • #11 by Bridgette Booth on March 26, 2013 - 9:25 am

        We can curmudge in the corner together, Leslie. I’ve read enough of your stories to know that you will develop a group of loyal readers soon, if you haven’t already. In fact, I can imagine a cult-like readership enjoying your glowering. : )

        • #12 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 26, 2013 - 11:27 am

          Bwahahaha! That would make me…. wait for it…. a Cult Leader! Mom and Dad will be so proud. I love that curmudge is now a verb, Bridgette. Thanks for the big ego boost on the writing. It’s one thing to fill up the computer with stories, but when I started sending them out for agent perusal and publishing directly to readers, it feel’s like a different game altogether. There’s that whole aspect of made-for-consumption that has to be balanced against the but-this-is-the-way-I-like-it when preparing to share a story. I think platform is a little like that too – what do you share, what do you keep private. That’s different for each person, both writer and reader, so it’s no wonder we get involved in the occasional collision or simply slide past without connecting. At any rate, I’m ready to glower any time you are.

          One of these days I’m going to make it to Dallas for that darn conference.

  6. #13 by Marcia on March 22, 2013 - 10:34 am

    So timely for me, Lesann! I’ve been feeling just as you are. I’ve been plaqued with a stomach problem for the past couple of months and have not had the focus for blogging or writing. Being ill may not be the preferred way to find time for re-evaluation, but it has worked for me.
    I’m burnt out on blogging. I’ve been blogging for 9 years and there is little I can get excited about posting 4-5 times a month. My blog has sat dormant for several weeks and I haven’t missed it. I’ve been doing other things like sleeping, taking meds, trying to eat but also painting, reading, reorganizing, planning and thinking.
    I have another month+ of feeling lousy to look forward to and, in that time, I will have designed a definitive direction for my own platform. This platform will likely be blogging once a month and writing books.
    Social media is tough thing for me to get into. I have no problem promoting others’ work and blogs but, as Bridgette said, “I haven’t found the fairy dust or discipline” to make any other type of social networking work for me.
    I love our group of writer friends and I can’t imagine disconnecting from the group, as I’ve learned so much and feel a camaraderie there.
    I’ll be writing a post explaining the changes that will take place on my blog in the next few weeks and I’ll continue my Redhots posts with Jess Witkins one Friday each month. not sure what else is in store yet.
    I wish you well in determining the direction your platform will ultimately take, Les. This is a wonderfully thoughtful and thought-provoking post. The comments were quite insightful as well.:)

    • #14 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 1:08 pm

      I’m glad to hear you’re on the mend, Marcia. Being ill certainly helps re-prioritize what matters, doesn’t it? I like blogging, as long as it doesn’t feel forced. When it does, then it’s a sign to switch things up. I do find that even though I enjoy it, the end-result isn’t as productive for my larger long-term goals. For that reason, it may be one of the things that falls by the wayside for a while. Or maybe I’ll find a new direction to channel my interests.

      All of this is definitely not a one-size-fits-all process. I find it useful to hear about the challenges and solutions others have encountered in finding their way. In some ways I think the idea of platform is pretty simple – but getting there is more difficult, and I suspect it’s even harder to maintain once you’ve established a presence. I’m happy that it generated so much interest. 🙂

  7. #15 by Barbara McDowell on March 22, 2013 - 11:17 am

    Get out of my brain, Leslie. You mean we can contract the zombies? I’ve got some filing tasks for one. 😉

    I’ve struggled with social media presence against blogging against writing against the day gig hours. I let go of my blog mash-ups and crazy blog post reading because it was taking away too much writing time. I went from 3 posts a week to nothing when I hit a wall. I lost the higher blog hits each day, but find my random posts work better for me. Better to share that way than not at all. Blogging has introduced me to a great community of other writers and I can keep that steady by sharing and giving back when I can without going total MIA.

    My focus is on finishing my novel and getting more pub credits for my short stories. I also don’t know how some others manage to be so prolific on the blogging, tweeting, FB sharing, blog reading and keep steady on the WIP. I’m not in a place where I can be a full-time writer and I’m balancing many hats. Ending my ramble. Great post and good luck finding your balance.

    • #16 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 22, 2013 - 1:13 pm

      You know what they say, Miss Barbara, great minds think alike. Or it could have been that demon brew back at that party Jenny hosted. Hm.

      Ultimately it boils down to time management for me. I have to choose what to keep and what to toss. That’s hard because I don’t want to give up any of the things I enjoy, can’t give up some of the commitments because they’re sort of necessary for survival in today’s world, and have to make a decision before the end of summer.

      Blog statistics are fascinating to me. I’ll write something about writing and get huge responses, which tells me I’m connecting with people who are interested in writing. On the other hand, I’ll write a post about processing animal remains and get equally large reactions, but I doubt they’re coming from the same crowd. My interests are eclectic and so is my audience. I don’t want to have a narrow demographic because my writing focus isn’t that constrained either. It’s an interesting conundrum but I sure appreciate the comments and sharing people have offered up today. 🙂

  8. #17 by Virginia Ripple on March 23, 2013 - 6:48 am

    I gave up blogging and cut way back on tweeting and FB for much the same reason. As you said, an hour per day adds up. I’d like to be able to offer my readers more than one book, but I can’t do that if I don’t put actual writing first. It’s a great idea to evaluate these ideas we keep hearing we should do before we accept them. Thanks for the reminder.

    • #18 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 23, 2013 - 6:09 pm

      I miss visiting everyone’s blog and keeping up with what’s happening. I’m at the point where I check only a handful every other week. I figure if I don’t have the time, then they probably don’t either. I’ve tried various things (long short v short post), but have just concluded that it’s a crapshoot for the most part. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stopping and starting either. I know that goes against the consistency alarmists, but if nobody has the time to read on a regular basis, they can catch up when they visit, that’s what I do now. I drop by and read the last four or five posts. Anyhoo, it’s nice to have input from others, thanks for joining the conversation….and I dig the new photo!

  9. #19 by Angela Wallace on March 26, 2013 - 8:53 am

    It’s nice to read an honest perspective that goes against the “expectations” of the “experts.” I remember when I was blogging four times a week, and every week was this agonizing wrestling match to come up with something interesting to say. If I had just cut back, I could have made those topics stretch out for a year!

    Now I blog once a week, and I don’t do the in depth posts I used to. I just don’t have the time. So I try for quick and short, something that relates to my interests and book genre, but I don’t see much traffic or interaction on the blog. It’s a nice thought, and I’m fine keeping it up as long as it doesn’t take away from writing books.

    I’m not a very social person, and it’s hard for me to get involved. Social media isn’t the only arena where I’ve been told I need to be a certain way, and it’s just not who I am. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel I’m not cut out for the publishing world, until I accept myself. Maybe examining your platform comes down to that–knowing that you don’t have to fit the mold, and just do what you love, whether it’s blogging five times a week or not.

    • #20 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on March 26, 2013 - 11:18 am

      I know what you mean, Angela. The turn over of posts on some blogs is so rapid that I wonder how many awesome things I’ve missed because I couldn’t visit often enough. I find once or twice a week works for me but I don’t worry about switching things around anymore. This entire gig is a matter of what works for each person, not the collective. One of the nice things about having that backlog of old posts is being able to recycle one of your favorites every now and then. People like the nostalgia of seeing it again and for those who missed it, they have a new opportunity.

      I’m also not a big fan of blogs that are really narrow in their focus. This is especially true of writers. I want to know more about them than just what they write. I’m curious (read nosy here) about what Stephen King eats for breakfast (he never answered my question), or if Chelsea Cain likes cats (she does), or if Laurel Hamilton has a thing for men in kilts (she does). The length of posts is somewhat irrelevant for me – if its something I’m interested in, I’ll keep reading. I understand the timesuck of writing them though when you need to get back to editing.

      I’m with you – platform is a very individual fit. I think I just need to make mine a little more tailored to make it fit more comfortably. And blow raspberries at everyone who says otherwise. We should do lunch again!

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