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Writing My Memoir #6: The Difficulty of Writing a Book and Growing an Author Platform

Photo by Kosmolaut, Flickr Creative Commons

The first year or so of writing my book, I also tried to build platform. I am NOT a “platform person” and struggled with this idea at first, but knew it was a necessary beast. I never had a huge flashy platform by any means. I never went viral. But I did have a smallish (and growing) audience of engaged readers who seemed to really care about the topics I wrote about. I blogged 1-2 times per week consistently about issues pertaining to my book, remained active on Twitter, and contributed to the larger blogosphere with guest posts.

 

I enjoyed the immediacy of blogging and how my readers shaped my ideas with their feedback (both positive and critical).

 

I DIDN’T enjoy the constant demands and the unspoken requirement to always be plugged in.

 

I found it difficult to toggle between the short, pithy writing style the Internet demanded and the longer, slow-cooking process of writing a book. Despite this, I continued to do both for a long while because that’s what is expected of modern writers.

 

But when I went into hibernation with my manuscript, I stopped all the blogging and all the tweeting. I realized the constant blogging was shaping my voice in a negative way–the “bloggy voice” was creeping into my book and it was not wanted there, not one bit. I needed to enter the voice of my book and stay there. I needed to chew on it for long periods of time without thinking about writing a time-sensitive reaction piece on the latest scandal in fundamentalism with an SEO friendly headline. I needed to spend time with my characters and stay there, not be constantly mining my life for blog-winning stories that could be told in 700 words.

 

A book is not a series of blog posts. A voice that thrives on the Internet does not hold up to an 80,000-word manuscript.

 

I do not mean to discredit any author who blogs while she writes a book–on the contrary, I’m in awe of someone with that ability. For me, the writing styles demanded two different parts of my brain, and the Internet’s demand for my attention stretched me too thin. I didn’t have the capacity to do both.

 

So I quit the Internet, wrote my book, and when I came back, my blog was dead.

 

Neglecting my platform may have been good for me personally, but it made it even harder to seek out representation for my book. I had one agent tell me, during a face-to-face meeting at a large conference, that the merits of my actual book mattered nothing because she would not be able to sell anything I write based on my appearance. Not kidding, she actually sized me up and said, “with memoir, we really have to sell the person’s face now, and based on your lack of platform and you [gestures at me from across the table] I can’t do that.”

 

No platform + boring face = no book deal for Carly that day.

 

Her ruthlessness aside, she was right. I had no platform. Whatever momentum I had was lost because I went on an extended honeymoon with my book.

 

Learn from my mistake–or do exactly as I do, knowing the consequences. Someone once asked me, “in the end, do you want to be a blogger or an author?” And the answer to that question is how I justify going MIA on the Internet for two years.

 

I know I’m not the only author who has struggled with their platform–or lack of one. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (And if anyone has an idea on how to juggle writing a book while maintaining a Fabulous Internet Presence, please spill your secrets!)

 

I began to think about platform as something bigger than my number of Twitter followers and that changed everything…

 

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