I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus recently. Between finishing the first draft of Book One in The Marvelous Adventures of Sebastian Smith, and moving between states, I’ve been a little preoccupied. However, I’ve also been doing a lot of learning about self-publishing, platform building, and the art of selling yourself in 2013 with the help of my brilliant Denver based Writer’s Group [Name and Website To Be Developed Soon]
It occurred to me, as I was doing all this lovely learning, that a bunch of this information would be very useful to provide to the people who support my career and my success. There are plenty of simple actions that they can take which they might not realize have become very important in the current wave of social and technical revolution.
It also occurred to me that there are probably a ton of people out there who love and support a writer or an artist that might not know the best way to help them succeed, or even that they themselves are a critical part of that success. So I’ve put together a handy dandy list of five simple things you can do for your writer friend that will make a huge difference in their success.
You may not realize it but you, YES YOU, every single person reading this, have the power to contribute to the success of your friends and family. And it ain’t even gonna cost you a single dime, neither.
That’s right, none of these steps involve giving your friends money. If you have money to give them, disregard this list and just go give them money. Duh.
A Brief Word on Platforms
No, I’m not talking about bitchin’ shoes. I am talking about what every writer or artist or consultant or student or (really) person has to build in today’s interconnected work place. Namely everyone needs a platform. This is especially true for the creative type, who has droves of perfectly dandy work just sitting around collecting cyberdust on a hard drive somewhere.
What is a platform?
Platform is the word used for your combined social media presence. It is how people find you and your work in the online environment. It consists of loads of different pieces: Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs, Instagram, and any other subscription based social media outlet you can imagine for starters. These things combined are the tower on which you stand to put your face above the sea of other faces in the crush of cyberspace. And being seen directly correlates to being paid. At least, if the work is good. But the internet can’t really make your work good. Well, ok, it can. We’re splitting hairs here.
How does a platform work?
Platforms don’t necessarily work like you think they will. Not everyone can aspire to be George Takei, lording over his monarchy on Facebook and getting 10,000 likes every time he so much as clicks a link. And the good news is, a successful platform doesn’t have to be the best to bring success. A successful platform is more like a good audition piece for a publisher or client. It shows interested parties that more than just your mom and her cats think you have talent, and it shows that you are capable of refining and leveraging your unique persona into a marketable format. The critical levels vary based on your industry and who you talk to, but the important thing is that every creative type needs to have a significant social platform to stand on. But those platforms are not in competition with each other. They’re a threshold you have to pass, not a contest you have to win.
Anyway, on to the list! To find out what you can do, hit the jump!
#1: Like EVERYTHING They Do
I’m dead serious here. Any website on which you are friends with your writer, like every single thing they do. It takes almost no time, and it has very low social impact on you. However, it makes a huge difference in your friend’s social capital. I have 428 Facebook friends as of this posting. If every single one of them would just like the things I post on Facebook, I wouldn’t have to do another thing to create a leveragable platform. They don’t even have to read what I post. If they just took .5 seconds to click the like button, it would be done. Career made. I could take that to any agent in America and say “Look, I get almost 500 likes every time I fart on Facebook” and they’d sign me up today.
Seriously. Liking is THAT important. And that easy.
On a related note, and this is for Facebook specifically, take a look at your friends and see if they have author/artist pages and take a moment to like them as well. Of my aforementioned 428 friends I have 39 likes for my author page. It would make a huge difference if they also liked my professional site, and it would make a similar difference to your friends as well.
On a related, related note: If you artist friend does NOT have a professional facebook page, tell them to make one. It is simple and easy. Bug them until they do it.
#2 Comment On EVERYTHING They Do
You might think to yourself, “Well, if I’m LIKING everything they do, isn’t it just as easy to comment on it as well?”
Why yes, yes it is.
However, I chose to separate this out from liking because it is more weighty. If you are ever curious how you are doing with your platform, or how your friend is doing with theirs, check out a website called klout.com. Klout score is a rough measure of how influential you are on the web. One of the biggest metrics it uses is not just how many likes you get, but also how many comments and reshares things you post receive. [More on resharing in a moment]
Why do comments count more than likes? Because Klout knows that people who comment have to put at least some thought into their posting. It takes time, and there is a reason it doesn’t get done often. However, as is the case with liking, the content of a comment doesn’t matter. It only matters that a comment was made. It can be positive, negative, or nonsensical. Just as long as a comment is registered. It can be only one letter. “a” Done.
As an example, when I started building my platform I had a Klout score of 18. A friend of mine who happens to have a Klout score of 63 decided to help me out. She went back into my Facebook history and liked and commented with the copy paste comment “I like/dislike this post” on every thing I have every done ever. My Klout score jumped to 53 overnight. Comments make a world of difference.
#3 Reshare/Retweet Things You Genuinely Like That They Post
If your writer/artist friend is doing their part to build a platform, then they should be pretty active on social media. They should be tweeting and status updating and blogging. They should be using web curation techniques and posting articles found using web curation websites like scoopit.com (you may have noticed I have some scoop it articles on this very blog).
Bottom line, they should be putting unique content out, and also finding content from the web and saying “hey look at this! I think it is nifty”.
So now you are liking and commenting on all that content. Why shouldn’t you just reshare it all too? And I won’t lie there is something to be said for that strategy. However there is a danger there too. Liking and commenting appears on their wall. It is confined to them, and it is you interacting with them. You resharing is you taking their stuff and causing it to interact with YOUR friends. And the last thing you want to do is make it look like your friend’s stuff is spam to your own network. That hurts you and your writer friend.
A good rule of thumb is that if your friend is posting something about their actual work, reshare it. If it is unique content they have created, give it the bump and a nice note saying, “Hey this is my writer friend, check him out”.
If it is something your friend is “curating”, which means he or she is reposting something they themselves didn’t write, then give it a serious read and make sure it is something you can genuinely say is worth spreading.
Another way of looking at it is that, with reposting, what you say about the content DOES matter. You are giving your friend a reputation when you present them to your other friends. So be sure you can say something meaningful about what you are reposting, to make it seem like you have actually engaged with your friend, rather than that they somehow have their hand up your cyberass and you’ve become their willing facepuppet.
Unless what your friend is posting is funny pictures of cats. Resharing pictures of cats requires no explanation. It is our just and faithful duty to our feline overlords. Meow-lellujah!
#4 Pitch Them Even When They Don’t Pitch Themselves
As writers, and artists of any kind really, the stark reality is that we have to sell ourselves. There is not a single creative type I know who enjoys this reality. Nobody likes begging for their friends to support them. But the truth is, our friends have something we desperately need from them: their attention and engagement on the internet.
This isn’t something that some people need because they have specific goals anymore. A viable platform is no longer the result of an author’s contract with a publishing house, it is a prerequisite. No matter the quality of your work, the unintended result of the self-publishing boom, and the cyber-content revolution, is that the gatekeepers can now afford to choose only the projects that are low-risk. They measure low-risk by seeing how many people already pay attention to what a writer (or artist) says and does.
If you take nothing else away from this article, this is what you should remember: EVERY ARTIST FRIEND YOU HAVE NEEDS A PLATFORM! Period. It is now a critical and ubiquitous job function of the artist, not a side gig we do when we have the time.
So get used to it. Learn to be gracious with otherwise socially awkward individuals now forced to stump it like a politician covering up a sex-scandal. Realize they don’t want this anymore than you do.
And if you are really into them, if you believe in them, consider pitching for them, even when they don’t know how to, or even want to. Take a moment and post a nice note on your facebook with a link to their author page, encouraging people to like them or follow them on twitter. Take to your twitter account and post little snippits of their writing, with cute hashtags associated with them. Or pin their artwork to your pinterest board.
Then do it again. Do it often. Don’t one and done them. They need constant support, just like anyone campaigning. Post the same link to their author page once a week. Set up a schedule, be consistent, be on their team.
Be proactive in helping your friends sell themselves. Nobody wants to prostitute themselves on the internet alone. That is an activity much easier to bear in a group. Like cyberhookers on the corner of Facebook and Twitter, there is safety and success in numbers.
#5 Initiate A Conversation About Their Platform
Probably the most helpful thing you can do for your writer/artist friend is to develop the ability to converse about the reality you now know they live in. Does your friend know they need a twitter? Do they regularly curate content? What is their Klout score? How many likes does their Author Page have?
Talk to them! The worst thing a writer faces when trying to sell themselves is the feeling of being alone in the struggle. I mean, hell, most of us weren’t the popular kids in school to begin with! It feels pretty bad when our platform launch goes about as well as our prom date propositions. (I kid, many writers and artists were actually suave, well put together teenagers with well rounded social lives who have no lingering baggage from which to draw creative angst at all….)
The good news is, you can help. Let your writer friend know that you are on their team. Let them know that you are aware how hard it will be building a platform, and that you understand why your friend has suddenly become a self-promotion machine. Let them know that they don’t have to doll up their work with literary lipstick and social-media fishnets all by their lonesome. You are there for them right on through that first breathless moment, when a seedy agent in a beaten down yahoo email account cruises by their precious baby writings and asks “How much?”.
It takes a village to turn out an artist, afterall.
-David M Daniel is an author and performer currently working on a novel series written specifically to address the alarming lack of GLBTQ protagonists in Young Adult literature. He hopes that no child has to grow up without a clear representation of someone like them in major media.