A year and a half ago I decided to write a novel. I knew I was going to have to come up with a writing schedule and stick to it. The only time I could write (without distractions) was after I put my kids to bed. No problem, right? I could follow my dream without making any sacrifices! Right? Right!? Not exactly. You see, I LOVED my prime time TV shows. I had certain programs I watched every night of the week. Turning the TV on after putting the kids to bed was my way to relax after a stressful day of cleaning, feeding, yelling, breaking up fights, entertaining, etc., etc. I looked forward to this time every night. However, deep down I knew my book wasn't going to get written unless I sacrificed my precious TV time. Sure, I could make excuses and say things like, "Hey! Television is inspiration!" Yeah, that's it. "I HAVE to watch it . . . in order to get the creative juices flowing!" Really though, what good is a bunch of creative ideas if you don't have the time to write them down?
The same thing is true with social media. We can stay online for hours at a time--blogging, tweeting, facebooking--with the excuse that we're building our "platform" (platform shmlatform--I just like "talking" with my tweeps!), but what good is a platform if you don't have a book to set on top of it? Keeping up with social media can very easily cut into writing time. Sure, getting to know other writers is fun, but is it more important than your book?
More often than I care to admit, I've turned on my computer with the plan to do some writing, but then I say, "Well, I'll just check my blog real quick." Then it's, "Oh, I have to read over these comments." And, "I have to respond to these comments." By this time I'm saying, "Since I'm already on here, I might as well check Twitter." Before I know it, it's an hour (or more) later. I have a feeling I'm not the only one who has done this before ;-) I'm not saying social media is evil, but I do think the key is moderation and not to lose site of why you're there in the first place.
I had a really tough time writing this blog post, because I didn't want it to come off as preachy or know-it-all'ish. Many agents and writers have blogged about the topic of unpublished authors and platform building. Some say it's important, some say it's not. Rather than take a side, I just wanted to share some of my personal thoughts on the issue.
* The quality vs. quantity rule. I don't think the number of followers you have is as important as the type of followers you have. I always say I'd rather have a dozen "close" cyber friends, as opposed to thousands of blog/twitter followers. If and when the time comes for me to market my book, I know my blogging buddies and favorite tweeps will have my back (as I will theirs).
* Remember Kenny Roger's song "The Gambler"? One of my favorite lines is, "You never count your money when you're sitting at the table. They'll be time enough for countin' when the dealing's done." I kind of feel this way about people who become obsessed with platform building before they even have an agent. Call me superstitious, but to me it almost seems like bad luck to try and get a huge following so early in the game. It's kind of like writing your wedding guest list before you even have a boyfriend.
* It doesn't take years and years to build a platform/gain followers, and since books are not published overnight (well, unless you're going the e-book route), you'll have plenty of time to market your book after you sign a deal. I know of people who just started their blogs/twitter accounts two months ago, and they already have 100+ followers (and growing!).
To sum it all up, my theory is- don't worry about having twitter followers in the triple digits or more blog followers than so-and-so. JUST WRITE! They'll be time enough for buildin' a platform when the contract is signed. ;-)