San Francisco Writers Conference Days 3 and 4

I’m putting these days together because I attended a number of sessions on blogging and platform building, and I wanted to discuss what I learned.

You may wonder, what is platform building? It is something that has filled many writers, published and unpublished, with frustration and confusion. Basically, your platform is your presence on the web. Ideally, it should brand and market you. A single static webpage, a blog you never update, or a Facebook page you share only with friends and family do not equal a platform. Your platform has to have solid planks: constantly updated websites and blogs, an active presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc., and a Facebook page dedicated to you as a writer.

You might be groaning right now. I don’t blame you. I certainly did. We can groan all we want, but resistance is futile. The editors and agents who attended the conference made it very clear they expect writers to have a platform and market their writing even before they are published.

Now, you might be hitting your head against the wall and wondering how you are supposed to write when you’re going to be using all your spare time on blogging and social networking. The good news is you don’t have to do it all at once. Your first step is to pick one and get really good at. For example, go on Goodreads and become active in the forums. Once you get that down, go onto to Twitter and tweet about the books you’ve read. On Twitter, follow the people you’ve met through Goodreads. It’s very likely they’ll follow you back. Follow authors you like. Follow agents and editors. If you have a blog, mention it on Goodreads and Twitter when you get a chance, but don’t be obnoxious about it.  Make it part of the conversation.

I know how difficult this can be. While I love my blog and reading other blogs, I have no real presence on Goodreads or Twitter. This needs to change. I’ll let you know how it goes as I figure it out.

In the meantime, I strongly suggest visiting the websites of Stephanie Chandler and Chuck Sambuchino. You’ll find a wealth of information and resources on these sites.

There was more to the conference on those two days besides platform building. I attended sessions on “Why Fantasy Beats Reality,” “Troubleshooting Your Novel,” and “Sex, Drugs and Violence in YA Fiction.” Since four-to-six sessions ran consecutively, I had to miss out on some good stuff, like “Making Your Work Rejection-Proof.” Luckily, one of the session’s presenters, C.S. Lakin, has helpful handouts posted on her website. You can find them here.

I also heard two great keynote speakers:

Guy Kawasaki is a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Apple evangelist, and best selling author. He has no trouble securing a book deal with a Big Six publisher. However, after some technical frustrations and control issues, he decided to go the self-publishing route, which he refers to it as “artisanal publishing.” You find out more about it here.

R.L. Stine is the author of “Goosebumps,” a wildly successful series of humorous horror novels for young readers. To date, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide. “Goosebumps” was also adapted into a popular TV series. Stine spoke about his life and career. He was fortunate enough to get a job as Scholastic Books at a fairly young age. However, he didn’t publish the first “Goosebumps” book until he was 49-years-old. So, if you’re thinking it’s too late, too hard, taking too long, remember that success doesn’t have an age attached.

Click here for more information on the San Francisco Writers Conference.

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