Something interesting happened at the RMFW conference. I heard differing opinions on something. I kind of jest, but on this one topic, it seems like the consensus has been 100%. And topic is The Author Platform. If you’ve followed the business of writing in the last five years or so, you would think that everything is supposed to be about your platform. In some circles, it seems like it’s platform this and platform that.
You want to get an agent? Have a million Facebook fans.
You want to sell a book? Have a billion Twitter followers.
You’re unpublished? Don’t worry about your book; worry about building that fanbase so that when your book comes out, they’ll jump on it.
And the list goes on. And I get it. As a writer, I try to stay active on Facebook and Twitter. As a blogger, I try to stay active on Pinterest and interact with other bloggers on their sites. But let’s be honest here. None of that stuff is worth a dime if you don’t have a book to sell. And, really, if your book isn’t any good in the first place, you should be spending your time fixing your book before you try to sell it anyhow.
So what do that have to do with the conference I was just at?
Well, I had three different literary agents tell me three different things on this topic. And it’s fascinating to me.
It’s not important
The first agent, when asked how important a social media platform is, basically responded with “It’s not.” The agency and publisher will help you establish all of that as part of your book promotion. And I think that is pretty awesome. That is how it should be. Your book should be judged on its own merit, not by how many Twitter followers you have.
It might be important
Another literary agent said it might be important. If you’ve got a book they think you can sell and have a proven track record acquiring a legitimate social media fanbase (one that will be willing to buy your books) then it might help sway the agency to agree to represent you. I understand that viewpoint as well, but personally, I would think a successful and profitable self-published book, with a following, would be a lot more attractive to an agent or editor than a million Facebook likes.
It is important
Finally, one literary agent at the conference flat out said that a strong social media presence will not only help you find representation, but will also help you sell books. The only rule is that your social persona must in some way be compatible with the topic of your books. She wasn’t overly concerned with which type of media presence to you build (including blogging), but said it is important to her agency to have a presence.
So where does that leave us?
It just goes to show that literary agents are indeed humans and are not a collective hive when it comes to finding an author who they would like to work with. Personally, I’m of the opinion that if you’re a writer you should have some sort of social media presence. I’ve talked about whether or not you need a blog before, but as for other stuff, I think it depends on your goals.
I’ve made some great connections on Twitter with other writers, but have I sold a single extra copy of my book by doing so? Probably not. But part of that is because of the way I choose to use Twitter. I interact (and commiserate) with other writers, and occasionally plug Write Good Books and Theme of Absence, but I don’t generally use it as way to push my books.
But that’s just me.
What do you think is the most important thing writers should be doing on social media sites?