the book author’s place in the changing digital landscape
The highlight of my past week was attending a professional development symposium put on by The Writers Union of Canada (TWUC) in Winnipeg as part of a travelling roadshow across the country. I’ll share the highlights of the symposium with you here, but for more about TWUC and the professional development opportunities it offers, check out this link: http://www.writersunion.ca/.
I joined TWUC several months ago and recommend it to be a very positive move for any established author looking to advance his/her skills in the world of book publishing. Anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog for the past year knows that I am a “joiner” and belong to no less than five writers’ associations (plus other writing and arts related orgs such as ACI and Toastmasters.) As I write across genres (travel, lifestyle, business, volunteerism and personal growth) and mediums (books, periodicals, websites) I believe each of these organizations serves a unique purpose in my career development as a writer.
The TWUC symposium was beneficial in two ways: it reinforced that what I have already been doing is on the right track, and it gave me some tips on what I could do differently or better. “Secure Footing in a Changing Literary Landscape” was presented by TWUC executive director, Deborah Windsor and members, Ross Laird and Betsy Warland and really emphasized the importance of an author developing his/her “author’s platform” in the digital environment.
Over the past year I have spent countless hours building that platform. I started this blog a year ago, joined Twitter in July/09, had my website professionally redesigned in December, have expanded my presence and involvement on Linked In and have launched a fan page for my new book, “Before You Say Yes …” at http://www.facebook.com/beforeyousayyes. Please join if you haven’t already.
A lot of writers and authors can’t seem to get their heads around the idea of spending numerous unpaid hours promoting themselves and their work via social media. But it’s much more than just promoting yourself. Social media enables us to reach out around the world — yes, for the purpose of reaching more readers for what we write, but also to develop networks and establish connections in areas in which we would like to expand or learn more.
Did you know that one in three Canadians are on Facebook? That’s an amazing statistic, and an interesting comparison to the US, where only one tenth of Americans use that social platform to communicate. Facebook is by far the largest social network in the world, with 430 million users. In second place is Windows Live Profile, with 164 million users, followed by MySpace with 110 million users. Twitter is coming up from behind with 58 million users — an amazing figure, showing a growth rate of more than 1,500% over the past year!
Why is that important to authors? Because there are fewer literary booksellers left to help promote our work to the book-buying public. Publishers are under-staffed and under-funded. Print publications are losing book review space. So everyone is turning their attention to the potential of the internet.
Anyone born after 1990 already has the internet firmly embedded in their beings. It is pretty much in their every thought and action. But those of us born before 1990 have had to learn the importance and benefits of the digital world to our personal lives, and our careers as successful authors. Some of us have had to be pulled kicking and screaming into this new world. Others have entered willingly and embrace the endless opportunities offered by the digital world.
At the symposium, we were reminded that creative adaptability and tenacity are critical qualities for today’s commercially successful writers. Even previously published authors are having trouble securing favourable contracts in today’s marketplace. We’ve got to work harder and smarter to make ourselves stand out from everyone else. We’ve got to take responsibility for the success or failure of our work on a commercial level.
Did you know that 80% of author’s advances in Canada are not earned back? I found that figure startling! Particularly considering how low most advances in Canada have been.
Which brings us back to the need for a fully developed author’s platform. If you tweet and blog about your book or literary works, more people will learn about it. If you have a Facebook fan page for your book(s), anytime anyone joins as a fan, it is listed as an update for all their FB friends to see, who in turn may click on your page to see what it’s all about. And with 1/3 of all Canadians on Facebook, that means the possibility of reaching a huge audience of ages reaching from grandparents to tweens.
If you don’t have your own website, get one! Laird recommends owning the domain of “your own name”.com and .ca, citing, “It only costs $10/year to park a domain, and you can have any and all domains you own pointing to your primary site. Don’t have a website through your ISP. Have your own domain name and look like a professional.”
Good advice and much information to ponder. We walked away from the symposium learning more about contracts and the various challenges facing today’s writers and authors. And knowing that the time is now to build — and expand –that platform.
For more on building your author’s platform, visit Joanna Penn’s website at: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/blog/.
Her advice has helped me tremendously over the past year.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media and whether you are an enthusiast, a resister, or whether you have taken baby steps and are beginning to see the potential, but have a long way to go.