CritiqueMatch is a platform where writers and beta readers connect and exchange work for free! New: You can also buy a critique or beta-reading service from our top-rated users!

Oct 13, 2020

Build a Platform, They Say

By: Linda Lee

What is a platform? It's the various outlets an author must use to market themselves like emaciated lions in need of a good zebra carcass. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Websites, Pinterest... all of them must be pummeled to death with your wit, wisdom and exemplary writing prowess.

So you post content in all those platforms every single day. Is it working yet?

Yeah, okay, maybe I'm a little bitter. Sorry.

I get that we do need to become expert marketers to build our reading audience. This equals $$ for would-be publishers. Doing my own legwork is a commonsense work ethic that I can easily wrap my head around (Who can't when it comes to money that can go into their pocket?).

But here's the unappealing rub: until you are a mega seller who can afford to pay someone to do all the platform marketing for you—you have to keep doing it on your own. And it doesn't end. It doesn't even slow down!

Even if you are lucky enough to get picked up by a big publishing house, you'll still have to spend 20+ hours a week working to keep your platform lively and viable—even if you aren't making any money. 

Okay, before you get your knickers in a twist over my sarcasm; I'm not opposed to hard work—God knows how many hours I spend toiling over a single paragraph in one of my novels. But a judicious bit of simple math tells me this can easily become a money-losing proposition for a working stiff like me.

Let’s do some calculations. 

Most authors start out by writing early in the morning or at night while holding down a day job.
  • 40 work hours/ week.
Most humans have other humans whom they must attend to, associate with, or care for, before and after work. Let's be conservative and give them only 4 hours a day to spend with their loved ones on weekdays. 
  • 4 hours per day X 5 days = 20 hours/ week.
But then on weekends, the need to spend time on your family increases. Kids need attention, the spouse needs even more. 
  • Let's call it 8 hours x 2 weekend days = 16 hours/ week.
That’s a whopping 76 hours per week for mandatory time a person must spend being away from the business of writing!

Now, bear with my calculations here. This is where the rubber begins to meet the road.

IF you are intent on being a good writer, you must invest the time to educate yourself. Let's say you can only afford a night class once a week. That's 4 hours. Add another 8 hours, spread out over the week in order to complete the writing assignments. 
  • That brings the total of mandatory investment to 88 hours/ week.

Also, all writers are strongly advised to join groups and associations. For me, the investment varies because sometimes my involvement is comprised of working in critique groups, while other hours are invested in webinars, conventions, or meetings. For simplification, I’ve averaged the investment out to be about an hour a day.  On weekends, I tend to spend a little extra time catching up. So, let's say, 5 hours for my M-F investment, and 4 hours on the weekends.
  • 88 + 9 = 97 hours/ week.

Finally, writers must have the time to write. Writing time varies wildly, but a conservative number for me would be 10 hours a week. (When I'm on a roll in the middle of a novel, I will spend up to 10 hours in a single day when time allows!)
  • 97+ 7 = 104 hours/week. 
Now we need to add the platform marketing activities. I’m being conservative when I suggested this endeavor takes 20+ hours a week. I use six platforms to promote my writing regularly. Some of them are social-media focused and some aren’t, but at only 30 minutes per day/per platform to compose, sell, respond, or otherwise engage, on average, I’m investing roughly 1260 minutes a week on marketing! 

Adding the 20+ hours of platform marketing activities to the total number of weekly hours brings us to a grand total of 124 hours!

Uh, I don't know about you all, but that only leaves about 6 hours a day to sleep! Who can function like that?

Granted, anything great is worth a lot of hard work. But unless you want me behaving like the walking dead, or you're willing to help pay for my divorce, how the hell is a working stiff like me supposed to look, act, and be the kind of professional a publisher desires?

Platform-building tips and tricks are welcome.

About Linda Lee
Linda Lee is a published songwriter and author, and has penned radio jingles, scripts and ad copy as co-owner and creative director of Zebra Motion Arts; a video production company formerly based in Phoenix Arizona. She also spent many years as a manager and working writer in the music world penning original songs for acts such as, Hot Dogma, James’ Gate and The Brazen Heads—the latter of which won her a prestigious place in the finals for her song, Dirty Dublin at the Clonmel Song Contest in Clonmel Ireland. 
As an author, Linda Lee has self-published the first of a three-part romantic suspense series; Who’s Your Paddy? Whose Paddy is He Anyway? and Knick Knack Paddy Whack (Toss a Girl a Bone), and is in the final stages of editing You Can Never Be Too Famous, an egomaniacal fueled peek into the underbelly of the music world through the eyes of rock star, Colin Cure. 

Linda Lee took an extended break from writing early in 2017 to deal with some significant health issues, and only recently returned to dust off her first foray into crime fiction with, Sister Margaret’s One Big Lie, a work in progress that placed in the 2016 finals of The Strongest Start writing competition at The Next Big Writer, and available for review in completed draft form here at CritiqueMatch.