The Author Platform: Are You Being Cautious, Or Just Lazy?


Welcome to the last post of Mousetrapped Madness Week!

Three years ago last Friday I self-published my first book, Mousetrapped, and set off on this misadventure. To mark the occasion I’ve made a hardcover edition of Mousetrapped, and if you leave a comment on this post by midnight tonight, Tuesday April 2nd, you might win a signed copy of it. (OR you can have a copy of Self-Printed 2.0, if you prefer.) If you really want to win you can increase your chances by leaving a comment on every Mousetrapped Madness post I’ve posted (that’s all the ones that have gone up since Friday and make some mention of the Mousetrapped giveaway), but only one comment per post will count.

Today is also the last day you can download Backpacked for Kindle for free.

While I’m on the subject, someone on the Mousetrapped Facebook page asked if there’s anywhere you can see pictures from my Central America trip. Well, my lovelies, there IS. Here, AKA The Backpacked Gallery. There’s a gallery for Mousetrapped too. Count the many hairstyles of Catherine’s Past…

Anyway, onto today’s post.

‘Tis the season of speaking engagements, when I get to crawl out of my writing cave and see what’s happening in the 3D real world of self-publishing. One thing, I’ve noticed, never changes.


One of my favorite spots in the world, the rocking chairs by Celebration Lake in the “town that Disney built”, Celebration, Florida. It’s okay to be lazy on these. It’s mandatory, actually.

There’s always an exchange that goes something like this:

ME: “In the last three years, I’ve gone from crying myself to sleep over a 9-5 job that was slowly blackening my soul, to being a successful self-published author who makes a comfortable living from book sales, speaking engagements and social media consulting; who has a blog with over 10,000 followers and an average of 30,000 hits a month that I love writing posts for; and who gets to do whatever she wants whenever she wants, because my hours are entirely flexible and I can do almost all of this from the comfort of my own home, in sweatpants. What I don’t do at home has led to the making of new writer friends and valuable publishing contacts. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing my books occasionally hit #1 in their (obscure!) categories on Amazon, and of reading mail from strangers in faraway places who’ve happened upon one of my books and enjoyed them. My job is now something I enjoy; I’m getting paid to do what I love. And although I’m still a ways away from my ultimate goal of getting published, I feel as if I’m closer to achieving it than I’ve ever been. So while I don’t think self-publishing is the be-all and end-all, it’s easily the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s brought me the life I’ve always wanted, and the opportunity to do what I’ve always dreamed of.”

[Someone in the audience raises their hand.]

THE HAND-RAISER: “But this is all you do. Like, this takes you all day every day. Blogging and being on Facebook and [flash of disdain] twittering. I mean, [looks around at fellow audience members; rolls eyes] who has the time for all that? Especially when there’s no guarantee it’ll work. And books sold before all this, you know.”

ME: “Yes, I know books sold before this, but we’re talking about self-published books, and potentially tens of thousands of sales—”

THE HAND-RAISER: “It just seems like a lot of effort, and it could all be a total waste of time.”

Picture 3

At this point almost everyone in the audience breathes a sigh of relief, because they were thinking the same thing: that’s all well and good for her, but it isn’t suitable for me, because who has the time? What she did is just one way of doing things; there’s probably another way that’s less time-consuming that I can do instead… 

The same thing happens whenever somebody tells self-publishers—and writers in general—what they want to hear: that you don’t need to blog, tweet or Facebook to be a successful writer. On a recent post on Writer Unboxed, 5 Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer’s Attention, Jane Friedman wrote:

“If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing.”

Now I actually agree with what Jane said. I think if you want to get published, you should only be focused on one thing: writing your book. How I wish I had nothing to do tomorrow except add words to my novel. But prior to all this, I wrote my first book in a house with no internet access. As in, back when I started writing the book that started all this, I wasn’t blogging, twittering or Facebook-ing at all.I wrote first.

But then I self-published, so I have to sell my books. I have to sell my books because the alternative is to get a job doing something other than writing. And because my books are exclusively for sale online, than means my promotion needs to be online too. So now I do  need to blog, tweet and Facebook, but Oprah isn’t on my Contacts list.

But luckily, I really enjoy doing these things too.


One of the highlights: seeing Mousetrapped adorn the shelves of a real, live bookshop. At my launch party in May 2010.

My point here lies in the reaction to what Jane said, and the reaction to blog posts, articles, etc. like it: a collective sigh of relief that’s practically audible. Because someone who knows what they’re talking about said I didn’t have to blog! Thank fudge for that; I wouldn’t have a clue what to blog about. And Twitter doesn’t sell books; I’m not surprised, it’s full of rubbish anyway. And Facebook is for teenagers; I thought as much! Phew, because I just want to WRITE.

Building and maintaining an online presence isn’t for everybody. It certainly isn’t for every writer—it isn’t even for every self-publisher. My number one piece of social media-related advice would be don’t do it if you don’t want to, because this isn’t an area where reluctant toe-dipping is going to work.

But if you greet this news with a sigh of relief, ask yourself:

  • Is it because you genuinely fear you won’t be any good at “the Twitter thing” (which, let’s not forget, is simply connecting directly with readers and other writers), or that the type of book you write isn’t a suitable candidate for the methods you’ve seen work for others (e.g. you’re writing literary fiction)?
  • Or is it because you’re just plain lazy, and don’t want to put in the effort?

Because nine times out of ten, that’s what “I don’t have the time” means.

Picture 4

It means, I can’t be bothered finding the time.

Published writers often comment on the “I’d love to write a novel—I just don’t have the time…” phenomenon with a wry smile, and rightfully so, because everyone knows if you really want to do something, you will find the time.

I think the same goes for promoting your book with social media. If you genuinely want to sell as many copies of your book as you can, you’ll put in the effort. You’ll find out what you need to know. You’ll make the time.

Because when self-publishers say to me, “Who has the time?”, what I want to say is:

Do you mean who has the time to get what they’ve always wanted?

The time to get paid to do what they love, and to have what they do appreciated?

The time to be a full-time, professional author?

I know I have the time.

Do you?

For your chance to a personally inscribed copy of Mousetrapped in hardcover OR Self-Printed in paperback, simply leave a comment below and/or on any Mousetrapped Madness post before midnight tonight. Only one entry counts per post but you can enter multiple times by commenting on more than one ‘Mousetrapped Madness’ post. I’ll post the prize anywhere mail can go. The winner will be announced here and also informed by e-mail. Good luck!

35 thoughts on “The Author Platform: Are You Being Cautious, Or Just Lazy?

  1. Rhoda Baxter says:

    I think the other point about author platforms and time is that it takes time to build up links and meet people. Everyone starts off by talking into the void and not knowing if anyone’s listening.
    Perhaps you could do a post on the trajectory of how your platform grew to 10000 followers etc. I bet it took a couple of years (she says hopefully!).

  2. Carolyn Brooke-Millward says:

    Brilliant article. I work full time and still manage to cram in writing my first full-length novel, which I hope to self-publish soon. The point is, if you REALLY want to do something, you will shoehorn it into your life somehow. No excuses.

    Thanks Catherine for a really interesting and inspirational article, as usual.

  3. JD Revene says:

    Seems to me you’re dead right; if you’re going to self-publish, then there’s little choice but to promote on-line, at least if you want to make anything of it (and if you don’t, then why do it?). But also, there’s little point beavering away on the dreaded platform before you have anything to promote, which seems so often to be recommended to the would be writer these days. Anyway, enough yammering from me. No, wait – I forgot to mention the promotion and the chance to win a signed copy of Mousetrapped (or Self-Printed 2.0, which would be my choice). There done. Thanks for another great post.

  4. librarianeats says:

    Honest and refreshing. I enjoy your point of view. Your right books sold before all of this, but we have these tools that can help self-published – heck all published books to sell. Why wouldn’t you want to do what you can to be successful?

  5. Musings on the writing life says:

    why shouldn’t it work for fiction writers? I totally agree that if you really want it, you’ll figure out a way to get the time.

  6. Lauren Clark (@LaurenClark_Bks) says:

    Catherine – You are SO right! I also do a bit of speaking for writer groups and do find that while many, many sweet folks want to be authors, they:

    A. Haven’t written a book yet (or haven’t finished it)
    B. Are afraid of social media and blogging —not because they can’t —but because it’s an unknown
    C. Want to skip both A and B and just get an agent and have the novel magically appear in their email

    I do agree with Rhoda that maybe a trajectory illustrating followers over time might be helpful.

    Thank you for another great post! xx, Lauren

  7. E.K. Carmel says:

    I’m embarrassed to say it, but I used to be one of the whiners complaining about not having enough time. The fact is, I still saw my writing as a hobby. When I finally decided writing was my profession, I started to realize how much time I had actually been wasting. I’m still not great with the time management yet, but I understand the reality that online promotion is a must if I want to self-pub.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win one of your books. Self-Printed would be my choice.

  8. Debbie Jeffrey says:

    Thank you, Catherine, you say it like it is.

    Writing is hard. You better get it right because no-one else is interested. There is always something to learn, whether it’s your subject, the craft, or an individual’s perception.

    You can give a hundred people the same question and you will get a hundred different answers. That’s why there is a myriad of books, subjects, styles and voices. If you have something to communicate, speak, write and ultimately share it.

    I had a website for five years and wrote the content, which put me at odds with every web-developer there is. Two entrepreneurs together create genius or sparks. I have to get structure right and clarity on my screenplays. Like I’m going to give up and waste all the thoughts from other writers that went into giving me straight, honest feedback, professional and peer, yes, right. They didn’t have time but they found it for me and seeing my mistakes will increase their own perception. All the best.

  9. MarkM says:

    Thank you Catherine. Another great post. I’m enjoying your blog posts almost as much as your books (almost!).

    And, of course, I wouldn’t mind an actual printed version of Mousetrapped!

  10. MJ O'Neill says:

    The other thing that gets me is that those who suggest that online promoting for a self published book isn’t necessary don’t follow it up with ideas on a different sales strategy. A novel is product. Becoming a self publisher is a startup business. It needs a marketing and sales plan. Except in a few special outlier cases, novels don’t sell themselves. Like with any business, momentum doesn’t magically happen. It takes time and hard work. Before self publishing a publisher did a lot of that work behind the scenes so no one saw it. I think many people still have the romantic vision of the writer as a specially gifted or talented creative artist. In the world of self publishing (and even in standard publishing for mid listers these days) writers have to be one part creative artist but also one part business person.

    Thanks for the chance to win your book Mousetrapped (or self printed which I would pick)

  11. avwalters says:

    Okay, okay. I’m blogging (a year now), I’ve done book readings, my books have been favorably reviewed, I’m on twitter (though I haven’t the foggiest what I’m doing there) and I have a website. How long was this supposed to take?

  12. risingwoman says:

    Amen, sister… I have just (like, just TODAY) had my first self-published book of short stories go live on Amazon. I have prepared for this day: I started a blog 3 months ago, I made a real effort to write often and connect with other bloggers; I left comments when relevant (including right here on your blog!), and I interacted with people who were kind enough to leave me comments.

    I signed on to Twitter, I have done some guest posts, I have posted short excerpts of my short stories as ‘teasers’. I launched a FB page. And this was all BEFORE I had my book go live this morning!

    Yes, it’s time-consuming; yes, it’s hard work. Will it all be worth it? Who can tell? But I can honestly say that I am giving it my best damn shot. I’m even enjoying it, since I am getting in virtual touch with some pretty amazing people, and I’m learning a lot.

    Anyway, after all that, I guess I’ll go on and leave the link to my book on Amazon:

    Network it, baby!! 😉 And keep blogging, Catherine. You are an excellent source of both information and inspiration. Thank you!

  13. georgianaderwent says:

    Really liked this article. As someone who writes, works (very) full-time and manages some promo (though admittedly not quite as much as I’d like, these would be my tips for anyone feeling too busy to put themselves out there:

    *Be realistic about how much time you can spend on this. If you’re working full-time/looking after kids/have some other major time commitment, you’re not going to have as much time as someone who is treating their writing as a full time job. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any time. Better to make a manageable commitment and stick to it than go in all guns blazing one week in a fit of enthusiasm then drop it the next week.

    *Have either a schedule (I’ll write a blog post every Tuesday, I’ll find five new people to follow on Twitter ever Thursday) or just an absolute minimum (I will write at least one blog post each week, I will add at least five people each week). Make this realistic and then stick to it come what may. in practise, just like any targets, you’ll probably miss them once in a while, but try you’re best.

    *Don’t feel you have to do everything all the time. If there’s one type of promotion you prefer, focus on that and just dabble in the others. I love blogging on WordPress and reviewing books on Goodreads, quite like chatting in Goodreads forums and on Facebook, but (heresy on here, I know)can’t quite make myself love Twitter. The combination of the word limit and the chaos do not play to my strengths!.

    *In terms of making time, I think the best things to cut down on are random TV watching, random internet use and non-crucial cleaning. That’s not to say cut these things out completely – it’s fine to treat watching your favourite show or reading your favourite blog as a must do, just not to sit slumped in front of the TV for hours watching random crap or drifting from obscure wiki page to obscure wiki page in a trance. As for cleaning, I work on the principle if it’s necessary for basic hygienic or presentation, do it, if not, drop it to the bottom of my to do list.

    Catherine, while 100% agreeing with the basic thrust of this post, I’d definitely second the question asked by Rhoda – it’s all very well blogging, tweeting, facebooking etc – but how do you actually get people to notice that you’ve done so rather than feeling like you’re screaming into the void? It’s something you’ve touched on before, but I’d also ask how you strike the balance between writing interesting stuff and promoting yourself. I’ve had it so firmly drummed into me that too much self-promotion is bad that unless there’s major news I barely dare mention the fact I’ve written a series of novels.

  14. Zig says:

    I have been beating myself up for years, telling myself that I am just being lazy. But I have a chronic illness that has finally been diagnosed, and which explains the cruelty that is chronic fatigue and brain fag. I am very much hoping that the meds kick in soon! Luckily writing has saved me, as I have reached a point in my life where I can work from home, and write. For now I am ‘just’ a columnist, but I have published one book, and self-published one booklet, and I am working on various other ones.

  15. Vividhunter says:

    I think I’ve put the cart before the horse and got my platform set up before being any where close to finishing writing a book… Maybe I need a house somewhere with no internet access ><

  16. startingthedialogue says:

    Very well said. I am one who believes 100% that if you want it badly enough you’ll find the time. I have a book in draft form and I’ve been scared witless to actually get down to the rewrites and the editing. I know it’s fear and I know that I will overcome it when the book becomes important enough to me to do the work. I’ve started building a platform-halfheartedly because I want the book to be more polished before I give the platform building a huge hunk of my attention. Not excuses, my own assessment of where I stand in the process. Thanks for your great words.

    Oh yes, I’ve posted comments for the past few days but didn’t mention the giveaway. I’d love a copy of either one of your books. Obviously, if I don’t win them I will end up buying them. You inspire me!

  17. jcckeith says:

    I did begin writing for a website, twittering and google +ing because I wanted to create an author platform. I was lucky to have a friend who started the website and asked me if I wanted to write for it. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read what I had to say but I posted daily anyway and amazingly, they did read what I wrote. Then I started blogging as well and commenting on other people’s blogs. The thing I realized was, as much as it was wonderful to find out people wanted to read my posts on the website, I was learning a great deal about the writing and publishing industry which has been making the large amount of time I spend online well worth it. I figure I would have spent the time online researching the industry anyway so I might as well be carving out a platform while I do it.

  18. vanguardone says:

    I really, really, really struggle with this, with all the publicity stuff. I’ve had no problems publishing my first book (in Sept 2012) and the sequel is out next month. I can write novels like a demon. I think it’s something to do with the idea of putting your head above the parapet so people can line up their blunderbusses and blow it off. And also I think when you go it alone, which is brave, it’s really hard to find people who will say “yes, that’s good – do that, say that”. What I am ramblingly getting around to say is this: I think posts like this are really useful because they help to quiet that little voice that goes “ssssh, people will think you are showing off, and people really don’t like that.” So, thank you. I’m going now before I delete that bit where I mention my books. It’s a start!

Comments are closed.