Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center

The Writer's Workout

Today’s post is excerpted from The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach (Writer’s Digest, 2011) by Christina Katz.

With so much emphasis on the social networking aspects of creative careers these days, you might expect an expert on author platform building to promote an extremely social approach. But I focus on the creative person as an expressive individual instead. I want to help you cultivate creative confidence and express literary ability through writing. This is what belongs at the center of your writing career. Period. Here are three tips on author platform that give you an idea of my philosophy.

1. Eschew Branding

The second you put “my brand” at the center of your writing career is the second you suck all the air right out of your creative process. Many preach the gospel of branding for the benefit of creating fans, but from the perspective of creating, branding is the kiss of death.

Being a brand is like having to walk around wearing a sandwich board. No sooner do you become a brand and it’s going to get old, bring you down, weigh heavy on your creativity, and potentially even hurt business.

So don’t let those who insist that writers brand themselves take away the expressive, evolving pleasure of your natural dynamic and turn it into something packaged, phony, and forced.

As soon as you feel like you can’t follow your creative spark, you are going to wonder why all the branding baloney being served up all over the place ever sounded like a good idea.

Put your natural creative dynamic at the center of your writing career and you will soon wonder how you became so engaged, prolific, and productive. Your career will evolve naturally, unhindered by labels. Most importantly, you will be able to serve your audience and grow in a natural way.

2. Maybe You Should Work on Your Platform Later

Are you eternally frustrated by the siren calls to hurry up and build your platform before you’ve had a chance to find your legs as a writer?

Forget that nonsense! Find your writing legs first and work on your platform later, when the timing feels right to you.

There is only one logical time to start working on your platform and that is when you feel moved to do so. Even if you are the most reclusive writer in town, I believe that you know on an intuitive level when the time is right to start ramping up your platform.

The right timing usually coincides with the desire to take your work public. But don’t forget to give yourself time to adjust to the learning curve. Just because we decide we are ready to learn about something, it still takes time to absorb and apply all the lessons.

When I built my platform in advance of my first book deal, nobody told me to do it. I did it because it was a natural part of my creative momentum. What was bubbling up inside was ready to come out and be shared. I was seeking and building an audience intuitively.

Would it help your writing to shut out all of the yammer and calls to action that can be found everywhere and that only serve to throw you off your game?

Now that we have the Internet, we had better get used to the chronic calls to action. And we better get used to ignoring all but the quality messages we don’t want to miss.

Because the alternative is living in a constant state of overwhelm.

3. You Should Not Be  Constantly Available or Accessible

For writers, social networking represents excellent opportunities. We can poll our networks, create hubs of students, and participate in a virtual roundtable discussion that never could have happened in the past.

There are benefits for our networks, as well. They can connect with people whose work they admire and discover what they are actually like in real life. For example, if you are my friend on Facebook right now, you know my husband is directing a musical, my daughter is playing her first leading role, and that I am very busy writing this book on top of my regular teaching and writing load.

But what I’m not is constantly accessible because if I were constantly available I would not be able to run my writing career. Instead, I use social networking as a way to be in touch with those I want to connect with without taking on any pressure in the relationship to perform tasks or accommodate behavior I did not explicitly intend or invite.

I do not follow the advice of marketing gurus, who might advise me to milk every ounce of tolerance out of my network of friends and followers. Instead my behavior is professional and consistent, while occasionally sharing some of my personal life plus some of my offerings.

I use the Internet as a tool to connect with others where we can hang out, take a break, blow off steam, vent, and find refreshment. And that’s why I don’t get sick of it, because I don’t abuse it or worship it. I see social networking as a tool that we are very fortunate to have.

Social networking is a place to chat, to share, to decompress—and the folks who want to turn this lovely water-cooler break into a constant marketing machine are going to wear out its good graces.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion, Social Media, Writing Advice.

Christina Katz

Christina Katz has been coaching all types of writers for fourteen years both online and offline. She specializes in helping writers prosper within a constantly evolving publishing marketplace. Her mission is to inspire writers to take ownership of their writing careers without diminishing the joy and satisfaction they experience in the creative process. Christina offers video courses on helpful aspects of professional success, e-mail prompt challenges, and phone consultations for authors and aspiring authors by appointment. She lives in Oregon with her multi-talented husband, Jason, her delightful daughter, Samantha, and their four rather spoiled pets. Why not swing by for a visit?

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67 Comments on "Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center"

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Catherine Johnson

You really hit the nail on the head with ‘chronic calls to action’. What a great post, thank you!

Ian D. Smith
Thanks for this information. This is very interesting. Marketing is in the forefront of my mind at the moment. I uploaded my unpublished novel Tiger Hugs on the Harper Collins site authonomy. It was hard to raise its profile, and I felt alone and alienated in there. Until I started posting one sentence titles on the moral purpose of my novel to the Shameless Plug forum. I guessed that the forum was occupied by bullies, and that other less confident folk were looking in but not daring to contribute.  So I now have a silent following who I connect with… Read more »
Two Pens
Disagree wildly about the idea that writers shouldn’t “brand” themselves. To brand oneself is to stand out from the crowd, to make oneself individual and different from all other writers. I agree that writing is first priority but to say that writers don’t need an identity is foolish; how will the story that only you, as a writer can tell, be known as something a reader would want to read? Maybe it would help to think of the branding task as “identity building.” Companies have brands; writers have identities. If you as a writer are just a generalized person with… Read more »
Vicky Dreiling

Agree w/Two Pens. Having spent 10 years in corporate marketing, I know the importance of branding. Branding helps readers identify you as the author of certain types of books (genre) that appeal to a particular target market. If you write a book with no intention to market it, then this doesn’t apply. But make no mistake. If you write for publication, you are marketing a product. You can either do nothing and hope for the best or you can be smart about the process. I chose to be smart about it and sold the second book I wrote. 

Mari Adkins

“3. You Should Not Be  Constantly Available or Accessible” — exactly! people gripe because i don’t always leave twitter on or my email and don’t always answer my phone or texts. i don’t have to, and i’m not going to.

Anne R. Allen

What a breath of fresh air! I’ve been arguing for months with the agent dictum that no author should query without the equivalent of Justin Beiber’s Social Media stats and a platform that would made Lady Gaga envious. 

Learn to write really, really well. Find your voice. It takes at least 5 years. Worry about brands and sales later.


Christina, I totally agree with you.  It’s a lesson that many haven’t learned.  In the last blogfest I participated in, several of the bloggers did nothing but blast their promotion message on every participants’ blog.  No individual message, just the same one – visit me, follow me. 

It’s refreshing to hear someone who doesn’t advise writers to jump off the cliff and into the marketing pool before they know how to swim.

Now I’d like to look for your book.  Enjoyed this post!

My blog: (DG Hudson – Rainforest Writing)


Christina, you’ve hit the nail on the head once again, and I look forward to reading all 366 gems!
I had to go public early, to introduce my concept and create buzz (which I’ve done). The agents I pitched at WDC in January all liked the book idea, but wanted a stronger platform. Thanks to you and Dan Blank, I have one. but the book itself (and the two in the planning stages) comes first and foremost. Thanks!

Jonathan Gunson
Christine. Are we in synch … cosmically speaking? I’ve written a guide to Twitter for writer-type folks, and here’s quote from an early page: “… One cardinal rule before we go any further:  Your story must remain the main focus, not social media or building your ‘author brand’.  It’s always about the story. The brand will follow, and must remain a reflection, never your central author persona. Without your creative outpouring there is nothing.  In fact, I would rather you never used Twitter or built a social-media platform if there was the slightest chance it might take priority over writing. … Read more »
Cindy Huff

I agree! finding the balance between finding your writer legs and building a platform can get blurred. I have learned from a few people who have friended me on Facebook how not to build a platform. They are just obnoxious in their self-promoting. But others are so friendly and human in their posting that when they do mention a book or an article I want to check it out.

Bob Mayer

One thing I wonder about is those whose platform seems to consist of giving advice to writers, yet their own publishing credentials, particularly in fiction, are lean at best.  Sometimes I feel it’s the do as I teach, rather than I do.  That’s not to say such advice isn’t useful, but I’ve always found first-hand experience to be the best preparation for teaching others.
As noted in this blog, content must lead the way for writers.  The best platform and promotion in the world can only go so far with a pile of dung.

Sidney Blake

Well said, Bob.

Jane Friedman
Bob, you’ve started your own press, Who Dares Wins Publishing, which offers some books of advice for writers. One is by Kristen Lamb, who has been a wonderful guest on this blog on the topic of platform. However, as far as I know, she has not published any fiction. But I don’t think this makes her advice any less worthwhile. I point this out because I take your comment to mean that because Christina hasn’t published fiction, that her advice isn’t as good as yours. But why wouldn’t Christina’s advice be as solid as Kristen’s (whom you publish)? But perhaps… Read more »
Bob Mayer

Not at all.  I’m just saying everyone has an expertise and the consumer has to consider who is giving it.  There are excellent football coaches who have never played football.  I end up disagreeing with my advice over time as I learn more.  Those who are not willing to change and adapt are doomed in the current publishing world.

Florence Fois
Thanks so much for this, Christina. I think I’ll quote you on my blog soon 🙂 Not yet there, I have been perflexed and in a fog about much of the social media craze. What I loved about writing, what I continue to love about writing is the exploration of “stuff” as Carlin put it. I don’t know that the day will come that I will ever feel comfortable with twitter. I love my blog and the wonderful people I have met because of it and Facebook is how I keep in touch with my kids and their friends. This… Read more »
Breaking News From Christina Katz

[…] Feel free to join the conversation over at JaneFriedman.Com about what belongs at the center of a writing career. I’m pretty clear about what I think on the subject…how about you? Feel free to chime in! […]

Randy Attwood

These are such wise comments! I am so lucky to be old! I’ve created my works over decades. One story I’m soon to publish started in 1975 and wasn’t finished until 1997. Nothing forced. I have a body of work to promote and time now to promote it. I do not understand how a writer today can create and also spend so much time with social networking, branding, etc. This post goes to the core: creativity and what it takes and the patience it takes and the faith in self it takes. I hope more young writers see this post.

Austin Gisriel

Well said, particularly your thoughts on branding.


Christina is a master at this topic.  Reading her books has changed both my mindset and perception of “Getting Known Before the Book Deal.”  Thanks, Christina!


[…] Keeping our priorities straight is the main key to finding success as writers or in any endeavor in life. Here is a fantastic post from Jane Friedman that reminds us that Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center. […]

Patricia Gligor

Thank you, Jane and Christina!
There’s so much emphasis these days on marketing yourself and creating an online presence, which, I realize, is extremely important.
We writers can get so caught up in it all though that, if we’re not careful, our writing can end up taking a back seat or even standing alongside the highway with its thumb up.
It was so refreshing to read that we don’t always have to be available; that our writing should come first!

Tonya R. Moore

Very well said, Christina! Lately, this has been one of the things on my mind–mostly the fear of sacrificing the creative process in the name of “what must be done.” It’s good to know that the voice of reason can and does prevail.

Christopher Gronlund
I recently took a 101-day social media break. At first, I was concerned because I thought, “I’ll lose my momentum and miss out on things.” It was hard at first, but a little while in, a focus I forgot I once had returned. A couple months in, I was producing the best writing of my life. Sure, with each big project we get better, but it was such a huge leap forward. And when I really thought about it, I was writing the way I’ve only dreamed of because there was no thought of staying relevant online. Branding be damned,… Read more »

Definitely true on many fronts, Christina. Thanks for the insights.


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[…] Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center (Especially interesting because this new book is written by Christina Katz whose earlier book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, was one of the best I’ve read on creating a platform.) […]

Kathryn Paterson
Thank you so much for this!  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, getting ready to query, keeping up with social networking, teaching, and building my own (rapidly growing!) business as a writing coach.  It’s been such a wonderful whirlwind of a quarter, and positively the most invigorating time of my life, but I’ve often wondered how writers do all of this and stay sane, without periodically retreating to the well.  This lets me let go of all the (often) inane shoulds and lets me just let things BE.  And really, I’ve noticed that when I do that, the rest tends to… Read more »

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Wow. Could  you possibly know how liberating this post is? It mirrors what was down in the deepest part of my heart, something I knew all along, but stopped listening to in the depressing din of online gurus. Thank you, thank you!

Gina Gates

The voice of reason speaks! My sentiments exactly. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels drawn inward to my craft rather than outward to the masses. I can’t imagine Hemingway on Facebook. Gina Gates, the only partially socially visible author of “Falling in October”. 


This is an encouraging message. I am so glad to have read this counter-cultural advice.

Rick Barry

Very cool and fresh perspective. Yes, I have heard the marching orders to develop a brand and then to stick in that groove, regardless of what other stories come to mind. Sometimes, though, it’s been a straitjacket. Your post is liberating, Christina!

Marilyn Levinson

What a relief! I writer mysteries and books for kids. I still don’t know what my “brand” is.


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