Monday Muse #4 is Sean Platt, who wrote a blog post for me two years ago that delved into his history of blogging anonymously and how his internet life changed when he was found out. But my introduction to Sean was about a year earlier through Writer Dad where he wrote from the heart about everything under the sun.
Beyond blogging, Sean is a novelist and grammarian and frequently helps wannabe writers get their words onto the page. He’s a natural born communicator, tweets @SeanPlatt, and explains himself below.
What is your background and how do you participate in the world of the web?
I’m a lifelong entrepreneur, but have only been online for a few years. I began my business life, at least the grownup version, when I bought my first business at age 18 – a small flower cart in Long Beach, California. Within five years, this expanded to a small network of satellite flower carts and storefronts, with the mother store being the location my parents opened in 1980.
After working with flowers for 12 years, I left the business to open a preschool with my wife, a teacher of 17 years. We wanted to spend as much time as we could with our son and daughter during their first few years before they went to kindergarten, which we both knew would fly by far too fast.
Once my daughter went to kindergarten, I knew it was time to start thinking about our next transition, and closing the preschool. I’d just started writing, and figured self-publishing would be a BIG trend within the next few years, making it a great time to begin building my eventual audience. I went online and we closed our preschool a few months later.
That was 3 1/2 years ago. It’s been a rough, long road. But in the and, remarkably worth it. I spend every day online: writing, networking, and adding to my eventual legacy a word at a time.
How do you decide what content to blog about?
While I still have the occasional off-the-cuff blog post, for the most part, traditional blogging no longer makes sense for me. All the content I publish on Ghostwriter Dad is made up from excerpts out of books I’ve already published, or am publishing to Kindle. The blog is part of my broadcast engine, and the chapters in my books serve as marketing materials.
Every project starts with the book, I then break the book into smaller pieces and use individual chapters and chapter fragments as blog content.
I did this for the entire second half of last year at Ghostwriter Dad, and it was the most significant growth the site has ever seen.
How do you define social media?
Social media is more than the modern water cooler, which is what I’ve heard it called more times than I can count. Social media is the hub of online, and therefore most modern life. Whether you spend your time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or your own WordPress blog, social media is where online communication happens.
And social media is non-negotiable if you’re building an online business. What people say about you will always be more important than what you say about yourself, and social media is where people are saying it.
I’m not sure the definition of social media has changed. It’s the same as it’s been since my first days online, the only thing that ever really changes is the amount of time I spend tending the garden.
When you think back to the time you blogged anonymously, do you laugh at yourself?
No, not at all. Early anonymity was an important first step for me. I’m the kind of guy who is incredibly shy, until I’m not. Once I’m comfortable, I’m able to step in to my space and make it my own. But I always have to get comfortable first.
When I started my first site, Writer Dad, I’d only been writing a few months. I wasn’t yet comfortable calling myself a writer. My family didn’t even know I was writing, so anonymity gave me a stronger voice and allowed me to find myself without the scrutiny I would’ve had if people I knew were reading my posts. Besides that, I was openly discussing closing the business, and it was an appropriate time to put that information out there in the real world.
If anything, I’m proud I was able to draw a large crowd painting in such broad strokes.
Even now, there are times when anonymity would be most appropriate. For example, if I’m going into markets where my name isn’t an asset, using a pen name makes a lot of sense.
I spent a couple of years as a ghostwriter, which means I’ve been anonymous more time than I haven’t. I’m perfectly comfortable writing in someone else’s voice and taking none of the credit. Anonymity has helped me get as well known online as I am today.
What is the biggest challenge the publishing industry will face in 2012?
I think there are two primary challenges. The first is separating the bad from the good, and the good from the great. Because anyone can self-publish, many writers do, even when they shouldn’t, or aren’t yet ready. Poorly written copy, or even decent copy that hasn’t seen a final edit, is EVERYWHERE.
This will be the year when buyers start speaking loudly, pushing the worst to the bottom and pulling the best to the top. Everyone keeps saying that there are no gatekeepers. That’s not true. There are a ton of gatekeepers, more now than ever. The gatekeepers aren’t the publishers deciding who can or can’t get published, they are the readers deciding who’s most worthy of attention.
The other, bigger challenge is streamlining the industry. Readers want one format that will work across all their devices. What we have now with each of ePub, Mobi, and all the other file types isn’t reader friendly. It’s like HDTV versus Blue-Ray or VHS versus Beta all over again. We’ve seen the eBook explosion, but will see the true eruption once formats are standard.