I got a great Ask about this a little bit ago about how to establish an audience for your writing. Here’s my answer!
(I’m not an expert on building an audience, but I’ll
do my best to share advice based on my personal experience, and perhaps
a few other writers will chime in, too.)
My situation: I myself
have a very small audience for my creative writing, as I tend to focus
more on writing than on promoting myself (for the most part). The
biggest success I’ve had in this department is with my latest zine Pigtail Girls.
I was able to raise $2,000 on Kickstarter to create it, held a local
release party that drew a crowd of 70 or so folks and have sold about
150 zines so far (with almost no post-release promotion).
don’t make my full-time living as a fiction writer, but I have a solid
enough audience of readers that it feels satisfying when I come out with
something new, and I’ve been traditionally published a few times as
well. I have also placed in a few contests and gotten some awards and
stuff. But still my audience is very small. That being said, here’s my
advice. I hope it helps :)
#1 Start small… with people you already know
you’re just starting out, many of your fans or supporters will be the
people who already know you. Your friends, family, co-workers, peers,
acquaintances, etc. Share and talk about your writing with these people,
and pluck up the courage to ask for their support! At least a few of
them will genuinely like your writing, and you never know who might have
a connection that can help get you more exposure.
#2 Don’t feel try to “sell” or “promote” yourself to these folks. Instead, make authentic, person-to-person connections
writers fail to create an audience because they have a perception of
what it means to “self promote” which leads them to plaster their social
media with desperate pleas to buy their book, or feel pressured to
“sell themselves” to new friends and contacts. It seems
counter-intuitive, but the best thing you can do is to make genuine, authentic connections with people and be open about your writing with them.
way, when your friend who works at a bookstore needs someone to open
for a touring reader… they think of you. Or when you have a release
party to celebrate your release, your co-worker will come (and maybe
bring their friend who happens to be a newspaper writer… see where I’m
going with this?). When you have authentic relationships with people,
they will help you grow your base without having to beg or sell to them.
#3 Make friends with readers, other writers, editors, bookstore clerks… basically anyone in the literary world
There’s a lot of networking, nepotism, and hobnobbing going on in the
literary world. Of course, we all know this stuff happens at the
super-famous level. People network their way into recognition all the
time. Celebrities get book deals. Keanu Reeves is allowed to be an
actor. You might not be lucky enough to be bumping elbows with the elite, but your connections can help you no matter how small they are.
As of March 2018, my writing has been traditionally published four
times. The first three were open submissions. The other one was because
my friend was the editor of a magazine, liked my work, and asked to
publish it. At the time I made this friend, she was a writer but not an editor. We connected for other reasons, but by happy coincidence she was able to help promote my work a few years down the line.
#4 Write your social media posts like you’re talking to your friends, not the anonymous masses
This ties into #2. When you use social media to share about your writing, make it personal. A
lot of writers feel like they have to sell themselves on social media,
so they end up making promotional posts that are basically like “buy my
book!” or “read my writing!”
But if you share something real, much like you would if you were talking to a friend, people are much more likely to respond. I know this from personal experience. My highest-performing posts about my writing are always the ones that make a connection and share something personal with my followers.
if you’re using certain platforms (Facebook and Instagram for sure do
this), your post will get buried by the algorithm if it’s overtly
“promotional.” So in certain instances this becomes not just wise but
absolutely necessary so that your posts get seen.
#4 Consider trying to get a story traditionally published
can help in a few ways. First, you’ll have made a connection with the
editor of that magazine. (Connections!) Second, your work will be seen
by a new audience of readers. Third, it can give you credibility that
makes people (editors, readers, etc.) more likely to give your work a
second look further down the line.
#5 Get off the internet
My biggest base of supporters are the folks in my town. That’s because they see me and interact with me regularly. It’s way easier to keep the attention of people IRL than it is online, in my experience. Here are some ideas of how to make friends in the real world who can be supporters of your writing:
Attend or give a public reading
Start or join a writing group
Hang out at the bookstore
Go to any and all literary events in your town
Make friends with other creative people: musicians, artists, photographers.
Seek out collaborative projects with other writers and creatives
#6 Accept that, yes, it takes time
Building an audience doesn’t happen overnight.
But there can be a cumulative, exponential effect over the long run.
Take Tumblr for example. Most people who have a blog can probably
remember how it took forever to get those first 10 followers. But
once you have the first 10, it’s a little easier to get the second 10,
and so on. It’s the same with an audience.
There may be huge
surges in your popularity that leave you feeling awesome, then after
that you may find your growth starts to lag a bit. That’s totally normal. Which leads me to my last tip:
#7 Remember that it’s quality, not quantity, that counts
Especially in the age of social media, we can get totally hooked on numbers. How many followers, how many email subscribers, how many patrons, etc. But in my experience it’s the quality of your audience, not the quantity, that counts. Focus on building real relationships and delivering something great to just a few
loyal readers rather than trying to please everyone. Those people will
be the ones to help promote you and have your back when it’s really
For example, when I ran my Kickstarter project for
my latest zine, about half of the $2,000 I raised came from big
donations. That means that just a few of my really loyal readers
kicked down most of my goal. As I mentioned earlier, one of my
publications came from an editor friend who is a really big fan
of my work. Most of my successes have been because of the dedication of a
handful of people, not because I have some enormous following. (This
phenomenon has actually been studied and officially named. It’s called the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. I totally recommend looking it up and reading more about it.)
Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this helped!
I feel like no one really knows how to market the How To Train Your Dragon films. Paramount did a terrible job with the first one, Fox revealed huge chunks of the film and marketed it as an action movie, and now Universal just doesn’t know what to do with a serious animated movie without minions in it.