If you have just started to write or if you have been writing for years, one of the hardest aspects is to find your voice. You know, that inner muse that lets you pour out your words onto paper the way you imagined them in your head. Words that connect to readers in a way that keeps them coming back for more. How do you attract an audience for your writing? People who will be chomping at the bits for every last word you put out into the world are going to be your lifeblood as a writer, and you need to cater to them once you have them.
Now, I’m not saying that you write for them, however, once you find your voice and those people enjoy it you will be writing for you and in turn them. Make sense? Good. The info below is from two articles I found to be very helpful in finding your audience as a writer and what to do once you have. An excellent vlog is below as well on how important finding your audience is and how you do just that. I hope you enjoy and use what you learn to sell more books😉
15 Ways to Earn Your Audience as a Writer
By: Chuck Wendig
Your best and most noble path to developing an audience as a writer is by having something awesome (or many awesome somethings) to give them. Tell the best story you can tell. Above all the social-media posturing and brand building and outreach, you need a great “thing” (book, movie, comic, whatever) to be the core of your authorial ecosystem. Tell a great story. Achieve optimal awesomeness. Build audience on the back of your skill, talent, and devotion.
Here are 15 ways to develop an audience:
1. Swift Cellular Division
The days of writing One Single Thing every year and standing on that single thing as if it were a mighty marble pedestal are long gone. (And, if you ask me, have been gone for a lot longer than everybody says—unless, of course, you’re a bestselling author.) Nowadays, it pays to write a lot. Spackle shut the gaps in your resume. Bridge any chasm in your schedule. This doesn’t mean write badly. It doesn’t mean “churn out endless strings of talentless sputum.” It just means to be generative. Always be writing.
2. Painting With Shotguns
The power of creative diversity will serve you well. The audience doesn’t come to you. You go to the audience. “One book is less likely to find an audience than three?” Correction: “One book is less likely to find an audience than two books, a comic, a blog, a short story collection, various napkin doodles, a celebrity chef trading card set, and hip anonymous graffiti.” Joss Whedon didn’t just write Buffy. He wrote films. And comics. And a webseries. The guy is all over the map. Diversity in nature helps a species survive. So too will it help the tribe of storytellers survive.
3. Sharing Is Caring
Make your work easy to share. This is triply true for newer storytellers: Don’t hide your work behind a wall. Make sure your work is widely available. Don’t make it difficult to pass around. I have little doubt that there’s a strategy wherein making your story a truly rare bird can serve you—scarcity suggests value and mystery, after all—but the smart play for creative types just setting out is to get your work into as many hands as possible with as little trouble as you can offer. This is true for veteran storytellers, too. Comedian Louis C.K. made it very easy to get his new comedy special on the web. And that served him well both financially and in terms of earning him a new audience while rewarding the existing audience.
4. Value at Multiple Tiers
Your nascent audience doesn’t want to have to take out a home equity loan to try your untested work. If you’re a new author and your first book comes out and the e-book is $12.99, well, good luck to you. Now, that might not be in your control, so here’s what you do: Have multiple expressions of your awesomeness available at a variety of tiers. Have something free. Have something out there for a buck or three. Make sure folks can sample your work and still support you, should they choose to do so.
5. Be You
The best audience isn’t just an audience that exists around a single work, but rather, an ecosystem that connects to the creator. The audience that hangs with a creator will follow said creator from work to work. That means who you are as a storyteller matters—this is not to suggest that you need to be the center of a cult of personality. Just be humble creator of many things. You’re the hub of your creative life, with spokes leading to many creative expressions rather than just one. Put yourself out there. And be you. Be authentic. Don’t just be a “creator.” You’re not a marketing mouthpiece. You’re a human. For all the good and the bad.
6. Engagement and Interaction
Very simply: Talk to people. Social media—though I’m starting to hate that phrase and think we should call it something like the “digital conversation matrix”—is a great place in which to be you and interact with folks and be more than just a mouthpiece for your work. The audience wants to feel connected to you. Like with those freaky tentacular hair braids in Avatar. Get out there. Hang out. Be you. Interact. Engage.
7. Head’s Up: Social Media Is Not Your Priority
Special attention must be paid: Social media is a side dish; it is not your main burrito. See #1 on this list.
8. Hell With the Numbers
Just as I exhort you to be a human being, I suggest you look at all those with whom you interact on social media as people, too. They’re not resources. They’re not a number. They’re not “followers”—yes, fine, they might be called that, but (excepting a few camouflaged spam-bots) they’re people. Sure, as you gaze out over an audience, the heads and faces start to blur together like the subjects of a pointillist painting, but remember that the audience is made up of people. And people are really cool.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
An earnest plea to your existing audience to help you find and earn a new audience would not be remiss.
10. Share Knowledge
As you learn things about the process, share them with others. Free exchange of information is awesome. Be open and honest. Be useful.
11. Embrace Feedback
Reviews, critiques, commentary, conversation—feedback is good even when it’s bad. When it’s bad, all you have to do is ignore it. Or politely say, “I’ll consider that!” and in the privacy of your own home, shred the feedback with wanton disregard. When it’s good, it’s stellar and connects you all the more deeply to the audience. The audience is now a part of your feedback loop, like it or not.
12. Do Set Boundaries
That feedback loop is not absolute. I’m not a strong believer in creative integrity as an indestructible, indefatigable “thing”—but, I recognize that being a single-minded creator requires some ego. Further, the reality is that once something is “out there”, it is what it is and there ain’t anything you can do about it. So you have to know when to turn off comments, back away from social media, or just set personal and unspoken boundaries for yourself.
13. Don’t Wrestle Gators If You’re Not a Good Gator Wrestler
What I mean is, don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re not good in public, don’t go out in public. If writing guest blogs is not your thing … well, maybe don’t write a guest blog. Again, this isn’t a list where you need to check off every box. These are just options. Avoid those that plunge you into a churning pool of discomfort. You don’t want to lose more audience than you earn.
14. Take Your Time
Earning your audience won’t happen overnight. You don’t plant a single seed and expect to see a lush garden grown up by morning. This takes time, work, patience, and, y’know, earning the attention of other fine humans one set of eyeballs at a time. It’s why you put yourself out there again and again.
15. Have Fun
Relax. Enjoy yourself. This isn’t supposed to be torture. You should have fun for two reasons: First, because people can sense when you’re just phoning it in, or worse, when you’re just moping. Second, because fun is fun. You should enjoy writing; enjoy putting your work out there.
Do You Know Who Your Audience Is? No, Really: Do You?
By Dan Blank
I heard this from a writer in a class I am teaching: “I have been struggling with the “who is my audience piece.”
They hadn’t realized that before they figure out WHAT they want to say, they need to understand who their ideal audience really is.
I would like to say that this is the MOST common feedback I hear from writers, but often, it isn’t. I would like to think that writers are obsessing about who their audience is. But instead, the most common request I here is always:
“How do I grow my audience?”
But how can you grow your audience when you don’t know who they are?
When I ask them the next logical question: “tell me about the people who make up your ideal audience,” I often get some long pauses, some hemming and hawing, and half-hearted attempts at answers:
- “Women over 40.”
- “Anyone who loves a good story.”
- “My story is universal.”
Now, I LOVE LOVE LOVE working with writers. So I will try to put this as delicately as possible:
No, your story is not universal.
Thinking it is doesn’t only devalue the complexity and range of human experience on this planet, but doesn’t serve you well to understand how to find more readers for your work. Maybe your book will be a breakout success, demolishing previously conceived lines of topic, genre and audience.
Before you take a bet on that lottery ticket – that your book needs to find the success of Harry Potter, or no success at all – focus on establishing a small and engaged audience of people who truly love your work.
Today I want to talk about why it is important to understand who your audience is, and how critical this information can be if you actually want to GROW your audience.
Many writers don’t share their work before publication, and if they do, it is often only with other writers. They just don’t feel they have the time to consider their audience, they are barely keeping up with writing, the publishing process, and the rest of their life. So they lump anything having to do with their audience under the term “marketing,” and justify that you don’t do marketing until just before the book comes out. This allows them to keep a safe distance from their audience – and from determining who these people may actually be.
In reality, they are just hoping – perhaps even praying – that once their book comes out, their intended readers will do the hard work for them. That the audience will self-select, raise their hands, and go out of their way to find this book. The author envisions publication as a process of LEARNING who their audience is as a passive act. But finding readers is important if you actually want to get read.
Why do many writers think their book appeals to a wide audience? Because they simply haven’t done the work to realize who it WOULD appeal to, and who it WOULDN’T appeal to.
When posed with this scenario – the author who insists their book has a vague and broad audience – I sometimes ask writers who haven’t defined their audience this question:
“Let’s just say I will give you $50,000 if, in the next hour, you can find 5 people who would love your book.”
(Sometimes I change it to something like “find 5 people who would spend $3 to buy your book.” Or I change the amount of money in the bet, depending on how hypothetically generous I am feeling.)
Now, with $50,000 on the line for a mere hour’s worth of work, your mind begins racing. You get super specific. You think of the core themes or topics in your book; you think of competitive books who have an already established audience. Then you consider the exact physical places you can go to reach these readers; the ways these people are already organized – already self-selected and filtered based on previous behavior and interests; you think about who has access to these people; you consider where these people are online and off; you focus on actual names of people you can call at this very moment.
Fifty-thousand dollars in one hour does that to you.
Suddenly, identifying who your audience is and where you can find them seems relevant and even a priority. There is an urgency to it. Suddenly, it matters.
If You Can’t Build A Small Audience, How Can You Build A Large Audience?
Even if you truly do feel your book has a very broad potential audience, focus on building a core audience first. Yes, your sci-fi western romance thriller may take off like Harry Potter. But how can you ensure a small but engaged audience for that book first?
This process takes these vague and scary terms such as “audience” or “marketing” or dare I say “tribe” and gives them names and faces. And personalities, and quirks, and most importantly: CONTEXT.
This process teaches you not just about your audience, but about your writing and its perception and effect.
Art, music, and writing have two lives: INTENTION and EFFECT.
You plan for the intention based on the story you want to tell or the way you write about a topic. That is what comes from the soul of the writer, musician or artist.
But then you release it to the world, and the writing can take on a life of its own. My favorite singer, Glen Hansard, once described the lifecycle of his hit song “Falling Slowly,” like this: (and I am paraphrasing because he said it at a live show):
It’s like you are in the backyard with your friends kicking a soccer ball, and then in one instance, you kick this ball further than you ever have. It goes over the fence, over the neighbor’s yard, beyond the town limits, clear over the horizon out of sight. And part of you is staring in amazement at what has happened, how far that ball has gone. And part of you says to yourself: ‘I just want my f*cking ball back.’”
You can’t control what happens to the work once it is released, and it can do amazing things, profoundly affecting the lives of others in positive ways. But it can also change the nature of the relationship the creator has with their work.
Regardless of When Your Book Comes Out, Start Building Your Audience Now
Start building your audience now. You know how you are fearful of being pressured to use slimy sales and marketing tactics to publicize your book around the launch date? Well, the cure for that is to not set yourself up for it.
The best way to build an audience is to do so by establishing trusting relationships with those ideal readers and those in the community that connects them. Trust takes time. Building that network takes time. Understanding the nuances of how to talk with these people in a non-promotional way takes time. Start now.
Finding Your Audience Is About Listening, Not Talking
When people try to find their audience, too many start with talking, not listening. They figure if I just tell the world about my sci-fi western romance thriller, those who are interested in that burgeoning genre will pique up their ears and take action to learn more.
So they Tweet, post status updates, blog posts, print bookmarks, take out ads, and take on that promotional voice.
When instead, they should be listening.
Recently I spoke at Thrillerfest in New York City, and had the pleasure of meeting Joanna Penn in person for the first time after years of online interactions. Now, Joanna has established a sizable audience for herself with her blog TheCreativePenn.com, and she has sold more than 40,000 copies of her first two novels. A lot of people know who she is, and learn a lot from her.
But she made it clear to me by her words and actions, that she wasn’t attending Thrillerfest as “Joanna Penn of TheCreativePenn.com with nearly 30,000 Twitter followers.” She was there to listen. She was there to talk to the fellow thriller readers and writers to LEARN about them, their work, their interests, their goals. To focus on improving her craft and how to manage a successful career as a writer.
It was pretty much the opposite of how I see most people who are building an online brand attend a conference. Usually, folks often see it as a prime opportunity to spread the word about what they offer, grow their audience, and get more customers. But I didn’t see Joanna giving out bookmarks or trying to get people to sign up for her mailing list. I saw her taking notes and taking notes and taking notes. I loved seeing that. (I also had the pleasure of having drinks and dinner with her – so thank you for that Joanna!)
Research Is Often Missing From Most Writers’ Author Platform Process
Too many people assume. They are 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 years old, they know a thing or two, and they want to validate the value of their experience. I don’t begrudge them that. But too often, I see it close off their minds.
They insist they “know” who their audience is. They insist they “know” how to grow their audience.
But they problem is this… they don’t actually do it. They don’t actually connect with an audience. And when you ask them details, they come up short. They provide excuses – or examples they have read about from other people’s experiences – reasons they shouldn’t need to do this or that.
And really, I’m fine with that except for the fact that I know they aren’t reaching the goals they hope to achieve in their writing career. They aren’t having the effect they want.
The way I have come to describe it is this: the goal is not to get published, the goal is to get read. To have an impact on readers.
How can you start with the research process to identify your audience? Just a few ideas:
- Determine your comps – books published in the past few years who are similar to yours.
- Speak to other authors such as yourself, not as promotion, but as research. Learn from their wisdom. If you have to – interview them, promote them.
- Create personas for your ideal audience.
- Understand your ideal audience beyond just what they read.
- Identify the narratives that readers look for everyday. EG: the underdog story, stories of healing, etc.
And of course: talk to readers. Learn about them.
Be Polarizing – Make Choices
Choosing who is in, and who is out is a good thing. Because it forces you to understand the reasons behind decisions and actions. Be polarizing, but not necessarily controversial. Who you DON’T align with is oftentimes as important as who you DO align with.
What a lot of marketers do is make alignment representative of deeper ideals. That they don’t “Like” your book, that they align to the ideals your book represents. This way it connects to things ALREADY in your audience’s head – things they already value. You see this all the time in politics, some aspects of some religions, and business marketing.
When I work with writers in my Build Your Author Platform course, this is how we spend the first HALF of the course: understanding your audience, and how your purpose/message/story/topic aligns with them.
Finding your audience is about building trusting relationships ONE PERSON at a time. We seem to know this in the real-world – the in-person world, the offline world – but we forget it online. We just want that little number counter to go up: more followers, more likes, more fans, more friends.
How did you make friends in grade school? In high school? In college? One person at a time. From trusted connection to trusted connection. You were truly a part of a network. Because this is the way humans interact. You don’t just walk into a room of 200 people and yell “you are all my friends now!” and then try to find another room of 200 people to yell at.