Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future

PhotobucketI recently read this advice telling fiction writers not to worry (initially) about online presence or platform.

I run across this advice frequently—and I used to offer up some version of it, e.g., focus on perfecting your work first before you jump into submitting.

While I still believe that to some extent, this view can set up writers for disappointment and failure if/when they do get published. So let’s dispel some myths.

Myth: In fiction, craft is the most important thing.

Why this view is problematic: Most writers aspire to sell their work to a traditional publisher. While it’s important in fiction to have a wonderful and exceptional manuscript, sadly that doesn’t make your work salable or marketable.

(Writers, don’t you complain all the time about the crap that gets published by New York houses?)

Mediocre writers with sales & marketing savvy are more likely to succeed in commercial publishing than talented writers without sales & marketing skill.

Myth: Fiction writers need to focus on writing (or completing their first manuscript).

Why this view is problematic: Few writers—even the established ones—have the luxury of just writing, and frankly, it’s better not to set up an unrealistic idea that your valuable time should be spent only writing (while pushing off the undesirable online or marketing activities to a publisher).

Even while producing your first manuscript, you need to find ways to meaningfully interact with others online, consider how your stories can reach readers in new or dynamic ways, and develop some skill at soft marketing and promotion (or branding yourself), before those skills are called upon to ensure the success of your published work.

But perhaps most importantly, online interaction leads to deep developments in how you write, who you write for, and how many you write for. Every writer should be invested in audience development.

What is audience development?

Are you passionate about sharing your story with others? Do you want to find more readers to share your work with?

That’s audience development, and it’s NEVER too soon to start cultivating and growing your audience.

How does one develop an audience? Aside from writing and publishing your work, or being active in your community, you develop a following by:

    • Interacting with friends and other writers on Facebook (or your preferred social network)
    • Developing relationships with writers and potential readers on Twitter
    • Participating in forums that tie into your work’s genre, topic, or subject matter
    • Commenting on blogs of interest to you, and offering thoughtful feedback and questions
    • Having a site or blog that serves as a homebase and gives people a way to be notified when something new happens with you (via e-mail or RSS)

Social media is not just about socializing. It is NOT wasting your time. It’s part of your critical mission of spreading the word about what you do, building audience, and developing relationships that benefit you over a lifetime.

Audience development activities are so important that they should be integrated into your daily life and—lucky you!—you’re living in an age when the tools to reach your audience are free, easy to use, and pose no barriers to entry.

You want to wait to try Facebook or Twitter or blogging until a few months before your book is out?

That’s too late for most books.

You want to wait to establish your online presence until you have a book deal?

You’re likely to feel confused and unsure of yourself, and it’s going to be like summiting a 10,000-foot mountain in an hour.

Don’t tell me you’re leaving audience building to your publisher. Because I’m here to tell you: They rarely put in the investment that’s required.

If you think your publisher will deliver your book to your most desirable or target audience, you deeply misunderstand the capabilities and function of most traditional trade publishing houses. And you’re focusing too much on the publication of one book—which is only one format, one experience, one small piece of what you might potentially offer a readership.

Here’s the Big Secret
You want to have an audience connected to YOU over the lifespan of your writing career—far beyond the publication of a single title.

Repeat to yourself:
Getting a book published does NOT equate to readership.

You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY. Your readers will not be interested in reading just one book; they will be interested in everything and anything you do—and that includes interacting with you online.

Audience development doesn’t happen overnight (or even in 6 months or a year)—and it’s a process that continues for as long as you want to have a readership.

It shouldn’t be delayed, postponed, or discounted for one minute.

Photo courtesy Flickr’s CarbonNYC

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About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. This fall, she's proud to be offering two creative nonfiction courses from experienced university writing professorsFind out more.

Comments

  1. says

    I love this, Jane. Thank you for being so straight forward. I know from personal experience that what you say here is true, and I see it argued too often on writers’ forums. I hope that this article will help others understand these things are not a waste of time if carried out in an organized manner and with a specific purpose.

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  2. says

    Awesome info Jane. I printed it and saved it and sent it and I will tweet and facebook it – it’s so incredibly important. It also clarifies why I am knocking myself out in this area before my book is completely finished. (now I’m going to go read it to my husband!)
    .-= Lynne Spreen´s last blog ..Social Networking – Taming the Beast =-.

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  3. says

    Brava! When I started on Twitter last July, most of my friends and family thought I was simply wasting my time, and my time would be served better by writing. Living in the country, with no writing group or support system for my craft, left me feeling a writing a career was the unattainable Holy Grail. Social media, however, has brought that cup of success to my doorstep. I test out story ideas on my blog and learn from articles, links and advice posted by others. The doors that have opened to me in just six months would never… i repeat NEVER… have been available to me if I had just sat here and written. Thanks, Jane, for continuing to educate everyone on the importance of stepping outside of their comfort zone and putting their words out to as many people in as many ways as possible. You’re the best!
    .-= Jeanne Veillette Bowerman @jeannevb´s last blog ..The Honest Scrap Award =-.

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  4. says

    Thank you for the great advice! For newer writers, like myself, it is valuable to learn that waiting too long to develop an audience is a mistake. And, I like that now I can focus on the fact that it’s not wasting my time!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Welcome, my guest, Colin Barron =-.

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  5. says

    Great post!

    i completely agree with everything you wrote and I would add also – be yourself and be authentic. As we go about “building platform” through social networking, blogging, etc. I think it is important to participate in a meaningful way. Read blogs that you actually like, not just ones you think will help you get somewhere. Pay it forward (in advance) and support as many writers and authors as you can (and whose work you admire). Open yourself up in these venues and show the world what makes YOU unique.
    .-= Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist´s last blog ..Writers and Gossip =-.

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  6. says

    Great post! I especially liked your point about not waiting too long to start social networking. It can be a little overwhelming in the beginning, so it’s critical to tackle it while you don’t have a million other things going on. Thanks!
    .-= Erika Robuck´s last blog ..Voodoo and Fiction Sales =-.

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  7. says

    I generally agree. Writers can only help themselves by building up The Whole Package from the beginning. It’s never just about writing. In fact, the term “writer” is something of a misnomer, because we mut do so much more.

    I speak to this in my post, “Writers Don’t Do That.” Myths about the things writers “don’t need” to learn (editing, social media, marketing).

    http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2010/02/02/writers-dont-do-that/

    All that being said, it’s best not to encourage a false dichotomy — I still think the writer must focus first on a product that doesn’t suck. But that doesn’t exclude the writer from doing so much more at the same time. The manuscript might be a priority, but other things must fall in line in the “off-hours.” Audience development is one of those things.

    — c.
    .-= Chuck´s last blog ..Lady Gaga Is My Master Now =-.

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  8. says

    The question that always comes to mind when I read advice like this is, what kind of topics?

    As an aspiring writer, I like reading other writers’ blogs when they talk about writing. But I can’t imagine that attracts a lot of nonwriters. (There is value in networking with other writers, but that’s not what you’re talking about here.)

    Maybe there are people who think “She tells the funniest stories about battling cabbage worms, I should read her novel about the girl who learns to control the weather,” and I’m just not one of them?

    And yes, I can see how this might work if it were “She tells great gardening stories, I should read her cozy mystery about the garden club.” Should I be blogging about a) random interesting things about the Native Americans of Illinois, b) stories from when I was a reporter, c) random interesting things about colonial New England and the American Revolution, d) topics that apply to future novels? Because that’s seriously a lot of work, and while I don’t mind working hard, I have to agree with the blog you linked to that it’s more important to spend that time writing the books.

    (That said, I do have a blog and website and Facebook and Twitter…but I don’t have them to “build an audience.”)
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Things I love and bonus mini to-do list =-.

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  9. says

    Excellent and straightforward wake-up call!

    I would caution young writers who are distraction-prone: don’t let “establishing a platform” become your excuse for not writing!

    But like you said, Jane, being hip to this stuff is just plain necessary in this day and age.
    .-= Kristan´s last blog ..Optimistic by nature =-.

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  10. says

    I’ve become quite evangelical about this conversation. In fact, I wrote a blog piece about it last Wednesday. So many people wallow in their helplessness rather than getting it together to get published.

    Every successful author from Homer to Evanovich fought, struggled and worked to build an audience – every single one. Why do we believe we would be different?
    .-= On a limb with Claudia´s last blog ..Learning to Stand :: Chapter Three :: =-.

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  11. says

    I have this argument with other author friends. They yearn for the days when the publisher was 100% responsible for your book’s success. Those days are gone. Ask the record companies, oh wait there aren’t any anymore, how well holding onto the past worked out for them.

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  12. thea says

    No doubt – aspiring-to-be-published writers need to be market savvy these days. Being devilishly lucky helps, too!!

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  13. says

    I second Elizabeth’s question. What exactly should we be writing about on Twitter, Facebook, etc? Also, what if we write about lots of different topics? Is it schizophrenic to blog/tweet/whatever about all of them?

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  14. says

    Jane: thanks for the geat advice and support. For years, I have worked on and off selling things and am a criminal defense trial lawyer…talk about trying to sell things to a jury! Anyway, I agree with your point that good writing won’t go anywhere without an audience and the author’s efforts to build and sell to that audience. My first novel is coming out in Sept and although I love writing, I’m finding the marketing effort is equally challenging and…well, fun! Thanks, Coln

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  15. @alisonsharpe says

    As an organizer (@bravegirl) of the first twestival (a twitter-based global charity event) I can attest to the power of social media and online interaction to build a loyal base of readers which allows you to effectively promote ANY idea, product, brand. Writers are so often ensconced in a solitary world and eschew networking and marketing, seeing it as a “necessary evil” that somehow compromises their artistic integrity.

    I for one love the immediate feedback online interaction gives me and while working the social media angle is, indeed, work, it’s also fun and incredibly rewarding!

    Looking forward to hearing more from you!
    Alison

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  16. says

    To respond to Elizabeth & Stephanie who ask: “What kind of topics?” and is it OK to cover multiple topics?

    I agree that if you’re an aspiring writer who is writing about writing, that’s not likely to attract your core readership — though there is tremendous value in using social media to develop contacts and relationships that will help you over the span of your career.

    There are many blogs I read where I love the person behind them — I love their perspective on life. If I fall in love with someone through their blog or online presence, I’m certain to pay attention when they release a book, and tell all my friends, too.

    If you can’t interest and hook people online or on a blog, in short form — where you can talk about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING (and fully engage with readers) — what does that say about your ability as a writer?

    Write about things that fascinate and obsess you. Share personal anecdotes. Ruffle some feathers. Agree or disagree with others.

    The more you write and put your voice out there, the more you develop a presence that draws your true fans, the people who want more interaction with you.

    I can’t tell you what topics to pursue. It would be like asking me what kind of book you should write, what kind of job fits you best, or what your perfect partner looks like. You get to decide these things.

    But I wouldn’t be so systematic and rigid about it. Of course it helps if there are identifiable themes/topics that you revisit, and form a basis for your published work, but it’s not necessary to limit yourself.

    Sure, you can spend your time writing just the books. But who’s going to show up to read your book if no one knows who you are? Who knows you exist outside of your publisher? (Don’t count on your publisher to bring attention to your existence.)

    If you don’t win hearts and minds of readers (and doing it online is by far the easiest method available to you), who will?

    There’s far too much noise out there — too many authors who have devoted audiences when their book hits the shelves — to leave this to a hope and a prayer.
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..Is It Better to Be Loved or Understood? =-.

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  17. says

    I appreciate this topic, Jane, and everyone’s comments about it. I’m working on my first novel, which is my third book. I didn’t get going on the Internet until a short time after my second book was out, but now — whether I write more fiction or more non-fiction (probably both) — I’ll keep up my blog. I enjoy writing it, it’s great writing discipline, and as people find me (still working on that), I hope they’ll be interested in and find help on my blog. I have trouble with how best to use Twitter, but I’m working on that, too. Thanks for starting this discussion.

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  18. says

    Great thoughts!! Sadly, I think some writers have a hard time balancing social media time and writing time. It’s a fine line. I’ve thought about this a lot recently… why build a readership if you will never have anything to for your readers to read? For my work day, writing comes first. Then social media.

    Also… I love the advice that you don’t have to work every social media platform out there. Pick 1 or 2 or 3 that fit with your style and go for it!

    Good article Jane! Thank you! :D

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  19. says

    Thanks for the great advice, Jane. Because of posts like yours, I am trying to become more social online through various networks. I read many of your posts and appreciate how much time you take to help us.

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  20. says

    Sage advice, Jane. Thank you! I loved thea’s addition too…”devilishly lucky!” We can only hope for that. Frontloading the marketing just makes sense. Besides, writing can be such an isolating profession, why not get out into the kiddie pool and make a splash! But I know myelf well. I can be one that loves to play a little too much. So…networking, like everything else for us right-brainers, requires discipline. I write in the morning, revise a bit when I get home from my other job…and then read and study the market, react and respond on FB, twitter…and email too, at night. That way, I’ve covered my bases and I haven’t gotten lost in the black hole of the internet!
    .-= Gael Lynch´s last blog ..Hearing Voices…and Going Along for the Ride =-.

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  21. Barbara Forte Abate says

    Fantastic post, Jane. I too am printing this out for future use (future, as in “immediate!”) For so many of us the focus is on writing that perfect, awesome, and amazing novel, believing that once the deed is done to perfection the job is done. What a jolt into reality when we discover the truth! Market or perish is a lesson I’m learning late in the game, but nevertheless, I’m extremely thankful to be learning it. Your advice is a goldmine and enormously appreciated!
    http://www.barbaraforteabate.com

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  22. says

    Timely advise for me. I have been developing my blog for a couple of months now, fretting that I’m not spending enough time on my novel. But since Roatan Vortex (draft title) is a story set where I live, connecting with people who have an interest in what I have to say about living on the Island of Roatan, Honduras, has helped me define my voice.

    “Life & Writing, on Roatan-When Not Independently Wealthy or Old Enough to Retire” is steadily gaining a following, and Honduras Weekly (a respected on-line Honduran Newspaper) has picked-up some of my stories, and requested I send them more…I’ll find a way to keep fitting it all in!

    http://gennyca.wordpress.com

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  23. says

    Every time a new author asks “What should I do first?” or “Do I need a website yet?” when they’re unpublished, I’ve always said “Get a web presence!”
    This article breaks down why. Thank you.
    .-= Jennifer Leeland´s last blog ..Welcome =-.

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  24. says

    This advice applies to all creative people, not just writers. Too many creatives have an attitude of, “I’ll just do whatever I want in a vacuum and ignore the fact that an outside world exists because I’m better than it.”

    This makes me think of the people who embarrass themselves in auditions for American Idol, by refusing to accept critique, commentary, any form of feedback or interaction other than exactly what they want to hear.

    In my opinion it should be every creative’s worst nightmare to be one of those people.
    .-= E.v.R.´s last blog ..Writers Do =-.

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  25. says

    Great post, Jane. Thanks! I find I’m mostly connecting with other writers through my blog, facebook, and twitter (I’m not published yet), but I’m trying to be more conscious of posting stuff that will also help build connections with readers. I find it challenging, but definitely believe it’s worthwhile!

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  26. says

    Blogging has been the ultimate learning tool and source of opportunity for me, so thanks for putting this advice to other writers. My articles have attracted the attention of several published novelists, all who’ve been very encouraging. And as for Twitter, once I realized I could connect with all kinds of people in the publishing industry, I ran with it.

    Thanks Jane!
    .-= Suzannah-Write It Sideways´s last blog ..Why Do You Want to Be Published? =-.

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  27. says

    What an amazing opportunity we have as writers to connect with others. I find it amazing that I can shoot James Lee Burke a question and he’ll get back to me. How loyal do you think that makes me to his work? It makes me his biggest fan. And when other writers ask me for help, I get right back to them. When a reader emails me to say they enjoyed my work. I mail them back and say thanks (I also add that it would be cool if they did a review on Amazon – you have to be your works biggest cheer leader. It gets old but you get used to it).

    Thanks Jane!

    Greg Gutierrez
    Zen and the Art of Surfing

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  28. says

    Thanks for the advice Jane. A film blog I used to run led to me working for a newspaper, so blogging does help.

    There isn’t a large writing community where I live, which means I have no choice but to branch out online. Interacting with other writers on the internet has taught me so much in the last few months.
    .-= Saba´s last blog ..That writing mood =-.

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  29. says

    I started following this advice (not knowing I was following it) in November–without any real idea if it was ever going to go anywhere (mostly because I remain unpublished). However, since I write historical fiction and fantasy set in Britain, I started blogging about anything and everything to do with Dark Age and Medieval Wales. Amazingly, I find that people are typing queries into google and coming up with something I wrote. Kind of startlingly cool . . .
    .-= Sarah Woodbury´s last blog ..Religious noncomformity in Wales =-.

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  30. says

    E.v.R. is dead on: this is the golden rule for EVERY type of creative, period.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I was uncomfortable with the idea of how much I had to “sell” myself when I started out as a young artist. It seemed little more than a way of dressing up organized prostitution. What did marketing have to do with creating? Was there no other option for starving artists but to sell out?

    The fact is, if you want to make a living off of being creative, marketing yourself is a necessary evil that doesn’t HAVE to be sleazy. You’re not trying to part a fool from his money, which is where the stigma of advertising derives from; rather, you’re simply trying to raise awareness of yourself and your work.

    Forgive the gauche adspeak, but: you are your own brand. As great as your work may be, it won’t sell itself.

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  31. says

    This post confirms so much of what I felt. From the moment I decided to seriously pursue publication, I felt a bit nervous that I had no online presence. I’ve read and heard advice that said you can wait until you have a book deal, but somehow, instinctively, I felt the sooner the better.

    I took the plunge and started a blog and joined Twitter. It has made a world of difference.I love to blog and connect with my followers. I consider it a real honor when someone chooses to follow me. I don’t take it for granted. I’ve met incredible people blooging, on Twitter and on book/writing related chats. I never would have encountered these folks otherwise.

    I just had a lovely chat with a literary agent by phone today that I communicated with on Twitter and then by email. I’ll be attending some workshops she holds in which pages of your manuscript are critiqued by various prominent editors. It’s an awesome learning opportunity I wouldn’t have had had I not put myself out there.

    Run don’t walk to immerse yourself in the social media/online networks. You can’t go wrong!
    .-= June´s last blog ..New Book Giveaway! Try a little Chick Lit. Check out the LIPSTICK JUNGLE by Candace Bushnell =-.

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  32. says

    Jane,

    I need your feedback. We have a new website that can assist writers in creating and sharing information. Let me know what you think. Thanks.

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  33. says

    Jane,

    A great piece, really summing up and stating so clearly the mission of the author at this moment in time. I love the passion you bring to helping authors and encouraging them to do well by themselves.

    Social media is a remarkable, and remarkably powerful, invention. My feeling is that we are still in the infancy of this innovation, and have yet to find all the ways it can enrich our lives. I’m really grateful for what social media has meant to me, as a new blogger and a writer.
    .-= Joel Friedlander´s last blog ..This Week in the Blogs: February 15 – 22, 2010 =-.

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  34. says

    I agree. In addition, I would think it’s nigh on impossible to achieve this without taking a sincere interest in engaging with other people.

    Thanks for sharing :)

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  35. says

    You hit the nail on the head, Jane. Audience Development is all about building relationships and the most powerful audience development stems directly from the artist’s own enthusiasm and passion. A marketer or publicist is not going to to be as powerful without the artists own input. Audience development does take time to build, and this is the very reason why no one should wait to start their own plan.

    I also like your assessment that a mediocre writer that is doing audience development can actually be more successful than a more talented writer that is not. It is critical for even a top writer to engage in audience development.

    The only observation I would like to add is the fact that audience development is not only about connecting online or through networking groups, but it can be as simple as having coffee or dinner with someone that you already know that will help spread the word. True audience development begins with who you know, and who you know can be a very powerful resource. The people that know and love you are the people that will truly support you.

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  36. Monica says

    This post may have saved me a lot of grief! I can’t say I didn’t know a lot of what you said. And yet I have still procrastinated on turning to this part of the process, thinking I have so much time. True, my first manuscript is light years from even being submitted, but I can still work on figuring out what sort of readership to go after and begin developing it.

    Now… if only I can figure out what that platform will be. I have yet to find any helpful advice on how a genre writer decides on/finds her platform! As a mystery writer, I’m sorta stumped.

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  37. says

    Well said! I think my own frustration on this front is sometimes wondering exactly what my platform should be. I’ve been actively blogging for three years on an almost daily basis talking about my writing journey. But writers are, of course, only a small segment of a readership and it’s the expanding beyond that that poses challenges (in my opinion) to the unpublished writer. I’ll be epubbing a novella later this year as a means to begin building a readership (I figure giving them something to actually READ is a good move), but sometimes I wonder where to direct my energies because I have SO MANY different interests split between multiple genres.
    .-= Kait Nolan´s last blog ..It’s a long haul game =-.

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  38. says

    I feel like I joined the social networking world at just the right time, with several manuscripts complete and the agent search well underway. If I had started before this time, I think I wouldn’t have been able to balance the writing and the blogging so well.

    It’s also good I didn’t wait any longer, now that I’ve signed with an agent and am on submission. The 10,000-foot mountain isn’t so daunting this way.

    I read several books on blogging/platform building before jumping in, and this has really shaped what I post and what I don’t.

    Thanks for this! I’ll post about your article later this week.
    .-= Caroline Starr Rose´s last blog ..Why We Read =-.

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  39. says

    My thanks to everyone for sharing their online experiences! Fabulous.

    @Valerie – Finding time is always a challenge, I agree. A few humorous tips for all on finding time:

    * Just say no to Farmville. Do not participate in Facebook gaming/apps.
    * The chat demons. Limit who you allow on your IM buddy list (in Facebook, Gmail, AIM, etc). Chat is a huge time sink.
    * Bye-bye flame wars. Don’t get sucked into long, contentious, flaming threads. You’re not moving forward, you’re ranting.
    * TV + social media = time saved? Okay, I know it sounds bad, but sometimes it’s quite effective to multitask while watching TV. You know what I mean.

    @E.v.R – I’m so glad you pointed out that this applies to all creative people. I couldn’t have said it better.

    @Greg – Such an important point. By interacting meaningfully, you’re developing loyalty — and that creates an amazing ripple effect that leads to more fans.

    @Shoshana – Very much agree with you, and thank you for adding such a valuable note. In-person meetings with people you know are essential to the bigger picture. They can also can help cement relationships that started online.
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..The Comfort of Mourning Doves =-.

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  40. says

    This is a great post, Jane. Thanks.

    I started my blog a year and a half ago for exactly this reason. I was getting ready to query my first novel in a few months, and I wanted to start to build a web presence. But my blog has become so much more for me.

    I found it difficult at first to come up with topics, and I did worry that it took too much time away from my writing time, which was so little as it was. But when I started writing my second novel, I put word counts on my blog posts, and I found that to be a great incentive in my writing. It was like the blog was keeping me accountable for writing every day. I think my blog helped me a lot in being able to write the first draft in three months.

    I’ve made friends through my blog, with other bloggers that I follow and them following me. It makes me feel less alone in my writing, which is wonderful.

    I highly recommend writers try it, even if they’re not worrying about traffic at first, just get a feel for it and have fun. It can be a great tool to keep us on track.
    .-= Samantha Clark´s last blog ..Guest post: Memoir author Linda Joy Myers =-.

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  41. says

    Jane, I really enjoyed this post, and I’m sure you’ve had a million questions about the “how-to” aspect of social networking for writers. My problem is that, over the past year of trying to participate in such networks, I get the feeling that Facebook, for one, is strictly for family and friend connections and, for a writer, we can only promote ourselves to our families/friends for just so long before we become persona nongrata. By only connecting with those we accept as friends, we limit our exposure to other potential readers.

    Last year, I developed a “page” on FaceBook for the purpose of bringing readers and writers together to discuss likes and dislikes, trends, etc. Ninety people signed up to become fans of this page, and I dutifully posted a new question every other day. At the end of the first four months, we had fewer than twenty responses! When I asked why everyone was so quiet, someone commented, “we’re all busy reading!” Clever, but it appeared that supposed readers and writers just weren’t interested in talking about the craft.

    It is easy to consider these sites as time-gobblers and discouraging to spend energy and optimism with so little return. Any insights into how a writer can make this work?

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  42. says

    @Toni – Really appreciate your comment; gives me an opportunity to elaborate on Facebook, which I think is an underestimated platform.

    I reach thousands more people on Twitter, but the interactions I have on Facebook tend to be more in-depth and more meaningful.

    But more key:
    FACEBOOK IS BECOMING A MORE POPULAR DESTINATION SITE THAN GOOGLE.

    As people spend more and more time on Facebook, and rely on Facebook for news, then writers ought to be increasing their interactions there.

    Note: I have nothing to hide (in terms of what I post on Facebook) from even a stranger. I know that, in this approach, I am somewhat different than others. I blogged about my approach here:

    http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/08/14/FiguringOutYourFacebookStrategy3EssentialTips.aspx

    If you can find a way to be comfortable on Facebook even with people you don’t know well, here are the benefits:

    * You can have conversations on your blog posts that just never get sparked on the blog itself. (This happens to me constantly.)
    * You can post links to information/topics that you find interesting/relevant (without going to the time/trouble of a blog post) – yet another avenue for good conversation.
    * You can make a more lasting and personal connection with people who see you as an authentic human being (depending on what you’re willing to share).

    All of these conversations serve as test marketing, audience building, and community development for yourself and your ideas. Even if people don’t participate by commenting, you’ll realize later that they’re reading closely, and sometimes it’s easier to get people’s attention on Facebook than anywhere else.

    That said, a lack of engagement may be related to the facelessness of a fan page (people are on Facebook to interact with real people) — or you’re just not posting anything quite interesting enough!

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  43. says

    Jane – Thank you for a well-thought-out response to my confusion. I’ve read the post three times in order to frame my comments.

    * I am not uncomfortable interacting with people I don’t know; however, my understanding (or perhaps misunderstanding) was/is that social media etiquette demands that one only befriend people we know. I was under the impression that to send friend requests to strangers on FB was not acceptable. As I look through my own short list of friends, I see many people on their lists that I would like to approach, but why would they want to accept? Case in point: when I receive a request from someone I don’t know that isn’t a friend of someone I know, I tend to ignore the request. Perhaps I’m going about this wrong?

    * I joined several writer-related groups on FB with the idea that I would be able to connect with the members of those groups; however, the only communications I’ve received have been a barrage of promotional commercial posts from the owners behind the pages. There seems to be little interaction and discussion between the members.

    * My profiles and professional information are all over the Internet, so the issue of anything to hide doesn’t apply.

    * I read your blog about Facebook strategy. You mentioned feeding your blog posts directly to FB. I don’t see a way to do that on either FB or Blogger. Could you elaborate? (If you prefer to e-mail me privately, that’s fine.)

    * Perhaps the fan page was the wrong approach; my questions were generic (i.e., [for readers] how important is a cover in your decision to examine a book? [for writers] does a particular time of year inspire you or crush your creativity?) My intent was to get interesting dialog going between readers and writers.

    * I follow you on Twitter because you provide the kinds of motivational material that keep me pumped up. I’m a long-time member of WritersMarket and fan of the magazine. I am not a novice writer, but this social media thing sure has me stumped!

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    • says

      Toni, speaking only for myself, I “friend” people on Facebook all of the time that I don’t know personally. But. My rule of thumb is that there needs to be some sort of clear connection between myself and the network I already have in place. For example, this new person is friended with 18 of my other writer friends. That’s an auto-friend for me. If I find a person is not connected with anyone in my network and under interests they’ve listed “women” in bold, then I delete them. :-) But seriously, if I were you, I’d think of Facebook as the opportunity to build and sustain new networks. It *is* okay to look at lists of friends your friends have, and attempt to connect with people you feel will add to your network in a positive way. Just my two cents. Jane?

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  44. says

    @Toni / @Therese

    Agree with Therese! I friend people I don’t know personally as long as I can draw some kind of connection. I create friend lists in Facebook too, to help me should I have a privacy concern in the future. (Friend lists allow you to segment and customize access.)

    It could be weird to solicit friendships from strangers, but only if you have no friends in common. Always include a message with your request and explain why you’re approaching them. Most people will be flattered at the interest.

    I’m sorry to hear that some FB writing groups have gone commercial in nature. Those people are probably turning off far more people than they attract.

    Regarding FB blog feeds: You can use either the Networked Blogs application, or you can use the RSS functionality on the “Notes” application that’s built into everyone’s profile.

    For the fan page – you might have better luck if you share links/articles/sites that you find interesting and helpful, rather than a prompt. People like discovering little gems like that from people they trust on Facebook.

    You ask really wonderful questions — it’s rare to find a writer who knows the right questions to ask. :)

    I hope these answers help.
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..The Story of Your Life IS Your Life =-.

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  45. says

    Thank you Jane, I’m determined that one CAN teach an old dog new tricks! ;-)
    Thanks too Therese–it is encouraging to know that I won’t be put in Facebook Jail if I try to communicate with someone who sounds interesting. Mostly, I don’t want to be one of those people (we all know at least one) who is so in your face and “me, me, me” that you want to slap ’em.
    Okay, now off to try to connect my blog. (I confess, I’ve never looked at the “Note” function.)

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  46. says

    I wonder how much credibility someone trying to build an author platform without any actual evidence of authorship (ie a book in print, or at least a publishing contract) is going to have? If I came across (yet another) person going on about how they are a wonderful writer and writing a wonderful book, it’s just not finished or sold yet, I would have very little time for their publicity engine

    and would not be inclined to follow them, waiting with bated breath for their breakthrough book to be finished, sold and published. I would be interested to hear how many people are successful doing this. I do know of one or two who have made it work – but surely, as with published writers, the good ones will rise to the surface and the rest will sink without trace, with unfollowed blogs and a handful of facebook friends who might possibly buy their book if it is every finished/published.

    Many (most?) aspiring writers are never successful – how long before people tire of following ‘promise’ and finding it never realised? It’s a strategy that might work for a short time, but there is going to be aspirant-writer-fatigue setting in pretty soon, I’d think.
    .-= Stroppy Author´s last blog ..Stranger danger and car-jacking fire engines =-.

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  47. says

    @Stroppy Author –

    Writers who are more in the “aspirational” phase shouldn’t be writing and blogging about their writing (meta-writing). It’s boring. And I agree it’s not going to attract much of a readership except other aspirational writers – which is good if you’re looking for a community of support/encouragement.

    When writers build platform, they should do things they are passionate about aside from the writing itself, whatever distinguishes them, sets them apart. This might be an interest in a nonfiction subject area (like gardening, photography, history, boxing), or it might be related to tackling problems of a certain demographic (addressing care for the elderly, dealing with cancer, etc). Christina Katz covers this extremely well (with practical tips) in GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL.

    The key is offering/giving something — this is NOT about publicity, but about building connections with other people. It’s also about being INTERESTING and having something worthwhile or unusual to say.

    If you’d like examples of two “aspirational” people doing this successfully:
    – Jeanne V. Bowerman: http://jeanneveillettebowerman.blogspot.com/
    – Darrelyn Saloom (who doesn’t have a site, but guest blogs for me):
    http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/CategoryView,category,DarrelynSaloom.aspx

    Yes, it’s true that most aspiring writers are not successful in getting published. But we’re not here to discourage and say the odds are against everyone. The truth is that it’s not talent that separates the successful writer from the failure. It’s something else – a mix of persistence, luck, timing, and ability. You can read more about my take on this issue here:

    http://janefriedman.com/2010/02/20/the-dirty-secret-behind-writing-advice/
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..Reading Notebook #12: Existential Angst at Work =-.

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  48. linda hargrove-teets says

    Good morning,

    I am very interested in developing a blog to develop a following so I will have a base for the writing project(s) I have in mind and I want to connect with others interested in writing. Actually, I find the prospect of connecting with others encouraging, actually exciting. But, I do not know how to do this. Forgive me if I have missed something here but I have no idea how to get started on developing that blog you talked about that was free and took only 5 minutes. I would appreciate some real basic down to earth instructions and/or sites to get such from – I love to just butcher a sentence every now and then. I don’t know what that says about me but I sure feel better after I let one or two of them rip right off my fingers!

    Seriously though, help?

    Linda

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  49. says

    Thanks for writing about this. There’s a lot associated with strong tech info on the internet. You’ve got lots that info right on your own web. I’m impressed — We try to keep the few blogs fairly reside, but it’s a struggle occasionally. You’ve done the solid job along this one. How do you do it?

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Trackbacks

  1. […] In fact, a number of articles emphasize the point further by saying that we cannot even wait until we finish writing the book before we start building our following. (The latest article, which you might find of interest, is “Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future,” by Jan Friedman, Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Digest: http://writerunboxed.com/2010/02/19/audience-development-critical-to-every-writers-future/.) […]

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