I recently had an experience that made me relate to the poor kid who was dumb enough to point out that the emperor was naked. More on that in a minute.
Now I admit that I do tend to get excited and then I forget to qualify statements and phrase in ways that make it clear that I am not picking on anyone. Because I really am not. I feel like the world’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to helping writers succeed. I love writers. Heck, I AM a writer! I swear I would have pom-poms at my desk if I didn’t think they would be a shiny distraction…..ooh—POM POMS!
Writers say they have a hard time connecting to readers. Okay. Well, let’s back up.
This past weekend I was amazingly blessed to be able to help writers succeed in doing what they love….being creative. Yet, now that everything is gearing toward the Internet and social media is popular, writers are staring down the barrel of having to self-promote.
We hate sales. We ran away from Corporate America so we never had to use that dirty word…and now it is staring us right in the eye. And if we don’t get good at it we will never be able to quit our day job.
The problem as I see it is that writers seem to lose all creativity and common sense when it comes to marketing, sales and platform building.
This past weekend I taught three social media classes at a big conference. Writers get told they need to be on social media, so they join FB and twitter and then they do what? Hang out with writers. They get told they need to blog, so what do they blog about?
One gal in my class, I asked, “What do you write?”
“Do you blog?”
“Yes. About my experience as a writer.”
My question to her was, “If you write about the paranormal and you want to sell books to people who are fascinated with the paranormal, then why aren’t you blogging about the paranormal? About cold spots and ghosts and things that go bump in the night?”
Not that blogging about writing is bad. It is great. It is emotionally cathartic and can help us improve in our craft and expand our network in our industry…but it isn’t the place to find readers.
My suggestion? If you write paranormal it must interest you enough to write a book about it. Join groups of people who watch “Ghost Hunters” and like scary movies. Profile the reader. What demographic are you selling? Be creative.
So you run a search on Twitter for “reader.” You and every uncreative author trying to hawk a book. Profile your reader with the intention of making a connection, not selling a book. I guarantee the people in those groups are likely to be people a lot like us, people we would like to hang out with.
Jodi Thomas is a best-selling romance author whom I had the honor of helping with Tweet Deck this past weekend. I can attest that Jodi loves her fellow women and cares about their marriages and children and grandchildren. She cares about quilting and holding onto a lineage and being inspired by frilly cards with inspirational quotes. Will it diminish her in any way to congregate with #quilting on Twitter? She likes quilting and uses it in her books. She likes those kinds of people and I would even bet that those women would like her, even the ones who don’t know her….yet.
If you sell romance, what is your demographic? 31-49 year old women in a relationship (per RWA’s site). What do 31-49 year old women do with their day when they aren’t reading your romance novel?
They love Oprah, and Ellen and soap operas and knitting and scrap booking and gardening and parenting and American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. They diet and deal with stress and take care of elderly parents. This “other life” is part of what makes them long to read. They desire to escape, to be reminded that heroes triumph and love conquers all. Congregate with them. Care. Interact.
How many other authors are doing that? Yet how many authors only (key word ONLY) blog about themselves, their books, their upcoming books, their ideas…you get the picture.
If you write fantasy and sci-fi, what do your fans do? Well, being a professional nerd for many years, I feel I can speak for my people.
We go to Trekkie conventions and argue about whether or not it is possible to go faster than the speed of light (actual argument I had on the way to a Trekkie convention—swear to God). We play X Box, World of Warcraft, PS3 and Dungeons and Dragons. We love comics, cult movies, and X-Men and Star Wars and quote Monty Python.
So if you desire to connect with your readers, go to their favorite watering holes.
“Fantasy reader” is not creative, and I guarantee the group will be mostly authors. If you are on social media, join “World of Warcraft Moon Elves Unite” or start a group like that. Be truly creative. Engage the demographic that likes to read fantasy. I promise you might even have fun.
If you’re selling books on UFOs and origin theory, your fans love “Mystery Quest” and “The Nostradamus Effect.” Run searches for Atlantis, Nasca lines, Easter Island, Big Foot, Nessie, Prophesy, Apocalypse, Devil’s Bible. Join those groups on Myspace, FB, Twitter. Get plugged into groups who like to argue about what season of X Files was best. Who is hotter, Scully or Xena? What is better, Star Trek or Star Wars? Who was better? Kirk or Picard? Who was right? The North or the South? What is the best romance movie of all time? Top Gun or Casa Blanca?
When we start thinking like a fan and not a writer…THEN we will find our readers. Get creative. The more creative the better. Think about what all other writers are out there doing…then do it differently.
Think about the reader. We tend to forget that we (fiction authors) are in the service industry. We provide a wonderful escape from day-to-day life. We remind people that life is still magical and worth living.
Blog about what readers find interesting (other than you and your book). I guarantee you my mother, who loves to read and buys more books than she can read, really does not care about finding an agent.
Care about others. It will set you apart from all the other authors who can only think of selling books. It will connect you to your readership. It will push you out of your comfort zone. It will bond you to people who might know more about your subject than you do. You can learn and be enriched. What can your fans offer you? I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
All I am asking is that we be mindful to think of others. Have a servant’s heart.
All of us need to remember to pan the camera back and think of what we post from the reader’s perspective. Forget us. Forget our writer buddies. What would our readers like to spend their precious time reading about? The publishing industry? Plotting? Character development? Sure. Readers who also want to be writers…but what percentage is that?
Do readers want to learn about e-books and how the electronic medium is changing the industry?
Or would they rather read about the subjects that make them passionate enough to part with their hard-earned cash and their limited time? Would they rather read about love or triumph or who really built the pyramids? Wouldn’t they like an opportunity to contribute too? When was the last time a big author asked a fan to write their blog?
I guarantee you there are fans out there who know more about the author’s books than the author. Fans who have thought on a totally different level about our work. Fans who would DIE at a chance to post their insight and opinion about a book or character.
Yet when was the last time an author asked a fan to write their blog? That they gave them that honor? Heck, ask the ones who post positive stuff on your existing blog and who can string an interesting sentence together. This isn’t as hard as we make it. Honest.
Writers often panic when it comes to social media. And what they do is they congregate and they befriend zillions of people and they lose sight of the most important thing….the relationship with the reader.
If you write fantasy, I guarantee you that you will like the people in those groups I suggested you search.
If you love history enough to write a 100,000 words about it, I’d wager you will enjoy being stimulated and challenged by people in the #jackson or the #gettysburgh or #alamo column. You will have to be careful not to lose entire days in those groups on FB and MySpace and other social media sites. It is a self-discipline thing like anything else.
But say you lose hours chatting and having fun. Isn’t that better spent in a group of people who like your topic rather than in a group talking about writing? Aren’t you then taking time to relate to and network with and forge relationships with people who love the topic you write about?
I just want to impress the importance of relationship when it comes to social media. It is important to be in relationship with other writers. They make us angry, call us on our drama, cheer us when we triumph and are there when we cry.
But we need to permit readers into our lives as well. If all our actions tell readers to “Keep Out”–that this is a “Writers Only” group, then we can’t be shocked when we fail to connect.
Make the reader feel like you care. I know you all do. Writers are among the most amazing, generous, kind people I am blessed enough to know.
I am not here to embarass or villify anyone. I am here to make you better and to point out that too many of us are running around naked and clueless why people have a hard time making eye contact.
If you can connect, if you can network and forge relationships beyond your comfort zone, then you will finally be able to appreciate what social media is all about…not how many friends you can collect or how many people you can blitz with the title of your book or your latest blog using the latest gimmick or app. Social media isn’t about technology.
It is about people.
By the way! If you loved this blog and just want MORE? My book, “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. Buy one today and take charge of your writing career! My book is designed specifically for writers. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creative energy used for writing and use it to build your platform.
I’ve known intuitively for awhile now that I need to add some things for potential *readers* to my blog/web site. My serial novel is my one attempt so far. But this really put it all into perspective for me, and focused my thinking. You’ve just given me the key to what I need to do next – it came out of the blue while I was reading through your ideas. Perfect timing too, since I’m finally going to start submitting this summer, and want to start connecting with potential readers now.
So thank you. This post was *exactly* what I needed. 🙂
Squeeee! Awesome! I am so happy I could inspire you. It does seem that we writers try so hard to connect that we forget the most important thing, “Serve others.” I wish you the greatest luck and please keep me posted about your progress. I am a reader. I want to connect! I cannot WAIT to see what you come up with. Let me know if I can help in any way.
Thank you for this! I keep thinking that social netting will evolve, that one day the lightbulb will go on and I’ll understand how REALLY to use Twitter, how REALLY to enjoy reaching out to potential readers of my not-yet-published novel, how REALLY to create a community around my passion. But at the moment, I’m still in the dark. Now along comes you, with this brilliant, smack-the-forehead revelation. (“Blog about something interesting, for Christ’s sake. HOW you write is not interesting!”) You are helping us, and all of netting, evolve to a more beautiful and interesting place. I used your idea to write a more interesting blog this morning, about living in a hole in the ground, at http://www.MyFictionWritingTips.com.
Rock on! I am starting a new blog that is going to go along with my upcoming workshop series (and hopefully book) “If Zombies Could Tweet–Writers and the Social Media Revolution.” Stay tuned to this page for a link. I am going to start writing a blog FOR WRITERS on how to do social media CORRECTLY, and I would be honored if you would stop by.
I will have to look at your blog here in a while…writing the BOOK to help you guys. Best of luck and keep me posted.
Great insights, Kristen! I love the idea of focusing on the reader and you’re right – we need to do more to connect with the people who will read the books we write. Thanks for the perspective!
Thank you for writing this blog. Being that I consider myself a Facebook junkie with over seven hundred friends (Only one hundred actually follow what I say) I definitely understand the importance of social networking. You did flip on the proverbial light switch when it comes to blogging about interesting stuff that readers would like. I will do that. First one, “Girls, please! Edward Cullen is not real!” This was an incident that happened at Barnes and Noble yesterday.
Ah ha, finally found you again. I read this the other day, chewed on it, wrote a response post and couldn’t find you to link back! That’ll teach me to bookmark. 😀
I think this is timely and very relevant. As writers, even though we all are (or should be) readers, I don’t think we can separate ourselves from the writer long enough to usually address this question. I started looking through my Bloglines subscriptions and with the exception of 3 (out of about 70), all the blogs that I read are geared toward writers–and that’s why I keep coming back to them. Because that’s interesting to me. The outliers happen to be a few hilariously funny people who talk about their lives, which are so vastly different from mine, that I find them very entertaining.
The thing that always seemed like the way to attract readers was to provide samples of our work. Jamie mentioned doing a serial, which seems like a good idea. I have that planned for a different story down the line. I’d thought about trying short stories (which are not at all my schtick). As a college instructor I occasionally post about the latest recipient of the dunce cap in my classroom–because I am constantly amazed by the stupid things that my students say or do. And I had kicked around the possibility of doing some interviews with characters–but I can’t seem to stop myself from falling into the roll of clinician (trained as a clinical psychologist) when I do that, and I wasn’t sure how interesting folks would find it.
For me, the real connection is on Twitter. I’m a lot more…me there. Not that I’m not me on my blog but Twitter is more immediate so I talk about regular life more. And I connect with a lot of others.
LMAO girl, I just went on uber-cringe reading this post because I recognized that conversation! But hey, I posted the very same conversation on my blog. **waves hands in the air as “paranormal romance girl that blogs about writing”**
But that’s okay because that whole thing was a massive wake up call for me. And by trickle-down theory, it has done the same for some of my other writer (blog-following) friends that were doing the same thing. I’m trying to do something about it now, I have the blog changing up, I’m tagging, I’m putting those on my facebook posts, I opened a MySpace but I’m not knowing what to do with that, and I’m on twitter and tweetdeck, but that alludes me too.
I read your stuff, and it all makes such perfect sense. At the time. In hypothetical theory. In actuality, I’m challenged. I don’t understand Twitter-speak and hashes and all that so I end up lurking and not doing any of it.
But I’m there! LOL!
This was such a mind-boggling post for me. I never even THOUGHT of this. Of course my website doesn’t cater to readers, and that needs to change. Of course I haven’t actually published anything yet, and I don’t exactly plan on publishing genre fiction, but now I’ve been spurred to think about what I CAN write about, and how I can attract people who would want to read my work.
I enjoyed meeting you at the DFW workshop and sitting in one of your classes. You inspired me and made me laugh LOL …. On a side note, I’m trying to contact you about the writer’s group we talked about. I attempted to go to the writer’s group this last Sat. morning in Ft Worth. I drove there 45 min. from me in the rain 🙂 but could not find the Frost Bank off Hulen. Email me Please!!!! I want to go this Sat. My email is email@example.com – Thanks!
I’m an aspiring YA novelist with 3 chapters and a prologue so far. I;m an older male, and my novel is in the first-person voice of a female teen aspiring musician.
My question – where do aspiring teen musicians hang out online? And, does that demographic read YA novels?
Any insight would be appreciated.
Steve, if you are a YA novelist, you MUST have a presence on MySpace. That is where a majority of your demographic is congregating, especially if they like music. Additional advice is stop looking for the golden unicorn….the kid/person who voraciously reads. Who cares if they read a lot so long as they read YOUR book? There were millions of “readers” who made Harry Potter and Twilight iconic who never read any other books. 🙂
I think that is why I blog about all kinds of different things….I don’t want to get stuck talking only about writing, there are other things that I am interested in and hopefully I will gain a greater audience and hopefully some of them will stick around and follow/ join in on my journey.
My brand? submeg. Weird to say, but intriguing at the same time (http://submeg.com/2010/06/05/s-u-b-m-e-g/)
I can’t believe I never thought of this. It seems so obvious, yet I’m over here smacking my forehead going, “Duh, duh, duh.” Thank you so much! I’m an aspiring fantasy-genre novelist with my book almost complete. I’ve started agent hunting (gulp). I’d been fretting about the self-promotion/social media thing for a while, finally dragged my heels to do it, and then I found this post. I felt my stress just lift off. Your section about writing fantasy and sci-fi was all heart warming and hug feeling. I can be the nerd I am as well as the “professional writer.” Ah, thank you. *Wipes brow* The thing I’ve been looking forward to the most is meeting whatever fans I might get. Can’t believe I almost forgot about them. And hooray for Monty Python. 🙂
That’s an OLDIE. Good thing I was ahead of my time, LOL. Glad to make you feel better, :D. Writers make social media way too hard.