February 25, 2010

Building an Audience

I was thinking this morning about how you build an audience one person at a time.

This is both a glorious and a monumental thing. When you think about all the people you need to connect with in order to meet publishers’ expectations on sales, it’s downright daunting. But if you think of all the great friends you’ll make along the way, it’s heart-warming.

It’s the same for all public figures. If you’re a politician, you do it one person at a time. If you’re a singer, you connect one person at a time. If you’re a talk show host, you make your name one audience member at a time.

There are things that make it happen more quickly. Bad news or good news gets your name out faster. People loving your stuff and passing your name around helps. Taking advantage of the internet (more on this later). This is what publicity is all about.

There’s also a bit of kairos involved. Right time, right place. What you write needs to be on the national mind, be something that people want to talk about, to be moved by. What should be comforting is that you’re a product of your time and what you’re thinking about is probably what the nation is thinking about in some fashion. However, it needs to be out of the ordinary enough to make people think but not so out there that you’re labeled as a quack.

All this takes time ~ lots and lots of time. That’s why it’s unreasonable for publishing to expect first-time authors to do well. They haven’t connected with enough people yet. That’s also why publishing wants people who are already famous ~ they already have an audience that doesn’t take time to build.

That’s why I encourage you, the writer, to go out today and start building an audience. Don’t think of them as an audience ~ think of them as a vast network of friends who like what you create. You have to use tact and good manners. Don’t force people. You’re just making friends, after all, and some people aren’t in the right frame of mind to have a new friend. But there are many many people yearning for connection. They want someone to talk to, to connect with.

This is where the internet comes in. You need to make a web page and fill it with lots of interesting stuff. How are people going to get to know you if you don’t put it out there? Start a blog and write in it at least 5 days a week. People need to know you’re reliable. Link to a lot of other people on both your site and your blog. You need to join Facebook or MySpace or other social networking sites and be an active member. Not only put your own stuff out there but also comment on others’ stuff. Don’t be just a self-promo-sapiens ~ spread the good word about your friends too! Be an amusing and delightful dinner guest, but be genuine too.

(Here’s a great list of Facebook etiquette here from the lovely Ru Freeman.)

Connect with other writers. They’re your audience too. They’re the ones who understand when you’re going ape-shit because edits are due or because you were rejected by that one place you had your heart set on.

Bossy Betty, over and out! (With apologies to fellow Vixen Betty for taking your name in vain!)

What I’m Reading Today: Not much. I had book club last night, which was wonderful, as always. Welcome new Vixens!

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