Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
The thing that’s going to make every fiction writer reading “Thursdays with Amanda” let out a big sigh of relief is this: publishing houses don’t expect new fiction writers to have huge platforms. In fact, for the most part they don’t expect you to have any sort of platform.
But before you shut down your blog and Tweet your good-byes to social media, know this...while they don’t expect you to have anything impressive, they do expect you to have a social media presence. And to that, I say if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right. Because you never know when the thing that tips a house toward publishing your great American novel is the fact that you have a devoted following. Even if the following is a mere 1000 (In his book TRIBES, Seth Godin talks about how 1000 devoted followers are all you need).
For the past two weeks, we’ve talked about blogging. First, we went over some of the rules of a great blog and a great blog posts. Then, we discussed what makes your blog searchable and how to get readers to find it. So this week, we’ll wrap up the blogging portion of this author platform series by discussing how to blog as a fiction writer.
Blogging as a fiction writer is difficult. So difficult, that if I were in your shoes, I’d probably choose something else to build my platform. Maybe Facebook or Twitter. Something easier. Because unlike nonfiction authors, fiction authors aren’t really experts at things. They don’t have people coming to them, looking for answers or solutions or world peace. They don’t have that clear topic to drive their blog. They just have themselves and their imagination. And that doesn’t always make for an interesting blog experience.
So, how do you make blogging work when you’re a fiction author, trying to grow a platform? Here are my thoughts:
1. Know your book’s reader. While research is the best way to find your reader, you can get a rough picture of your reader through genre and theme.
Genre – You can make assumptions about your reader based on what you know to be true of the genre or category you’re writing in.
EXAMPLE: If you write YA fiction, then your readers are teens. If you write testosterone-driven thrillers, then your readers are men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. If you write contemporary romance, your readers are women.
And if you’re in the league of writers who insists that everyone loves your books, then it’s time to step away from your circle of friends and family members who are telling you this and take a hard look at what type of stories you write. If it helps, try to find a movie playing in the theatre that is within a similar vein as your stories. Buy a ticket and take a look at who’s sitting in the seats.
Theme – Themes, elements or hobbies that appear in your writing may also point to a certain readership.
EXAMPLE: You write contemporary romance. Great. But on top of that, you tend to pepper your stories with characters who scrapbook or scrapbooking themes. And you know that scrapbooking draws a specific kind of reader. This gives you a much narrower target than just saying your readership is “women.” Your readership is now “women who scrapbook.”
2. Build your blog around your reader. Now that you know a bit about your reader, you can create a blog that is geared toward them and their interests.
EXAMPLE: You’ve determined that your contemporary romances appeal to women who scrapbook. So instead of blogging about your day or the stresses of writing, you decide to start a blog all about scrapping. You share tips, photos and links to things that inspire and you quickly realize that the people who are drawn to your blog are the very people who would be interested in reading your book.
3. Follow the steps outlined in my last blog, 7 Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership. Your keywords should be related to whatever theme you’ve chosen for your blog and your post titles should be appealing to your readership.
EXAMPLE: For your scrapbooking blog, you post things like “10 Scrapbooking Trends” and comparisons on what embellishment brands you like the best and what stores you prefer: “Michaels vs. Hobby Lobby vs. Archivers.” You don’t talk much about your novel writing, but focus it all on the latest scrapbooking news.
4. Go out and get readers. Visit forums, message boards, blogs and groups that are packed with people who have an interest in whatever theme you’ve chosen for your blog.
EXAMPLE: You get on a bunch of scrapbooking discussion forums and post your blog’s URL in your signature. You make friends and link to your blog in discussions. You post pictures of your scrapbooking work and invite others to come see your scrapping portfolio. You also return the favor and visit their sites and view their portfolios. This builds trust.
5. Give away the goods. Develop flash fiction or chapter downloads to get your blog readers interested in your fiction. You’ll come out of that experience with a number of people who are dedicated to seeing to your success.
EXAMPLE: You write a handful of scrapbooking short stories. You then announce this on your blog and get people curious. You can either post the stories as blog posts or publish them on Smashwords and then gift them to the readers who ask. Try to be consistent with this, coming out with new material every 3 months or so. Eventually, you’ll have some people who come to love your fiction. These are your first true fans.
6. Organize a street team. Once you have your quota of dedicated followers, put together some sort of official team or fan club or group. Then when you pitch your novel to agents or publishers, be sure to indicate that you have a team of 500 or 1000 who are ready to do aggressive guerilla marketing to see to it that your book is a success.
This is just the tip of the iceberg...one path toward seeing success with your blog as a fiction writer. There are many other ways of doing this, and if you have a method or idea, I’d love to hear it!