I read a post on some blog yesterday (forgive me, I can’t find it this morning–if you know who, let me know so I can update with links) AH HA, FOUND IT, on Warrior Writer’s blog about a mistake that it seems most writers make when it comes to this blogging thing. We’re told that we need to build a platform, that we must have a website or blog. So what do we do? We pick a platform and we blog. Usually about writing, the writing process, the state of the industry, etc. This is all stuff of vital importance to us as writers, and is interesting–to other writers. And while every writer is probably a reader, and building relationships with them is a good professional move for promotion on down the line, not every reader is a writer.
So why aren’t we blogging for readers? We’re creative people. Why should our creativity stop outside the realm of fiction?
What the heck do readers want to read about anyway?
I posted a question asking exactly that in one of the forums I am a member of on Goodreads. Apart from one psycho chick who seemed to think an appropriate answer was a misspelled homage to Breaking Dawn, the consensus was…us. A mixture of where we get our ideas (I always hate that one), what’s going on with our personal lives, funny stories about our pets or kids. The things that are important to us. Character interviews (I can do that). Freebies or behind the scenes info about our books. Almost anything goes, it seems.
So I started thinking about the blogs I enjoy reading that AREN’T geared toward writers. Kari Lynn Dell’s Montana For Real is a favorite stop because her life is SO unlike mine. It’s like stepping into a modern western. I like visiting Myra McEntire and C. J. Redwine because they make me laugh and always have fantastic book recs and interviews. I like to stop by Mindspeak for flash Friday snippets of fictional brilliance. Beyond that most of what I read is geared entirely toward writers. Being one myself I find it hard to put myself totally in the mind of a reader because really never get out of being a writer.
Anyway, it’s all food for thought as to how we might change up some of our blog programming to connect more with readers.
Hi Kait. I, too, read an interesting article only a day or two ago about this very subject. I don’t remember where I read it, I think it was someone’s comment on another site. But it was about a recent study that collected data on types of content that attracted the most readers within a given time frame. Surprisingly, it wasn’t gossip or celebrities or horror but what rated the highest was Science. huh. Who’d a thought? And they found that the most popular pieces of writing were the ones that elicited a sense of awe. Where someone would learn something but in a good way. Writing about something that was positive and left the reader with a feeling of awe. About something extraordinary how people can surprise us with graceful struggles or human kindness or forgiveness. Wish I could remember where I read it. It was interesting in that we all assume to gain the most readers we have to go for the lowest common denominator but the study reveals that’s not the case.
I read that article too somewhere, though that wasn’t what I was initially thinking about. Was really interesting.
I think for me blogging about publishing and stuff works, because it’s the ‘my life as an indie’ thing. And I’ve picked up a lot of readers from it.
I’m not sure if you might have seen the comment I posted on Angela Ackerman’s Bookshelf Muse. It was basically to the point you raise, and was responding to her Guest Post on Guide to Literary Agents on Creating the Breakout Blog. I said, in part:
“As an aspiring YA writer, my prospective audience is the demographic of the teens who frequent the YA shelves at Barnes & Noble, and their extended cohort. However, your blog platform advice seems to imply that one’s blog audience should be drawn from the community of other writers – who are not the same demographic at all, except perhaps incidentally.”
Angela responded graciously explaining the importance of becoming known within the writing community, as that community can do much to help one another achieve visibility.
That being said, I still hanker after a blog that will address ones prospective readership.
In topic-oriented non-fiction, of course, this is more straightforward. To the extent that an audience for a subject-oriented book exists, there is probably already a community of blogs and audience addressing the general area of that subject, and an aspiring writer can start a quality blog that will apeak to that audience.
The question of fiction is more challenging. I’ll speak to my own situation a bit and perhaps raise more questions than answers. (Yes, this is the superpower associated with “The Fool” of whom it is said “he can ask more questions in 20 minutes than a wise man can answer in 20 years”. Pretty productive, no? 🙂
I became an aspiring YA writer not as a career choice or life calling, but because late in life, I was seized by a concept for a YA novel about a group of non-conformist teens as they start a somewhat unorthodox rock band and have a variety of adventures dealing with the mindlessness of Forest Park – the elite “burb” subdivision of fictional Wood City “Forest Products Capital of the Midwest”.
What is my goal with this project? Not (primarily) to make money or to establish a “writing career”. Rather it is to address a minority “niche” audience – thinking teens who are critical of mindless conformity (And mindless non-conformity). Can you see why it’s titled “Dandelion Lawn” ? Perhaps I should add, I’m drawing my postulated audience, and many of my characterizations, from actual teens I’ve known. I’d like the work to authentically reflect real attitudes and experiences.
So, back to the idea of a reader-centric blog.
A blog for such an audience is much easier after successful publication. At that point, the audience hunts you down. Think Scott Westerfeld or Orson Scott Card. With a work in progress, you must hunt them down. But how?
The problem I see is that audience-hunting of this sort becomes labor intensive. You could easily do it full-time instead of writing. You have to identify online venues, probably discussion forums on social-networking and/or special topic sites. Even writing forums – if the writers are also readers and fit your audience profile. And none of them will say “alienated non-conformists click here”. You’d be lucky even to find a clue like “I hate preps”. You have to be Mr. or Ms. bloodhound and track the attitudes you’re seeking by the trail of their conceptual scent.
And you probably won’t find a few big venues. You’ll probably find dozens or hundreds of little ones. And you’ll have to figure out which one(s) are worth spending time announcing yourself and your project, building relationships, and (hopefully) attracting a posse or online street team to help spread the word – if, indeed, you’ve actually created something that resonates.
Content as such is less difficult. Outtakes from the work. Blog posts in character voices. Comments on how you wrote various scenes, etc. If the audience resonates with your work, they will be hungry fir any goodies you can give.
Can you/should you post major excerpts of your WIP? I woul;d like to, but there may be legal issues there that would affect later publication prospects. That’s not something I’m able to evaluate. However, in my particular situation, traditional publication is probably something I could forgo. For others, it might be more of a serious question.
Now, I’ve been pretty explicit that I’m writing countertrend. This is probably the hardest way to go. If you’re writing the story of the vampire that wins American Idol, this will be quite trendy and probably easier to hustle an audience.
Well, that’s off the top of my head for now.
P.S. The post on Awe is almost certainly the one found here:
Which reads in part:
“The most important finding regards what inspires in the reader a feeling of awe. The researchers defined awe as an “emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.” Stories that inspire awe have two important dimensions: 1) Their scale is large, and 2) they require of readers “mental accommodation”, meaning they force the reader to view the world in a different way.”
Hope this hel[s,
That was the post on awe. Yours wasn’t the post I’d read (I remember distinctly there was a picture of a guy dressed as a Klingon) but you raise some interesting points. I definitely don’t discount the power of connecting with the writing community. I’ve made so many wonderful connections and really supplemented the fact that I have no writer friends locally. Add to that the fact that I write romance and you have one of the most powerful grassroots communities you can be a part of, regardless of whether you’re going traditional or indie.
But I definitely am always looking for ways to reach out to readers. I’m going independent for now, so I’m hoping the fans will come to me, and I want to provide content that they find interesting. The other issue of course is that I have to do what’s most efficient. My time for promo is limited, so I want to get the most bang for my buck. For me, that’s this blog and Twitter.