Engaging Your Readers

As an author prepping to publish a book, I’m starting to realize how important it is to find your readers. Between reading blog posts both by Alexa Bigwarfe at Write.Publish.Sell and Jenn Hanson-dePaula at Mixtus Media, plus learning from my own experiences, I’m starting to see that the main key to finding devoted readers is to engage with them.

When we think of marketing, it’s common for people to plaster their links everywhere online with a “Look at me, look at me” attitude. I do it too, though I’m trying to get better at it. You don’t like telemarketers calling you repeatedly promoting their stuff, so why would you want to see the constant posts about books, unless you’re getting something in return?

This is where engagement comes in. Jenn Hanson-dePaula notes in her article How Authors Can Amplify a Small Audience that it’s not the number that necessarily matters, it’s the interaction. With a smaller audience, you can ask them what they want. What kind of work are they looking for? What about swag? Are there particular items they’d like to see go along with the book? How do they find authors? What social media platforms attract their attention most? Get your readers involved and listen to the advice they have to offer. It can help you modify your marketing platform, especially if you think you’re getting all the attention from wattpad, only to find out that twitter actually gives you the best following. Go check out her article. She has a ton of fabulous advice.

Twitter is a really great place to meet and chat with your readers. I mentioned in a previous blog post that you can find your community there. Well, that’s the same if you’re looking for readers. Talk with people who have the same interests. Find hashtags that you both share. Heck, post up some of your favorite movies, animals, shows, books, or hangouts. It doesn’t all have to be about your book. Your readers want to see that you’re a person, too. And honestly, that helps them connect with you better because then they don’t feel like you’re on such a high pedestal. For example, I’m doing #pitchwars this year, and when I found out that one of the mentors I was submitting to was an avid Avatar The Last Airbender fan, the intimidation I felt fled because I could connect with her due to our shared interest in the show. We’re all people; we all want to be treated that way.

When readers send you reviews, compliment your work, or show intrigue in your pitch, there are a couple of things to remember. One, thank them. They took the time to let you know how they felt. They deserve your gratitude. Second, if they’re writing a book too, ask them about it. I’ve made a lot of friendships both on twitter and wattpad simply because we had a lot of books in common (both through reading and writing!). Communicate. Have a conversation. Let them know that they’re important, too. Granted, it might take time to get back to them all, but if they can take the time to thank you, you can do the same.

Writing a book is a big deal, and you might feel like you’re offering plenty to your readers by publishing it. But there are other things you can do, too. Write helpful blogs for your readers. Not only does this bring them into your world, they get a taste of your writing, and you might be able to help them with something they’re struggling with. Part of the reason I write writing tip blogs is because that’s how learned. I read online blogs. I ask questions of the writers. I chat with the people in the comments, because I like to engage and learn from the community. Providing workshops, helpful tips, or even inspirational memes can brighten your reader’s day and let them know you care.

Writers are often introverted people, I get it. And maybe these kinds of ideas won’t work for you. So then, ask yourself, what would make you comfortable to interact with your readers? What can you do to work your way into the community that’s not going to stress you out too much, but also will give you a chance to find the people who want to buy your book? If you have ideas, feel free to post them in the comments!

I hope that this helps a bit! A big thank you again to Alexa Bigwarfe and Jenn Hanson-dePaula for all their inspirational posts.

Happy Writing!

Writing With Anxiety

Let me paint a picture for you. It’s the middle of the night, and you’ve just completed a chapter in your book. When you crawled into bed, you were excited with your progress. But as the clock ticks on, you start to dread what’s on paper. What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough? What if I can’t cut it as an author? What if I’ll never get published? What if—

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that anxiety sucks. It’s horrible for everyone, but as a writer, it’s something that niggles at the back of my mind everyday. Even as I write this blog post I feel its cold claws digging into my shoulders. Will this help anyone? Am I making sense? Will anyone read it? What’s the point?

The point is is that I’m sharing a story with you and revealing a part of myself that a lot of others might keep hidden. Our country is notorious for turning its back on those with depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses. You’re called weak if you cry or share your feelings, or you’re told to toughen up.

Well, I’m here to tell you that your feelings are valid. It’s okay if you think you’re not the best writer. It’s fine if you think you’ll never publish anything. You’re allowed to feel all these things… for a moment. What you do with that energy is what’s most important. Will you let it stop you? Or will you use it to push forward and be the best that you can be for yourself?

Even the greatest writers feel like they were 1. the worst at one point or 2. they still feel that way. We are our own worst critics. Your book may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. Take the time to polish it. Work with someone you trust to go over the manuscript and make it better. Or, put the writing away for a day or two, take a breath, then return to it with a fresh mind and heart. Feel… and then move forward.

Here are a couple of things I do when my anxiety consumes me as I’m working on my novel.

  1. Breathe. Really, just close your eyes and breathe in and out.
  2. Step away. If you start hating your work, then it’s time to back away from the computer or notebook and take a breather.
  3. Work out or do something else active. Get that serotonin moving again and let your brain rest. You might be overworking it.
  4. Do something else creative. It’s perfectly fine to have another hobby to focus on when your writing gets to be too much. Researchers actually encourage it especially during moments like these.
  5. Support. Reach out to a support group. Post on twitter, facebook, instagram, wattpad,… wherever you feel safe. Believe me, someone else will be going through the same thing.
  6. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. You can always edit later. And if editing is the problem, then write for a little bit. Just try not to beat yourself down for it. You’ve got this.
  7. Use your coping skills. Whether it’s taking your medication regularly, or doing yoga/meditation, take time to treat yourself mentally, so you can get back to the thing you love.

Anxiety is an awful thing to deal with, but it’s not impossible to work through it and keep writing. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, other people do.

I do.

 

Literary Community: You’re Not Alone

There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

When most people think of writers, they picture solitary creatures hiding away and typing to a computer screen’s glow. Alright, so I suppose that’s not too far from the truth–I’m doing that right now–but what many don’t understand is that writers aren’t alone. There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

While I was growing up, I didn’t have a writing community to call my own. I felt like the weird one who spent more time scribbling in a Lisa Frank folder than playing outside with her friends. But when I hit high school, I was introduced to a writing community based on the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Imagine my shock when I could create characters and write about them, and people would actually respond back. This was the first time I didn’t feel alone as a writer.

This kind of online networking still exists today in roleplaying sites or even on places like Wattpad. Here, writers and readers come together to share stories, comment, vote, write/read, and message one another. I’ve already made some online and IRL friends through the platform. And best of all, it’s helped me get my writing off the ground again. I can ask people in my genre questions about world building or story structure. And at the same time, I can offer advice to newer writers who don’t know where to start.

Twitter and Instagram are both great places for building a writing community as well. Between things like #pitchwars and #pitchmad (events that allow you to mentor with other writers or pitch your stories to agents) you get to meet a lot of people. There are also particular hashtags people can follow to talk about their experiences, like #writerlywipchat. One of my favorite events is the #chance2connect meetup led by Kim Chance (@_KimChance). Once a month, she posts questions that writers can answer that encourage the community to interact and get people to meet one another. I’ve stayed up late having great conversations with some fantastic writers.

But what if you don’t want to meet people online? Well, there are writing conventions like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference that you can attend. I spent about four days in Denver, Colorado sitting in on literary lectures and meeting both new and published authors, agents, editors, etc. We had meals together, learned from one another, and created friendships that still last today. I would love to go back! I felt so inspired and encouraged. It helped me realize that writing is honestly what I want to do with my life.

Of course, not all of us can travel or pay for conferences. So how do you find your community in town? One way is to check Meetup. You might find writing events that are hosted in your local area. There’s National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Many cities have leaders who set up writing get-togethers. Check the NaNo site to find your area! If you look in library calendars, or maybe a local literary paper, you might find a group of writers. Or, if you’re in the Iowa area, you’re always welcome to join me at The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free, safe environment to writers of all incomes, genders, skillsets, etc. If you’re looking for workshop, then there’s the brilliant Iowa Writers’ House which also hosts an astounding airBnB.

You’re not alone. There are writers out there looking for companionship and the chance to just sit and brainstorm story ideas. Some of my best work comes out when I’m with other writers because I’m happy. I know that I’m not the only one struggling or going through this big process of creating a book. Most of all, I love to meet people and learn about their journeys. I believe that it’s important that we, as writers, learn to support each other in our personal quests. This world is hard enough as it is. I’d rather spend my day encouraging an author than trying to rise above them. As my friend Author Brian K. Morris says, we’re all part of a Rising Tide, and when we help one another, we all rise together as a community.

Just as a reminder, I post author interviews every Friday. Last Friday I showcased Leona Bushman, and this Friday will be Shakyra Dunn! Please stop by and show your support!