What’s Your Tribe?
In his 2009 TED talk, Seth Godin discusses how leadership in the Internet age is about building tribes. Always has been, in fact, but the Internet makes it easier to find like-minded individuals and bring them together.
Writers don’t always think of themselves as leaders, but they are. To be successful, they have to build followers—a fan base. If you’ve got followers, then you’re a leader.
Writers are great at connecting with other writers online. We enjoy sharing our travails and triumphs with others who’ve been through similar experiences. But other writers are our colleagues, not our customers. Our readership base is not drawn from others in the same profession but from people who connect with our stories.
So how do we find these people?
It isn’t easy. People don’t put in their LinkedIn profile, “I like to read stories about quirky heroines who give up the urban life for the slower pace of a small town.” And even if they did, that story situation is just a framework. It doesn’t communicate the themes and values of the novel.
Godin says that to build a tribe online, find a disconnected group that has a yearning, and lead them. Connect them to one another.
That got me asking, what yearning do my stories fulfill? In many ways, authors are the worst people to answer that question about their books. We’re often too busy planting the flowers and pulling the weeds to see the whole garden. Friends and critique partners can often recognize the common themes of our stories more easily than we do.
As Dianne pointed out in her post on branding, authors have lots of stories to tell, often diverse in genre and subject matter. But the heart of those novels is the same, because it’s the author’s heart. It’s the author’s yearning.
So what do you yearn for? Who is your tribe? How can you connect with them, and how can you lead them?
These aren’t questions just for authors, but for everyone who wants to make a difference in the world, as Godin points out in the video. Those who want to transform the SPCA to a no-kill shelter. Those who want to give shoes to people who have none. You start a movement by connecting to people who have the same values, the same yearning. Then they become evangelists and help you spread the word. You can’t do it on your own.
What’s your passion? How do you want your work to change the world? If you build your brand on these things, it will carry over into all you do.