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.
Branding is becoming an elusive concept for me. Originally, I thought I had it nailed. Romantic women’s fiction…women’s issues…women mature and develop in their own sweet time —
I got it! Cross-market with my garden blog using the tag line: “A woman will bloom in time; her own sweet time!”
Great. Marketing my novels with gardening items and themes, I was traveling down the right road–until I hit a road block. What happens when you decide to write something other than romantic women’s fiction? Say you want to write mystery/suspense? Sure, you have women and romance, but the themes and plots of the novels aren’t particularly issue-oriented. Ruh-roh.
Now what? Am I confusing readers? Should I have changed my name with each new genre? What happens when I want to dabble in YA? A new genre, a new name? Should I curtail my imagination and go with one genre and end the confusion?
That’s a tough one. I can’t turn off my imagination. I can’t curb my passion. Writing wouldn’t be any fun if I couldn’t write what strikes my fancy. But I’m at a loss for direction. I’m considering a new website, but have no idea where to begin. Any suggestions? Ideas?
Going crazy in a swirl of marketing mania…
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on reaching out to my readers. But outside Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogs and book signings, I’m wondering where to go next. Where do authors and readers connect? Online? At book club meetings?
Where do readers want to connect? How do they want to connect? Do they want bookmarks, recipe cards, swag of all sorts? Do they want signed books, personal meetings, interesting tidbits of information gained via newsletters? Maybe connecting isn’t as key as enjoying a good book. Authors write, readers read.
But readers are my lifeblood as an author. I write for myself, but I write for my readers, too, and I want to know what they want, what they care about… I don’t want to waste their time. So I’m asking, as writers, has there been an exceptionally wonderful way you’ve connected with your readers?
And readers, how about you? What would you love to see from your favorite authors? Inquiring minds want to know! At least this inquiring mind, anyway.