This is how I’m feeling today. I had another post idea for today already written and scheduled. But I’ve got something else on my heart.
Being new at something means taking some missteps, being a bit overeager at times, and learning the hard way. But, man, it stinks when you realize how you’ve fumbled, despite best intentions.
At some point in every author’s career, she has to decide she means business and is committed to doing what it takes. One of those things, I’ve learned, is building platform. A following of potential readers through your website/blog, social media, newsletter subscribers, etc. Every follower represents a potential one-day customer. Good numbers are important for publishers to see your “reach” to be able to partner with them to sell your book(s).
In the past month or so, I’ve kicked up my platform building into high gear. I’ve planned a regular blogging schedule (every Tuesday and Thursday). I’ve made changes to the site so my newsletter sign-up shows up in the main navigation bar and on my Facebook page. I’ve hosted guest writers and have guest posted on other relevant blogs. I’m participating in more weekly hashtag conversations on Twitter, like #1linewed with other authors. I’ve seen growth in a lot of areas and have been excited to welcome lots of new followers. Time to celebrate, right?
But I have a confession. In my quest for growing numbers, I’ve sort of forgotten the most important key element, without which everything else becomes obsolete in this whole “game” of building platform. Connection. Let me give you an example.
On Facebook, I personally follow a lot of authors whom I’ve met or connected with over the last few years. My goal as an author is to have more readers and fellow writers follow my author page. Without thinking it through, I started sending Friend Requests to authors whom I saw were connected to other authors I already follow (you know, Facebook’s neato “You May Also Like…” suggestions that indicate how many of your already-friends follow that person). So I’ve gone a bit overboard sending Friend Requests out willy-nilly regardless of if I’ve read that author or even heard of her. A bit crazy, right? But that’s not the worst of it.
Whenever another author accepts my friend request, I have been sending a “Thanks for following” message that immediately includes a link to also follow me on my author page. Um…rude. Right? Some of you might not think of this as inappropriate. However, I started thinking how that might make me feel. Someone friends me. “Aw, how sweet. A new author friend to connect with!” Then I get a generic “Follow me here for great tips on writing and follow my writing journey…” Oh. She wants me to just be another tick on her followers count.
I want so badly to be successful at this author thing that I started to lose sight of what’s really important to me. I want my stories to connect people. I want readers to eventually find messages of grace and hope and encouragement not only in my books (which, who knows, may never grace shelves) but also in all interactions I have with them. I want to know their names. Their joys and challenges. Their hopes and dreams.
If I’ve recently “friended” you on Facebook and subsequently sent you a follow request, I’m sorry. I do, in fact, want to KNOW you.
Want to read your books and hear your stories. If you feel welcome and interested to follow any of my platforms, great! But that’s not a requirement for being my friend.
Any potential agent or publishers might cringe at this post. But I’ve got to do this in a way that feels natural, real, genuine. I’ll keep trying and working hard, of course. Being intentional is important and ultimately I write so that people will hopefully one day READ it. But first and foremost, I want to connect with PEOPLE, regardless of whether or not they’ll one day buy my books. If a community of people forms here or on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, I trust God will bless it and the connections.
That’s my prayer and my hope.
Today, I’m also sharing my thoughts on SURRENDER with a guest post on Julie Arduini’s blog about how surrendering my marriage to God saved it. I hope you’ll take a moment and venture over there, too.
Confession of a Newbie Author…how one author forgot the real goal. — Tweet This!
9 thoughts on “Confession of a Newbie Author”
Love your heart! That’s kind of the name of the game in this industry, but connection and showing people’s value is the most important thing.
I don’t think anyone will doubt that’s your intention once they see who you are as a person ❤
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Great post, Teresa. Very honest, and if an agent would cringe…that’s the wrong agent, because writing is about connection, or it’s just a job.
I pretty well stay with my blog to maintain connection. Facebook feels awfully superficial, and Twitter even more so.
May never have 250k followers. I don’t care. Some of mine say that what I’ve written has changed their lives, and that’s good enough for me.
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Well said, Andrew! You certainly have touched my life!
Thank you, Laurie. It’s all about finding balance, I suppose, between obligation (name of the game) and being genuine. 🙂
I’ve been seriously working on my platform for a few months now, and I think about this same topic. Where’s the line between making connections and leaving people feeling like they’re just another “tick” on the friend counter? (nicely said, btw!) It’s so hard to decide because everyone has a different take on it. I’ve definitely had my cringe moments, and I’m sure I’ll be cringing at myself again in the future. As has been said already, it’s a balancing act – one I’m sure I don’t have perfected yet, so I totally relate to this post. On the other hand, I’m happy to say that I’ve also stumbled across writers I enjoy following now–like you! The connection admittedly often starts off as shallow, just trading likes or follows, but as time goes on, I do like getting to know other writers through their posts/tweets and then getting to read and comment on the blogs of those whose writing resonates with me 🙂 So, despite the cringes and forehead smacks, if I’d known how many great writers I’d meet in the process of building my platform, I would’ve started seriously working on it years ago and not just months ago!
Emily, how nice to hear from you! You’re right, it is all about balance. Easier said than done, sometimes, but knowing we’re not alone is so comforting. We’ll get the hang of this as we go. 🙂 Nice to connect with you, and hope to get to know you more.
Aww, Teresa… Bless your sweet heart! We’ve all made faux pas and it’s really o-kaaay. (((HUG)))
You nailed it–it’s about connection, connection, connection–in a good way. Not the “let’s see if I can just ratchet up my numbers here” connection, but a very real, honest-to-goodness “I’d like to get to know you better. I find you interesting. I care about you.”
Because FB, Twitter, and other social media tend to limit our reach (unless we buy their ads) there is the tendency to overdo in the wrong areas as we navigate the writing path. We fumble, pause, and get up and go again in a new direction. Been there, done that.
You’re doing great! 🙂
Thanks so much for your thoughts, Cynthia! Can’t tell you how much it means to hear your encouragement.
I once heard a NYT bestselling author talk about when she was just getting started in the publishing industry. She was signing books with another (very well known) author, whose line was literally out the door. This new author had a handful of folks in her line, and they’d probably never heard of her. That being said, she prayed and thanked God for the people who stopped by her table. She told Him she’d do everything she could to avoid comparison, and try to bless the people He did bring her.
That’s straight-up maturity, right there. I will never forget that the author who said that is now extremely successful… but more than that, she’s making disciples of Jesus out there because she’s authentically connecting with people.
I see that in your post here. Don’t be too hard on yourself – we can tell where your heart is, and it’s focused in the right place. Hugs!!