Now that you have regular content, and hopefully a few loyal readers, and the seeds for a network it’s time to start reaching out and actually building the network into a solid support to help you take the next step. If you’ve already published a book (or two or fifty) then this step should have already happened. If you are in the process of writing your first book, now is a good time to start the process. If you are somewhere in between – this is a step you need to make sure to start working on ASAP!
I know this is one of the general “musts” that everyone hears about. Building the network you’ll want to have not only is critical, it also helps you find the right audience for future readers. This is both and easy, and extremely difficult step because for most of us it means stepping out of our “comfort zone” and actually talking to strangers.
Sure, you can help cut a corner or two through paid advertising, blog tours, or relying on someone else to do the bulk of your leg work. That isn’t a highly recommended method though. In the long run, that will come back to bite you when you least need it to.
So, just how DO you start to build up that network?
- Genre groups – the easiest way is to search for groups that specialize in your genre and join those. Join in the discussions, and generally be polite. Pay attention to the group rules, and don’t spam the group with the “Buy my book” or “I’m writing my book” posts. If it comes up in conversation – feel free to talk about it a little. Don’t hijack someone else’s thread if. Especially on Facebook – if you are the first comment in reply to a post, that starts a sub-thread for others to reply directly to your post. Keep your conversation on the subject contained to your thread. This helps in a couple of ways – it keeps things organized, so you know what’s been said before and it also keeps the comments together without scattering the conversation through a myriad of posts.
- Genre specific takeover events – this is the second easiest way to meet other authors who write in your genre. Granted, it’s easier for some genres than others (for those writing sci-fi and fantasy, please let me know, I’m still searching out takeovers!) You are going as a participant, not a presenter for now. Mostly, you are trying to find authors who you want to connect with. So, when you go, please be a polite guest, and don’t just join for the giveaways and not participate otherwise. Most authors will have an “Ask me anything” type post either early in their take over slot, or towards the end of their time slot. This is a great chance to talk to them, and to see how they treat others.
- Reach out to your favorite authors – Even if they are published through a major traditional publisher, most authors are willing (and even eager) to connect with their fans. A word of warning when you’re doing this – don’t brag about your own work! Talk to the author, and if someone asks you a question, feel free to answer. This is a way for someone else’s readers to get to know your name, and who you are.
- Interviews – this is a GREAT way to meet other authors. Depending on how you set up the format for your interviews, it can be a very quick connection, or it could be a massive time guzzler. I tend to fall into the latter category, but I don’t mind most of the time. If you can focus on who you accept for interviews, this also ensures that you have the right focus for people stopping by your blog.
- Depending on the group rules, you can post an open invitation or a more limited invitation in the group to host interviews for your group’s authors. If you are in a multi-genre group, you can further limit the invitation to genre specific authors, or you can choose to leave it wide open. Most of my interviews from 2015 came from an open invitation in a multi-genre group.
- Once you’ve posted the interview, try to make sure you let the author you’re hosting know it’s up, and if it’s allowed, share it to the group as well. I’ve had several more interviews come in for this year from doing just that. Not to mention, it also shows the group that you’re willing to help other authors and not be selfish.
- Everything I said above applies here, though you’ll have to be a little savvy in how you present it because you want it to be seen. I haven’t offered interviews on twitter – yet. I’ve got my hands full with the Facebook ones for the foreseeable future.
- Hashtags – hunt out hastags relevant to your books. These don’t have to be genre specific, but should at least relate to the themes you’re using. Join in the conversations there. Once again, you’re not there to brag, you’re there to generate name recognition.
- Find authors who write in the same genre, and follow Nat Russo’s advice about “mining” their followers.
- Twitter doesn’t require you to follow back any new followers, which is something many new authors building their platform don’t realize. (I know I didn’t at first!) This will take a little extra work, but as people start following you, go check out their profiles. Follow the ones that seem to have potential interest or something you can engage with that’s not a “buy my book” post. This should help ensure you build up a following that’s not all bots and spammers. Believe me, cleaning out that mess is not fun. I’m still working on that. It also helps ensure you can get past the 2000 following limit smoothly.
- No, blogs are not just a place to post content, and then ignore. They are also someplace to network.
- Go visiting! Visit the blogs that follow you. You may not comment on all of them, and you may not get to all of them regularly. But do make an effort to visit them from time to time. I’m a lousy neighbor, and it shows. After a year, if I would follow my own advice, I’d have a much, MUCH larger following than I do have. But, I have so many demands on my time (or so I use as my excuse) that I don’t get out and about too much.
- Answer comments – if someone leaves a comment, answer it. Even if it is just a simple “Thank you”. It lets your readers know that you are a person, not just a blind bot posting all the time.
- Reblog an article – if you find an article you like, or that is relevant to what you’re writing about – reblog it. Even if it’s not from someone you follow. It’s a great way to start a conversation, and meet new people. I remember reading on one of the blogs I follow (I think HaRsh ReAliTy) that there are over one million Word Press users. That is not including the users who maintain multiple blogs. If that is correct, then there is a massive pool of information (and people) you can connect with. Don’t be afraid to do so.
- However, if the blog asks that you not reuse their content, please be polite and honor that request. I’ve seen it a few times, though the most frequent way of determining it is not OK to reblog something is a missing reblog option.
- Guest post – either offer to host guest posts on your blog from fellow bloggers, or request a blog that you’ve been engaging with for a while to host a guest post for you. This has two huge benefits.
- It provides extra exposure for you. When you host a guest post, the other blog may mention that one of their articles is on your blog, and so their readers might wander over to take a look, and stay to look around. When you guest post on another blog, your article will be exposed to the other blog’s readers, which may draw them over to your blog to take a look around.
- Name recognition – you’re getting your name out there in a non-sales-y way. This is always good, since you are looking to develop relationships, not bore people to tears with the broken record of “buy, buy, buy!”
I know that there is a growing trend of using Facebook pages as the heart of a blog. You can tap into this as well, so you have a second media stream for your blog content. However, there is the issue that comes with it. Time, and finding the right amount to spend on the platform building aspect of your writing. That is the expected subject of the next installment – time management for the busy writer.
Until next time… happy networking!
If you have any suggestions, I’m always eager to hear them. Leave a comment below. You never know – what you have to say may be just what someone else needs to hear.