You have this great idea and you’ve done all the work to bring it to life, but now what? For some creatives, the act of creating was enough. They are pleased with their finished project, and they’re ready to set it aside and begin something new. But for some creatives, this isn’t enough. We want to get our work in the world, see it spark conversation, and create connection. It goes without saying that work that can do these things needs to be your very best work. The trouble is that good work doesn’t come with a built-in audience. We have to build our audience with the same dedication we had when we created our work. But how? How do we find an audience if we’re starting from the very beginning?
There are three fundamentals:
- Match your book to people who will appreciate it.
- Create connection and conversation.
- Stay in touch.
Here are the real-life ways to get going.
1. Know What Makes Your Book Special
Connecting people to your book starts with identifying how it connects to the greater world of ideas and print. What makes your work unique? To know this, you’ll need to know the context in which your book lives. The good news is that 500 years of printed materials means that you’ve got plenty to work with. Whatever you make will exist in the landscape of a marketplace and conversation. It’s helpful to find where you fit in the bigger picture. Create a profile of your book project by identifying the cultural, artistic, and intellectual fields it touches.
- Does your book have a theme that pulls an audience together? Does it connect to a cause? What’s the universal meaning? Even if it’s to entertain people, identify how. If it’s love, or justice, or everyday heroes, or beauty, or stories… make a list.
- Does it have a new, fresh concept that doesn’t exist? One of our authors created a gorgeous book out of his Candy Minimal feed—combining bright colors with stark minimalism. Fresh concepts often come at the intersection of two unexpected things.
- Does it have content that refers to a specific interest? A certain city, cuisine, or hobby?
- Does it have a stand-out concept? Sometimes the way to identify this is to have a few people go through your book and have them tell you what stands out.
See if you can create a profile of your book from that feedback and the other characteristics you identify in your list.
2. Get to Know Your Audience
Once you’ve found the touchpoints of your book to art, ideas, history, and culture, you can explore those to find where people interested in them spend time. It’s a bit of reverse-engineering.
- Search for books like yours on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Look up the authors and the organizations and forums where they’re known. You’re looking for bloggers, social media profiles, and forums where people who like what you like read and hang out.
- Look up hashtags on social media that relate to your project. What kind of people are using them and where?
- What about a sister industry? If you make a cookbook about organic food, check with your local grower’s community or farmer’s market to make connections. If you make a children’s book, consider teacher’s and parent’s forums.
Use the information you gather here to create a profile of your most likely reader. Then, you can tailor all your marketing efforts to appeal to readers in this niche.
3. Cultivate Community
Join all the forums, blogs, email lists you found. Talk to people. Sometimes this means going to Meetup Groups or going to events, but a lot of this DIY promotion will be digital. You have to grow your network, but you also have to add value and be contributing something before you can ask an audience to buy in to you and your book.
- Ask questions
- Post yourself
- Retweet, share, and promote work like yours and that of the people you want to get to know
Be sincere. You’re in this to build relationships with readers, and it’s those relationships that will get you where you want to go. Always be visible with the intent of adding value and helping your community. Also, remember that community building means giving a lot up front. You’ll need to post, participate, and promote for a while to build up that goodwill, especially when working with influencers.
4. Create a Website
As a creative, you need your own website. Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, even WordPress all have gorgeous templates that you can use to get setup. You need a place for your newfound audience to land when they look you up. This is also where you can add value. You can create regular content that makes a positive impact on people’s lives—something that stirs emotions, fascinates, educates, helps, clarifies, gives voice to something, and relates to other people. The key to running your site effectively is to create reasons for people to keep returning to it—people will come back and join you when you’re giving something that makes their day better. You also need to do this regularly.
- Be sure your site has a blog section
- Create a content calendar
- Post once a week
- Try out new content, provide samples of your project, get feedback, revise, try again
- Make a social media plan to drive traffic to your site.
5. Collect Email Addresses
Your email list is your most powerful tool for connecting with your audience. The people who sign up to receive emails are your dedicated fans, and more likely to engage, converse, show up, respond, or buy something. Much more than anyone you have on Twitter or Facebook. You met all these new friends and extended your audience, now you have to keep track of it! Install an email collector plugin as a part of your site. Send an email to all your family, friends, and personal contacts asking them “opt-in” to your list, for updates, news, and promotions about your projects. You can send a monthly newsletter, or automatically send an alert that you’ve published a new blog post.
We create to connect in a meaningful way. This isn’t about amassing “followers” or “clients” or “buyers”. It’s about making something useful, inspiring, delightful, or entertaining in a way that has a positive impact. When you’re focused on conversation and connection, promoting your book can be a very meaningful experience. Sure, all the conversation and connection can take more energy or even longer than it took to make your own book. But don’t forget that almost everyone starts out with no followers.
Small and relevant is key. It’s not about being the best or a blockbuster. Having a strong, connected fan base can carry you farther than you thought possible.