07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How Growing an Audience is Like Growing Weeds

Dear Reader,

You don't know me. I haven't published a book...yet. I haven't presented a class at any RWA meeting...yet. But you might have seen me around the internet lately. I'm Pat Hauldren, most people call me Alley (a long story :). I live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas and I write speculative fiction with romantic elements.

I've attended a few conferences (a FEW says hubby, don't you mean you broke the bank? LOL), a few writing workshops, and am a member of a few local and online groups.

Last year, I was minding my own business (honest!), writing my novel, attending my local groups, when I was asked by one local group to do a class at their yearly writing conference. I was surprised because I wasn’t a multi-book published author. No one who hadn't met me really knew me as a novel writer, but a few (only over 600 newspapers nation-wide) might have seen my name in the paper, or on my columns online (with a world-wide audience).

What did I have to give back to other writers at this upcoming conference?

Literally, I asked this, because I was stumped. I thought I was really a nobody in the publishing world, and I am, "out there" in the book publishing world. But "here," in the online world, I had a little corner of my own.

About two years ago, I had picked up a job as a fiction book editor at a local small press. I edit only speculative fiction (includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, steampunk, horror, etc.,) because that's my true love (and has been since I was 8 years old). Then I began some freelance editing (see my website at www.editalley.com), then I got busy and had to turn clients down. A good thing, though I hate to say no.

Then, I began writing for an online media site called Examiner) as the Fort Worth Writing Examiner. That's a fun job. I get to interview writers, read and review books, tell everyone about upcoming events, and write about writing.

I couldn't get enough. In my usual 'over do it' mindset, I then took up a column as the Fort Worth Hockey Examiner, then the Dallas Speculative Fiction Examiner, then the Dallas Women's Sports Examiner, then and finally last, the SyFy Channel Examiner. Whew.

So, when I asked the conference coordinator what could I offer, that's what she said. Just do what you do. So I did.

I did a presentation called "Examining Online Media: How to build an audience before your book is sold!" and loved doing it. I got good feedback on the class, so I developed it to teach online. In fact, I'll begin this class Monday, August 1, at the Carolina Hearts RWA Chapter.

I've done a few more classes since then and you can find them on my website (www.pathauldren.com) on writing urban fiction, how to stay a healthy writer, on formatting, and what's really cool, I'll be conducting several writing classes in The Netherlands in November!

What can this writer, who is writing not only her novel(s), but short stories, articles, even Japanese Noh Drama, offer you? All I can do is share what has worked for me and hopefully, you can take away something useful for yourself.

Most writers spend a year or maybe more writing a novel, especially their first novel. But what they often don't consider until after they've finished their novel is how they are going to sell it. Our novel is our product and we are the production company. But we have to get our novel, our widget, out there. People have to know about it before they'll buy it.

And that's where this blog comes in. Get your name out there. Before you've submitted your novel anywhere, you're a nobody. You're one in a million with a good story. How do we as authors rise above the masses?
Well, of course, we must write a kickbutt book.

And, we must have our name "out there."

But don't wait. Get your name out there NOW.

How? Easy peasy, I say. You can grow your audience almost as easy as watering weeds, and I say that living in Texas, with 108 F days, water restrictions, and surrounded by wildfires.

I always introduce this topic with, "What is your passion? What do you dream about at night, when our subconscious has control? What did you want to be when you grew up?"

And from this list, you can find things to write about and sell. Believe me. Actually SELL, which means, make money. You probably won't get rich, but right now, that's not what I'm talking about.

What we need, as novelists, are readers. And this is a painless way to begin gathering that audience who wants to buy your book when it's published.

Now, consider this. If two people submit a wonderful manuscript to Ms. Editor and she has to select just one (because bean counters don't just count beans). How do you make that choice easier? By bringing an audience along in your query letter. And if Ms. Editor knows you have a packaged audience ready to read your book, which manuscript do you think she'll select?

You don't have to write where I write. There's tons of places out there. Start small--volunteer to write for blogs (Jello? Here I am. :) Then find some gigs out there who want what you write. Keep the topics to things you enjoy because remember, you're writing a novel. These should be topics and articles that you enjoy. Something you can write about in your sleep, because these articles and blogs shouldn't interfere with your novel.

So, there you have it. How I'm watering my audience weeds that I'll present as a package deal to my intended agent or editor (in fact, several agents want my book already when I hadn't even finished it yet!)

So water your weeds, grow your audience, and drop by my website and say hi sometime.
Good luck and happy writing!

Alley Hauldren


Diana Mcc. said...

I think I could grow weeds:) How would I find the blogs to contribute to? Are the Admin. of the blogs the ones to approach or is there somewhere that calls for writers are listed? Thanks. diana

Tam Linsey said...

And I hate to say it, but since one of my passions is writing, those are the blogs I am drawn to. While writers are also readers, I need to find a way to reach a broader audience. I'll have to broaden my blog topic list, I guess.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for an interesting post, Pat. One of the points you've made that I can improve upon is being more comfortable on line. I really don't like to click around but I do want my name out there. Another point I really do like is that your suggestions involve me continuing to write which is a good thing, especially if I develop some articles and posts that feature themes in my books.

ElaineCharton said...

Thank you so much for such a great post.I love the analogy to a garden. So true. The hardest thing for me to realize was I had to find things I wanted to write about besides my books. That and I did not have to blog everyday as long as I do blog consistently.

B. A. Binns said...

Well, I guarantee i know how to grow weeds. This audience thing is a killer, feels more like growing exotic plants. Thanks for the tips. I need every bit of help I can find.

Sarah Raplee said...

Great post! I ditto Diana's questions. Thanks!

Paty Jager said...

Great info! Thanks!

Annie Seaton said...

I could not agree more. My first novella is out in Spring and I spend at least 2 hours each day building up a social media presence. I have over 400 twitter followers ( in only a couple of weeks) a facebook presence and I blog at least weekly.
In the new world of e publishing we must sell our product by social marketing. Thanks for your post. It was most enjoyable!

AlleyPat said...

Many blogs you can get invited to by getting on blog newsletter lists. Look at the blogs here at this site, SavvyAuthors.com, FreshFiction, etc. and read what they offer, then see where you might fit in. Maybe they don't have an opening, but know of someone who does. A lot of word of mouth goes on electronically (guess it's word of fingers :) and while the virtual world seems vast and unknowable, it really isn't when it comes to groups of people who want the same things and who do the same things as you.

If you need help, I'd be glad to try to help. Write me at Pat@pathauldren.com and let's see if we can get out there and water our weeds :)

P.I. Barrington said...

Thanks Alley, a great blog post! Now I just need you to write a post on managing writing time for all those weed watering sites!

Regina Richards said...

Hi Alley,

Trying to build a web audience is no small task. It eats an enormous amount of time and energy and often I wonder if it is the best use of my time. But on I press. Thanks for sharing your experience and encouragement.