Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A few tips on getting and keeping readers

  1. Get your ass out there.

    Impersonal advertising works only for celebrities. If you're an ordinary schmoe, the only good way to get readers is to go out into communities you like, participate, and meet people. Don't participate just long enough to advertise your work; people recognize that kind of spamming. Show up and be a real member. Over time, people will get to know and like you, read your stuff, and tell other people about it.

  2. Give more than you get.

    Be generous with your time and support. People will notice, and once they trust you, they'll give back far more than you gave them. That includes attention. And who knows, you may find yourself--gasp--enjoying helping others!

    But remember: Complaining that you give and give and nobody gives back will wipe out months' worth of giving. People don't like feeling like you're keeping tally on them. People will give freely if they don't feel obligated to give; if giving back to you is an obligation, then it no longer feels like a gift, it feels like forced labor. They'll even start rejecting your help so they don't fall into debt with you.

    Which leads to the next point...

  3. Don't whine.

    Too many complaints about how badly other people have treated you, and your listeners will start to suspect the other people had a point. The world is already full of bad writers whining that no one appreciates their talent and no one will listen to them. Don't be one of them.

  4. Don't expect special treatment.

    You're a writer. So what? The world doesn't owe you anything because of your choice of hobby.

  5. Patience.

    It takes time to get attention and see word-of-mouth start to spread. Give it space, let it happen. If you start demanding that things move more quickly, that you get more attention and more comments and more sales or you're going to throw it in, people are going to feel pressured and leave.

  6. Listen.

    If you get the same criticisms over and over again, you're doing something wrong. Either figure out what's wrong and fix it, or resign yourself to getting the exact same criticisms for the rest of your life.

    And no, bitching about how you keep getting the same criticisms won't help.

    Neither will claiming that people say those things about you because your work is too trendy/too old-fashioned/too ethnic/too mainstream/too edgy or because you're female/male/black/white/poor/rich/vegan/vegetarian/carnivorous/a pet owner/short/tall/young/old/pretty. You're a bad writer and your personality is grating. Fix it.

  7. If all else fails, controversy attracts attention.

    It drives up hits, inspires people to comment, and gets you a small audience as people drive by to see the trainwreck. But manage it carefully, or you'll wind up a laughingstock. The last thing you want is a silent audience of people waiting for you to flip out again.

    And finally...

  8. HAVE FUN.

    Writing is hard and nonlucrative, and hundreds of far better authors have already soaked up all the available prestige. If you're in writing for money, for status, or for the validation of fame, you're in the wrong business. Write for fun, find readers who think your work is fun, and let the rest drop to the side.


Peter L. Winkler said...

Excellent advice.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Especially #s 6 & 7.

Margot said...

Thanks! *grin* #7 is best taken with a grain of DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE, but it's sadly true.