One of the things we’ve been looking at here at Find My Audience is the evolution of literary promotion: how writers “traditionally” get the word out about their work, how that process is changing, and how writers can best adapt. I put the word “traditional” in quotes since there is really no set of canonical best practices that have held over the last few decades (let alone centuries) for a writer to connect with their audience.
But there have always been ways to get the word out, many of them inventive and outrageous (and hardly in keeping with the image of the writer as a housebound field mouse). Almost three years ago, the journalist and writer Tony Perrottet published a great piece in the N.Y. Times on “How Writers Build the Brand”. He put the modern writer’s need for proactive online self-promotion in the context of great literary marketing campaigns throughout history.
It’s quite a tale! In the short article, he traces literary self-promotion back to 440 B.C. when Herodotus stood up in the Temple of Zeus during the Olympic Games to plug his Histories; through Walt Whitman, who “notoriously wrote his own anonymous reviews, which would not be out of place today on Amazon;” up to Simenon, Hemingway, and Nabokov. It’s a great, often hilarious piece, and every working writer should read it. As Tony puts it, “It’s always comforting to be reminded that literary whoring — I mean, self-marketing — has been practiced by the greats.”
In the three years since that article, online outlets and social media have proliferated even more, creating new, highly specialized, channels for authors to engage with. But it is not always clear how best to do so. Writers sense that their ideal readers are out there, but they don’t want to hang themselves above the street in a glass cage (as Simenon did), go on a reality TV show, or subject themselves to breathless play-by-play. And they justifiably don’t want to spam people.
We believe the immediacy of communication through these channels, and their effectiveness when used wisely, will start to overcome the writer’s natural resistance to self-marketing. When messages are targeted to likely readers, an author can be more confident that they are speaking to someone who may have an interest. They will speak more authentically and with greater confidence, and in turn their work will have a better chance of getting a reading.
Writers have feelings, ideas, and stories to impart, and we intend for Find My Audience to help them reach those people who will hear them as signal, not noise…. and not as a brazen attention-grab. That may work for something with superficial or titillating effect (throw an ad up in front of as many people as possible and appeal to the lowest common denominator), but it won’t work for a written work, where ideas and expression have been honed to present the authors’ unique voice or message, and need engaged attention.
For many decades, large enterprises and brands have used sophisticated demographic and market analysis to “find their audience.” The connection between a reader and a book is very different from that between a “consumer” and a product. But it does not mean that writers can’t take advantage of tools that help them assess interest.
Are you a writer looking for your readership? What do you think?