Build An Audience For Your Writing with 3 Core Principles

This post is an answer to the question (asked by http://rachaelsdevotionalwritings.blogspot.com ), "How do I develop an audience for my writing?"

Rachael:

You are a wonderful writer!  I wish you many blessings in the lives you will touch through your writing. 

First let me point you to the 3 links I've pasted here.  They
are a few of the good resources I've looked at in regards to building a
blog audience, or platform.  There are many links within each post that
you can click on and get great information. You could also go the
www.wordpress.com site and type "building a blog" or "attracting
readers" or something to that effect into their search bar and you will
get great posts and advice.

http://www.internetevangelismday.com/blogging.php
http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/04/the_120_day_won.html#axzz0UOVZPRIr
http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/10/19/TheFirst5SimpleStepsForGrowingReadershipOnYourBlog.aspx


Second, I would like to give you some of my own thoughts that go
along with what you will find in the above posts.  What I have found in
my Running With Asthma blog is that there is truth in the notion of 3
core principles:  Audience, Niche, and Purpose.  I now have about 4,000
readers.

Audience:  This is true for blogging as well as book writing. 
You must, must, must identify the audience you are trying to reach so
that you can talk to them in an effective manner.  On one of the links
above, I read that sometimes it may take 6 to 18 months of writing on
your blog to figure out what you want to talk about!  I cringed the first time I heard this because I am not a patient person; I don't want to take that long to just to figure out my topic, let alone publish a book.  But, alas, I have found it to be true. As a blog writer,
or book writer, you have to actually write to figure out what you are
trying to say.  This takes practice and patience but if you honor the
process of  writing several times a week, your message will soon be
clear and then you will be able to identify your audience.  The
audience in my Running With Asthma blog (www.taraschiro.wordpress.com) is people who have asthma and
have a desire to run.  Very specific.  In your blog, I'm not able to
identify your audience. 

For example:  You must ask yourself who you are trying to
attract. The answer needs to be specific.  A too-vague answer would be
women, or young adults or "everyone."  A perfect answer would be women,
aged 12-20, who have cerebral palsey, who are looking for information
on handling a certain aspect of their life, such as physical therapy,
answering "how do I fit into God's plan" or dietary concerns.  Casting
a wide net to attract "everyone" never works.  You must start with a
core audience and then branch out from there.  The thing about blogs is
that people who search them are looking for very specific advice on a
very specific topic. On my running blog, wordpress tells me what
keywords people use to find my blog and the keywords they use are
things like: running with asthma (the name of my blog) or marathon and
asthma (the name of one of my posts) or asthma keeps me from running,
or any combination of these.  My blog pops up because it has the same
name that people are searching, but, more specifically and more
importantly, it is answering a question that the reader is asking. 
My readers want to know if they can run with asthma.  My blog answers
that question: Yes!  They have an issue in their life that they want
resolved, so they search the web to see if there is an answer to their
question.  

You audience must be able to find you!  Name your blog, and your posts, specific to the question your readers are asking.  If I had a blog named, "learning about my body," people with asthma wanting to know if they can run would never find me.  Your book title and your blog name should be crafted to let the reader know they can find the answer to their question in your book or blog.


Niche:  Your blog must fit into a specific, narrow niche that
people look to for answers.  This is a concern for me in your current
blog.  I will say again that you are a great, great writer.  You just
need to find your niche.  Unfortunately, devotional type blogs are a
dime a dozen.  You have a great start, but you need to narrow your
focus.  What are you trying to accomplish in your blog? (this goes with
Purpose in the next paragraphs) The most compelling part that I found
on your blog is the very first entry when you talked about your life
with cerebral palsey. The writing was honest, fresh, and compelling.  I
believe this is where you should focus.

For example:  In identifying your audience, your niche, and your
purpose, you must also identify who you are as a writer and who you are
as a person in general.  So:  female, early 20's, cerebral palsey,
christian…and then you should identify your passion, why you want to
write, what you are trying to accomplish, what is it that you want to say to people that will change their life?  You
have a unique perspective that not very many people have, and this is
coupled with your obvious talents and skill sets.  This is key.  People
just don't have the time or patience to read a blog that is nice to
read.  We want answers.  Your blog should be designed to answer a very
specific question.  Can I run with asthma?  How is this possible?  The
answer you provide will change people's lives.  This is where your
niche is, this is where your audience is, this is your purpose.

Purpose:  What question are you trying to answer for your niche
audience?  Why do you want to write stories or blogs?  You need to be
specific and unique in your purpose.  Don't be afraid of this. 
Sometimes the fear of being too specific is that you won't attract a
big enough audience.  Believe me, you will if you have a question that
is begging to be answered.  Your purpose shouldn't  be just about you,
it should be about the reader.  Trying to give information to the
reader that will enhance their life.  Embrace your uniqueness.  This is
where your audience is. This is why God gave you the talent to write. 
He wants to use you to help others, to answer that burning question for
them.  Readers buy books, and follow blogs, when they fall in love with
the author. Publishers offer contracts to authors that are marketable
to the audience.  You are marketable to your audience.  So, the best
thing you can do is to be yourself, embrace your uniqueness, and write
from your heart.

Remember, blog posts–when put together–can equal a book.  You
mentioned you wanted to write a book, so a blog is a great way to
explore the topic, see what ideas people respond to, etc. and then
later these posts can be used for the actual writing of the book.  You
won't need to re-write!  But keep in mind, a blog needs to be specific,
answer a specific question, so stay on track.  Whatever question you
decide to focus your posts around, make sure you always stick to
answering this question.  In other words, don't put children's book
posts and young adult posts in the same blog.  This would be 2
questions which would be 2 separate blogs.

Publishers:  The reason these 3 core principles are so important
is because publishers will ask if you have these 3 core principles in
place.  This is the litmus test for them to offer you a contract. 
Think about a book store.  When you walk in, there are bookshelves
everywhere that contain specific genres.  This is so we can find what
we are looking for with ease.  The mysteries are in the mystery
section, the self-help books are in the self-help section, the romance
books are in the romance section, etc.  This seems like a no-brainer. 
Duh.  But think about this for a second.  If a bookstore is willing to
put your book on one of their shelves, which shelf would it be on? If a
publisher buys your book and decides to print it, who will they market 
it to?  They need to be able to quickly and easily identify your
audience so that they can go to the bookstore and say, "here, Barnes
and Noble, put this on your Christian Inspiration shelf," or whatever. 
YOU have to do this in your writing.  The publisher will not determine
the audience for you. The publisher will not look at your writing and
say, "oh, okay, let me read this and see who might be interested." 
NO!  It doesn't work this way.

For Example:  When you write a book, you will also need to write
this thing called a Proposal.  It is a packet that contains a cover
letter, a summary of the book, some sample chapters, an author page, a
marketing page, etc.  The specific audience, purpose, niche, thesis,
etc., will all have to be spelled out in the proposal.  You will have
to determine all of these.  These should be determined very early on in
the writing so that you can craft the writing to talk to the niche
audience with a specific purpose.

Marketing:  This goes back to the shelf on the bookstore.  Each
shelf has a specific audience.  Stephen King readers will be marketed
to in a completely different way than the readers of the Twighlight
series, or the readers of Rachael Ray's cookbook, or to the readers of
Care Giving to Alzheimer's Patients.  Do you see my point?  If you
write a book, you will want to sell it.  A reader will buy a book if it
pertains to THEM, not a mass audience. They will buy a book they can
identify with.  If you identify a specific audience, with a specific
purpose, that answers a specific question, then the marketing will be
easy for you and the publisher.  You will know exactly where to find
your audience, where they hang out (hospital book store, rehabs,
prosthetic facilities), and the language they speak.  This is vital. 
The reader wants to know if the writer identifies with them.  The
reader will buy a book when they feel the writer is going to give them
information to a question they want answered.  A publisher will not
give a contract to a book they feel they cannot sell.  It could be the
best written book in the world but if it doesn't speak to a certain
audience, they won't buy it.  Be the book that gets a contract by
following the 3 core principles.

Pause:  I hope I'm not scarring you or overwhelming you!  If so,
go back to one of the thoughts above that says that this is a process,
a journey, and it might take 6 months to a year of writing before you
are able to figure this out.  That is okay!  Enjoy the journey!  It is
more than worth it and God will use the journey to teach you many
wonderful things about yourself and your readers.  Embrace it. Cherish
it. Pray about it.  Give thanks for it.

Again, the links above will give you direction in the technical aspects
of blogging and building an audience, such as linking to other sites
like yours, making comments on other sites, etc.  This is all great
information as well and should be followed.

Good luck to you and if there are any other questions I can answer for you, please let me know!

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