Recently on the podcast, Kim and I chatted about whether having a strong online presence can help a writer attract a publisher. I've been active in the online space for some time now, and I gave some thoughts on why I felt it was important for me to create an online presence before I sold my book. Here's the thing...
It was never really about the book.
It was always about connection.
As an uncontracted author I never knew if there would be a book. But I did know that I enjoyed connecting with people and I did know that one day, I'd love to be able to share the joy in having a book published with a community of writers (and potential readers) who might be interested in my work. As luck (and hard work!) have it, it turns out that there is going to be a book (yay!) that I will be able to share.
I hear a lot of writers talk about how it's important to have an online presence and I also hear a lot of writers worry about their platforms. I too, have had moments of not being sure about what to blog about, or how much to share. And then of course, there's the (lack of) time consideration when you're already trying to squeeze the writing in amongst so many other things that need your attention.
Finding the time and your voice can be challenging but I do think that it's important for authors to be online. But I also believe it's important for authors to be online before they're published. Like most things in life, it takes time to establish and grow an online presence.
Having a presence online has meant that over time (a long time) I've been able to make and foster real connections with real people. Podcasting alone has opened up a brand new world for me to make new online friends, and a wider support network.
There are so many ways my online presence has opened up opportunities for me, from friendships, support, income, and ways to give back to the community, and I'd love to share these examples with you, to show you some of the things that become possible as a result of having some kind of author platform.
In August, once my structural edit for THE FLORENTINE BRIDGE is completed, I have three lunch dates bookmarked with writer friends whom I've met online or through the podcast. (And let me tell you, I am so looking forward to them!) It's worth mentioning that one of these authors approached me for a potential workshop opportunity as well as a promotional opportunity for my book once it's released, and this came about as a direct result of her finding me online.
Since launching the podcast, I've had listeners email me asking me where they can buy my books, which is lovely since my book isn't available (yet!). Others have emailed letting me know how inspiring and motivating they've found either my blog or the podcast, or how it's helped them get pen to paper. This in itself is hugely rewarding and motivating to hear. I always save these kind of emails because they inspire me.
Workshops, Coaching, and an International Writing Retreat
Last year I ran local writing workshops and took the plunge with launching my writing retreat in Tuscany, called YOUR BEAUTIFUL WRITING LIFE. And it was wildly exciting to see that these sold out. It proved to me that you don't need to be a 'published author' to build a life around your writing. I was able to do these things as a coach and writer and that was enough. Offering support and knowledge within your capacity is perfectly fine, and you'll attract the kind of clients and attendees that are right for you.
My workshops then led me to other opportunities, like presenting a workshop at the upcoming Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Adelaide this August.
As far as coaching goes, while I trained as a Life Coach, I realised I really wanted to work with writers specifically, to help them with their writing aspirations, and dealing with some of the challenges we all face: Where to start? How to finish? How to persevere and believe in ourselves? What to work on next?! Through coaching writers I've managed to develop an income stream, and the bonus is that it's hugely rewarding and directly connected to writing too.
While I've managed to build a community and have a newsletter database, I couldn't have done these things without confidence, but I wouldn't have had the confidence, if I didn't have the support from, or the relationships with the people who comment, subscribe, email and interact with me online.
A Place to Give Back to the Community
Having an online presence gives you a chance to give something back to the community of writers we're all a part of. I've been fortunate enough to have received help from other authors along the way, and my way of giving back to that community is via blogging and the weekly podcast.
One of my coaches I've had the pleasure of working with in the past, the lovely Rachel McDonald, encourages her clients to ask themselves:
How Can I Be Generous?
How Can I Add Value?
How Can I Bring Joy?
Think about ways you can be generous and add value. You can then go BIGGER with those ideas. Generosity will always come back two-fold.
Some ways I put this into action if you're looking for ideas:
Last year, I put together almost a year's worth of free writing prompts on Instagram. (You can search for them under the hashtag #mindfulprompts.)
In the past I've included free opt-ins for newsletter subscribers, such as a guide to helping writers overcome self-doubt and resistance while learning to become more present, and 100 Free Writing Prompts.
Your online presence doesn't just have to be about sticking to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. It can be about creating value in other ways. You might like to start a Book Club, or an interactive Book Chat, or you might like to host regular Q&A's on Facebook. Maybe regular in-person meet ups for writers and readers is something that interests you. Time is always a consideration, but over time, I do believe you'll get back what you put in. It's also about finding something that feels comfortable and achievable for you.
The other thing is, when you're giving 80% of the time, and sharing joy, and adding value, and you're coming from that sincere place, people know it, they can feel it. So when the time comes when you do need a little support, people who share that joy and benefit from that value 80% of the time will often be willing to help you out 20% of the time (if not more!) *Figures are guesstimates only!
So often, people buy people and after having a long time corporate career in sales, I know the hard sell never works. While you can argue that sales is a numbers game, the fact is that people are people, they aren't just numbers.
I've heard of writers who've been approached by literary agents or publishers as a direct result of finding them online.
Kim Foster found herself jumping on board as co-host of my podcast after we met on Twitter and had the courage to swap a few manuscript pages with each other for critique.
It's worth mentioning that most of the authors Kim and I approach for interviews are online too. Before we invite guests onto the podcast, we take a look at their websites to get a sense of who they are and what they're like. If the author provides a glimpse into some of the other things they're doing, or has certain things they've achieved or are specialised in, it gives us an added talking point, and more valuable content to share with our listeners who can benefit from hearing from that particular author.
It's also worth having a read of this interview on Carly Watter's blog with Maria Ribas, Editor-turned-Agent, who discusses the 'platform-savvy author' and the acquisitions meeting.
Platform and online presence doesn't always need to be a big scary thing. You can start small, and go from there. You might not want to do workshops or speaking, or a podcast, but there are many ways you can build a life around your writing and take advantage of some of the wonderful opportunities that are out there waiting for you.
Has blogging or being online opened up opportunities for you? I'd love to hear more about your experiences, too!