When I started writing seriously in 2004, my focus lay completely in fiction. I’d written devotionals and snippets of life pieces in the past, but they served my own need for expression, then resided silently in a folder on my computer. Fiction was and is my passion.
But then something unexpected happened. In 2006 God presented me with the desire and opportunity to write as part of a team for a blog to help those in spiritually mismatched marriages like my own. I jumped in because I wanted to help other women avoid some of the heartache I’d experienced to reach a place of thriving in my faith and my marriage.
From this blog a ministry was born. Readership grew as did our perspective and understanding of the need we’d tapped into. This led to a book about how to thrive in this type of challenging marriage (aren’t all types challenging?), a Facebook presence, then a Twitter page. We suddenly found ourselves reaching readers in ways we hadn’t thought possible at the beginning. Our main site (www.SpirituallyUnequalMarriage.com) started showing up as a resource on other ministry and church websites. Thank goodness for Google Alerts to let us know!
All this coalesced into our platform, which became the turning point for a publisher to say yes to our book. How did that happen?
Here’s what I did:
1. Identify a need. As authors, we pretty much get the message today that we have to do more than just market our book. People want more. Common trends have set a pattern of having take away value. So, identify a need you can fill. Offer something to your reader that they can use and apply to their own lives. Once you identify a need, you can clarify your message. And you’ve just identified your market.
2. Create a presence. Social media has exploded at an astonishing rate in the last year alone. The heavy hitters (Facebook and Twitter) revolutionized communication. And now Google+ looks to be another joining the slew of social media giants. For our purposes, I will say that Facebook turned out to be surprising success. We wanted another means to connect with readers and be a resource and that’s what happened. Why? Because we made our page about our readers and meeting their needs, not about selling our book. Again there’s that take away value.
3. Consistency. Though we started with just our blog, we were and are consistent about content and postings. We brought this pattern over to our Facebook and Twitter pages, which builds presence, trust and reliability. Readers trust a growing presence that’s consistently putting information out there with a clear message that has no strings attached. Trust me, people smell an ulterior motive faster than the garbage dump next door. Be honest, be authentic and be original, but always stay true to your message.
4. Become a resource. Past experience opened the door to serve a specific market with the goal of being a resource. That was always the purpose—how did we assist others in finding the help they needed in a difficult marriage? What could people take away and apply to their lives and marriages? Over time, we presented ourselves as a reliable and helpful resource that other sites and churches could tap into. We showed we were there to help, to partner with individuals and groups, and to share what had worked for us in order to help others on the same path.
5. Be patient. (I can still hear my wise agent, Rachelle Gardner, telling me this.) Building a platform takes time. Factor that into your writing plan. Don’t rush to submit a project before it’s reached its potential because it’s a bigger challenge to turn a no into yes.
As I said this journey began in 2004 with my focus on learning the craft of writing and growing in my understanding and abilities. From mid 2006 to late 2009, our platform grew to the point that a publisher was willing to take a chance with our message. That platform is still growing to day with the addition of a special book site (www.WinningHimWithoutWords.com) focused on the message of the book and offering free resources for listening and downloading, as well as teaching videos. We’re also working on partnering with other authors to promote each other’s books and ministries through our newsletter, websites, and speaking engagements.
How does that affect my future as a fiction writer? Same game plan with some minor adjustments. The stories I write serve the same niche we found for our nonfiction and thus brings me back to step one. And away I go! See you on the shelves!