Thursday, October 7, 2010

Building Your "Tribe"- Before Publication???

Tribe. A community of people dedicated to a cause or purpose, supporting and following the "leader".

I recently finished listening to the 2009 ACFW conference recording, continuing education lecture given during the conference. It was given by Karen Ball and Allan Arnold and if I had been attending the conference, I would not have taken the class, because it would have been too advanced. But, since I am just listening, I didn't pass up any of the classes.

And the one thing that I truly took away from the class was the importance of building my "tribe". Or a community of followers. So how do you build something so important and why would you even attempt it before publication? What is the importance of building an image in the writing world before that new blockbuster even hits the shelves?

You want people to buy your books right? If you are a complete unknown, people still might take a chance on your book and pick it up off the book store shelves, but if you aren't doing anything to make your "voice" known in a sea of choices for the consumer, you are going to be lost. So how do you make yourself known? You take the first step in building your tribe: build a web presence.

I love to blog, it is more than a fun hobby for me, (even though it is a fun hobby), but I am also looking at it as a chance to make my presence known. How have I done this? A website for me at this stage in my career is not going to help me. No one knows my name to Google it and visit my webpage. So instead, I moved into the next best thing: a blog.

A blog is more than just an online diary (though it certainly can do that as well), but it is a place for the  everyday person (most often a book consumer, at least the people I draw to my blogs), who are always looking for something good to read. So cater to these people I offer many giveaways in quality Christian fiction, book reviews, but I also post lessons I am learning or lessons from the heart

Readers are going to connect with the heart of the issue. What are you passionate about? How do you present it in a way that makes the reader sit up straighter and take notice? You have to be passionate.

I have discovered recently that I am passionate about relationships. Relationships in marriage, with God, and I am particularly passionate about relationships with women and their faith in serious situations.

So, because I am passionate about these issues, why not write about them? Show the reading public just what I value. Readers are going to be attracted to passion and the kind of passion for Christ, along with good writing.

Blogging is fickle though. Blog hoppers are going to want to visit blogs that are eye catching, update often and do something more than just pontificate about nothing. At this stage in my writing, I blog nearly everyday. I have the time and even if I didn't, I need to make the time. I have no deadlines from publishers and I am busy perfecting my craft, but if my main goal is to be published someday, I need to start building my community of supporters.

I talk about my writing journey, my faith, and the struggles I encounter. Readers are going to connect with struggles. I have gotten so much support from my followers who encourage and support me, but more than that, they see just what I am all about.

Building a tribe of people to support and follow you is more than just for emotional support. When your new book is hot off the presses and ready to be sold, who are the first people you are going to market to? If you have built around you a group of people who like what you write and are excited for what you write, they are going to pumped and excited to see your new product. These people have seen your struggles, walked the journey with you and are now ready to celebrate.

So again why is this so important before publication to form a tribe? It isn't something you can form overnight. It isn't something that will magically appear once you start blogging, you have to be willing to let it take it's time and form as you connect with people around you.

I am seriously considering opening up a Twitter account. To connect with even more people, understand the program before I hit publication and really need to utilize it.

I received one of the nicest compliments the other day. I was talking to a lady inhouse for a small publisher about a writing conference. I had emailed her earlier and she checked out my blogs. When I called her later, she told me it appeared I was doing a great job of building a community and making myself known.

That is what building a "tribe" is all about. Making yourself known and ready to tackle the market.

One of the best tribes that I am personally apart of, is Julie Lessman's. Julie has so many loyal and eager fans. Fans that throw parties when her books come out, write raving reviews, hold contests, talk about her books. Give them away. That is what her tribe is all about.

I want to see her do good. I want to see her put out more books and I want to let the whole world know that her books are marvelous.

That is the kind of tribe you want to surround yourself with.

So to recap:
*Build a web presence- blogging, Twitter, Facebook, groups passionate about your passions
*Find your passion- and write about it
*Cater to your tribe's interests. Giveaways, reviews, thoughts, but stay true to who you are. People will find you

People who are passionate about your passions are going to be the people that are going to find you. Why wait to build a community of support? When that book hits the shelves you are going to be busy marketing and promoting, book signings and blog tours, the last thing you need to be doing or worrying about is the building of a community of followers. These people will be your greatest asset, don't let this chance slip you by.

Do you have the start of a tribe yet? Have started building that presence that people are not soon to forget?

In two weeks time, I will be talking about the other aspect of building your tribe: connecting with authors and readers on a relationship level.


Sarah Forgrave said...

At the conference this year, I heard Allen Arnold use the term "tribe" as well. It must be important :) and something I'm working on.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great thoughts, Casey. I sometimes struggle with this concept. As a Christian I feel "weird" advertising my blog. I don't like working for "numbers." I've seen fantastic blogs that don't have huge numbers of followers. For instance, Relz Reviewz has been around for several years...I think she writes some of the best reviews around and is underfollowed in my opinion. Jody Hedlund's blog has a huge following and she is doing a fantastic job of not only marketing but giving out advice to writers. I have learned so much from her blog.

So my question is how much do numbers matter when forming your tribe? OK, yes, I admit it. I'm on my soapbox a bit here.

Ralene said...

Great pointers and advice, Casey. I haven't been to proactive about building my tribe. I have a blog and FB/Twitter accounts, but I haven't been purposeful about gathering a following. Something I need to consider, though. Thank you!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

At this point (for me, that means before being published or agented) it's more about building relationships. Through blogging and other social media, I've learned so much about the craft and even found some wonderful critique partners. Most of the people I know are other writers. When I make it to the next step in this writing journey, then I know it's about starting to build relationships with readers.

Kav said...

I don't even have a facebook account! And I refuse to twitter. I love blogging, reviewing books and responding to blogs, but trying to keep up can become overwhelming at times. For me, adding more would just increase the 'techno-noise' that blocks out other important things -- like actually writing.

From a reader's viewpoint though, I must say I love being able to google a new-to-me author and finding a website and blog and getting a feel for the person behind the book. But, I couldn't possibly keep up with everyone I'm reading either!

Casey said...

Sarah, I agree that it must be very important. :) And if we work on it now as time and opportunity allows, just think about how much farther down the road that will put us.

Casey said...

Julia, I don't blog for numbers either. I blog because I love it. I love hosting giveaways. I love doing reviews and I love sharing my heart. That is what people are going to see and respond it, in my opinion. If I had 1,000 people following my blog, but only a quarter of them are passionate about my work, those 250 are going to spread the word and excitement to the other 750. Like a grass roots movement, we just have to throw a little yeast into the dough.

Casey said...

Ralene, I am glad it gave you food for thought. It doesn't need to be something that will stress or worry you at this point. If you feel led to take on a subject passionate and dear to your heart, be yourself and blog about it. And let what will be will be. At this point blogging has a two fold purpose: putting your name before people, showing them your heart and then just enjoying it. Because it will be noticed if you blog and don't enjoy it. Work with your schedule and the rest will fall into place. It doesn't need to be a stressful thing.

Thanks for coming by today!

Casey said...

I agree Cindy, relationship is everything. And probably something I should have touched on a bit more. Because through blogging and meeting other authors and other fellow wannabe writers, we build a community of support, but also a community that will help promote and encourage our work. I agree 100% :)

Casey said...

I agree Kav, as with all things, too much can be a bad thing. I don't think I would FB either! But I have seen where Twitter has been helpful for writers, just an idea I am kicking around and I might not do anything with it unless publication comes knocking on my door. But I do agree, we have to be careful with our time constraints, because if we fill up our time doing this and not working on our writing, it is pointless. There has to be a balance, and everyone's balance is different and perfect for what they need. Thanks for coming by today and sharing your thoughts. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Oh, Casey, I am just not thinking before I hit the send button. NOW I'm rereading my message and I realize the way I said it, not how I meant it. I KNOW you are not looking for numbers, I definitely believe your writing is a ministry. It was a generic question that came out the wrong way? I guess what I was meaning was that there can be great blogs that have smaller numbers and others that have larger numbers, but are also great.

In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips [is] wise.-Prov. 10:19

I need to heed this. So often I'm guilty of writing then hitting send without thinking through or rereading. Apologies.

Casey said...

No, no don't apologize, because I did NOT take it the way you thought it was written. I saw it as how you were looking at your particular blog and then I just talked about mine. :) So no worries, but I completely understood what you said. :D And I agree about other blogs and their numbers, ministry etc. It is all based on what is perfect for the blog, the owner and the people who are invested in reading that blog. So don't sweat it! I enjoyed your comment and thoughts.

(and I do that often too, words can sound good at one point and come off differently in the next moment. Sigh, I don't know if such a thing can be conquered. We all see things differently)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Glad I'm not the only one :)

You know I've had a cold and I sent Sherrinda this document that had so many errors, then sent her another copy. I was so embarassed.

Hope you are encouraged today, my friend.

Julia M. Reffner said...

OK, here's a question just to throw out there. I LOVE writing book reviews. They've been one of my favorite things to do since I've started blogging.

But I've been told by some...that reviewing for sites can be not necessarily a good idea...if you're looking to be published. Personally I have noticed some benefits to reviewing for websites.

I would love to hear opinions on this....

Casey said...

So would I Julia. Where did you hear that? Because if that is so, then I am SUNK! I would think it would be a good idea to get your writing and voice out there. Surely it hasn't work against Michelle Sutton. *grin* Very interesting.

And thank you, it has been a great day for support and encouragement! :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

A few online writing buddies. And you're right, it hasn't hurt Michelle any. She writes very well-written reviews :) Here's what Rachelle Gardner posted about reviewing:

Kav said...

That's an interesting article on writing reviews. Thanks for sharing it.

I review on a blog and post reviews on I only review books that I would recommend so I've read lots more then I've actually reviewed. Some just haven't appealed to me but a few have had some HUGE plot holes that I've been amazed passed by an editor's eagle eye. Anyway, for that reason I haven't explored getting books free from publishers in order to review.

Pepper said...

Tsk, one had tweeted this yet? And here she was, chatting about tweeting. sigh. :-)

Great post, Case.
I have a website, a personal blog, and this one - but my problem is being consistent on my personal blog. I have 'seasons' of writing serieses, but not every week. It's working for me, right now - and like you, I don't have anything published (except one article in a magazine), so I doubt anyone is typing in my name. (unless they're looking for vegetables or spices :-)

I've heard that visiting other blogs can be just as helpful as keeping one yourself. Did he say anything about that?
And writing book reviews too.

Casey said...

I'll have to check that out, thanks Julia.

Kav, I hate writing a less than stellar review, but sometimes I simply can't avoid it. Hope your day and writing is going well!!

Casey said...

LOL Pepper, like I said, I don't have an account yet, just considering it. *grin*

There was really no talk about visiting other blogs as just building a web presence. (but they were also talking to published authors, not newbies) Making yourself known and passionate about the topics that matter to you. Blogging consistantly is what I inserted because I do believe it is important to building a strong following.

But what I like about your blog is the honesty of it. Even though you don't post every day, you have built a promise into those that follow that you WILL. Plus when you do it thought provoking and entertaining. :)

Thanks for tweeting me. :P

Joy Tamsin David said...

Great post, Casey. I am purposefully gathering a group of romance fans together in one place. I feel weird calling them a tribe though.

I think the benefit of starting before you're published is you have time to form more meaningful relationships with people. Time to invest in online friendships.

If I waited until I had a book on the horizon, I think my interactions with followers would be more superficial and rushed.

The downside of starting before you have a book on the horizon is it kind of eats into the writing time. Guess what I should be doing now instead of going through my feeds? LOL.

More important than having high numbers of followers is having quality followers that are interested in your niche.


Joy Tamsin David said...

Oh yeah, and I think you should join twitter. :)

Casey said...

Joy, you said it so very well. The relationship aspect, the fact that you are building around you a "community" (I'm not crazy about the tribe thing either) of people that are interested in what you are doing. And I know the feed syndrome too. Sigh, I spend too much time here stalling, because the edits are more than I want to tackle right now. I am very good at my procrastination, but somehow stil manage to get it all done. Though I need to work on being more time effective. But yes, investing time now will save us time later!! Great comment, thanks for coming by. :)

Talei said...

Great advice. I find blogging really useful in connecting with likeminded souls, sharing great tips and stories. It's fun too! Tweeting is also great for getting connected. Both very good for creating an online presence but I must always remember that my main focus is getting my main WIP finished.