Dan Blank: The Daily Practice of Growing Your Audience

Finding your book’s ideal audience and the people who are influential with that group is a core piece of marketing, but many authors struggle with where to even begin. Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia is here with practical, actionable steps to show you how to find readers and build relationships that will help you immeasurably down the road.

divider-30134_960_720Today I want to talk about why you need to begin developing your audience for your book as early as possible. Then I want to share practical steps you can take each day to do this, even amidst an otherwise busy life.

This comes from the methodology I share in my new book, Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience. I frame the process as crafting a gateway that leads people to your writing, opening the gate to your ideal readers, and then leading them through your gateway in meaningful ways. It is a process filled with joy, not spammy marketing tactics.

It takes time to understand who your ideal readers are, how to connect with them, and develop trusting relationships with those who already have their attention. This sets the foundation for what all authors want: word of mouth marketing.

Let’s establish a process for you to find what will engage your ideal audience Here are three steps I want you to take:

Study Your Marketplace

Know the marketplace your book will be a part of better than anyone. Here is the process I just went through with one of my clients who writes fiction:

  1. Identify “comps” for your book. These are comparable works that your ideal readers likely know about. They are comparable works that booksellers and librarians may know of when you tell them the genre or topic you write within. Seek out comps that have been published within the past few years, and as best you can, pay particular attention to those authors who didn’t initially find success decades ago.
  2. Research each comp book and comp author. Go to the book pages on Amazon and Goodreads, and read through their book description, their author bio, and reviews for the book. Then seek out the author’s website, their social media channels, and any videos that feature them on YouTube. In doing so, identify the phrases that these authors seem to repeat; the ways they frame their books; the language that readers use again and again to say why these loved these books; notice where these people (both the authors and the readers) show up online: what channels.
  3. Use this initial round of comps to map the marketplace. See what other books Amazon recommends and determine if these are comps as well. See who reviews and mentions the comp books — what media, websites, events, and other prominent places online and off.

Throughout this process, you will move from having only a vague understanding of your marketplace, to knowing every comparable book, why they engage readers, how they developed an audience, and the names and faces of those who are advocates of books like yours.

This is a daily and weekly research process. Take simple actions each day to develop this. In the beginning, you may feel confused, even frustrated. I encourage you to persist through that. Because that is where the magic is.

Most authors skip this research, and around book launch, they are left hoping that their book magically finds readers.

At the end of each week, write down one new thing you learned about your audience from your research. After a few months what you will find is that your understand the marketplace surrounding your book better than nearly any other author. Imagine what it will feel like to have that kind of awareness and certainty when developing a launch plan for your next book.

Test Your Messaging

Your voice is the most powerful tool you have to truly develop an audience and engage people in a meaningful way. Not an app, not a button, not some “social media hack.” By your voice: I mean your writing, your actual voice, or any way that you meaningfully share your creative vision with others.

Instead of waiting until launch to make a “big splash” with your book, use your voice to bring us along in your journey.

In the past several years, authors have been told to create websites, email newsletters, blogs, book trailers, podcasts, and use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and so much else. An artist I spoke to last week told me that she keeps having people tell her:

  1. You have to be everywhere — on every social media channel
  2. You have to keep promoting your work — pound it into people’s heads.

Bleh. Nobody wants this. Not you, and not the audience you hope to engage. Instead, what if, as you study your marketplace in the steps I listed above, you began slowly engaging with some of these people. Not by broadcasting spammy Tweets about your book, but via direct messages as two people who are passionate about the same kinds of books.

In doing so, learn what engages people. What feels right for you to say to others that gets them to lean in and want to chat?

There are two ways to do this:

  1. The human level: what feels right to you? What gets people to respond? What develops the foundation of relationships with others who you would consider colleagues in your field: advocates for books such as yours.
  2. The technical level: use social media ads, a/b testing features in email newsletters and other data to try out five ways of talking about your book, and see which one gets more attention, and converts them to taking an action: clicking a link, subscribing to a newsletter, following you on social media. Even if you could care less about developing a social media following, this data becomes useful for you when determining how to writer your book description, and how to develop a marketing plan for a book launch.

Developing your voice is a practice. I know, your vision may be confident, and the voice you have with your friends may feel unwavering and clear. But to a marketplace of readers, it takes time to develop, to gain clarity, and for you to understand why things resonate.

In this process of studying the marketplace and testing what resonates, focus on developing relationships with those who are as passionate about books as you are.

This should be a daily practice of coming together with others in celebration of books, stories, and the passion that made you become an author in the first place.

Dan Blank is the author of Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience. He is also the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and creative professionals share their stories and grow their audience.

He has worked with hundreds of individuals and amazing organizations who support creative people, such as Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Sesame Workshop, Workman Publishing, J. Walter Thompson, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others. You can find Dan on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Have a question for Dan on finding & connecting with your book’s audience or influencers? Let us know in the comments!

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About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Marketing, Platform, Publishing and Self Publishing, Social Networking, Time Management. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Dan Blank: The Daily Practice of Growing Your Audience

  1. Pingback: Fiction Author Biography – Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors – Part Three – Independent Author Business & How To's

  2. Great article! I teach a course called, Publish and Sell Your Ebooks, where I tell students exactly the same things. I’ve added your article to their Supplementary Resources, so they can apply your tips themselves.

  3. Pingback: Writing Links…3/13/17 – Where Genres Collide

  4. Brad Graber says:

    Thanks Dan for the post. I think there’s no way around it – it just takes time and perseverance to build that audience and your voice. You’re dead-on. Of course, that isn’t so easy to remember as you’re pounding out a weekly blog and writing a second novel. But I’ve discovered something interesting. Just because you’re not hearing back immediately – doesn’t mean people aren’t enjoying your work. Comments come back randomly – not instantaneously.

  5. Pingback: How I wrote, publishing and marketed my book

  6. :Donna says:

    Thank you for this invaluable information, Dan 🙂

  7. This is helpful information to someone who should begin to acquire an audience even though she hasn’t written a full-length book–yet. Thanks, Dan! And thanks, Becca and Angela for sharing this with your followers. I’ve shared it online.

  8. All great stuff, Dan, but one thing that resonates with me as a new author trying to connect is what you said about voice. When I started my newsletter, I struggled between “sounding like an author” (whatever that means) and sounding like my passionate, emotional self who typically uses too many emojis when emojis are available. Actually, I struggled with voice even when interacting on social media. I quickly decided I had to be myself…and sound like myself because the other voice didn’t fit. People seem to be responding…and you’ve now given me permission. I can quit worrying about whether I made the right decision. Thanks!

  9. Sara L. says:

    Great post, Dan! I’ve been catching up on a number of recent books in my manuscript’s genre (YA fantasy) so that I can find comp titles when it’s time to query and pitch the story.

    Which brings me to a question: When choosing comp titles that reflect our manuscript, should we be objective and list the closest matches? Or should we also take into account whether we enjoyed or disliked the books? As much as I love YA fantasy, some of the possible comp titles I’ve read… well, they didn’t quite do it for me. So I’m conflicted about whether I should list comps that I didn’t like even though they would fit from a marketing / promotional standpoint.

    • Dan Blank says:

      Sara,
      Great question. I would encourage you to try to understand this from the perspective of your reader. Whether you personally liked a book or not doesn’t matter for our uses here. What you are getting at is whether your ideal reader liked these books or not. This helps you avoid the trap of feeling that true “comps” are only “AMAZING BOOKS” that are deep and respected and beloved. Thanks!
      -Dan

  10. Every year at one particular conference I give a talk on finding your audience and influencers, and that room is packed each time because SO MANY struggle with this part of book marketing. I hope your new book gets into ever author’s hands. 🙂

    The idea of building a big readership seems out of reach, but it really isn’t. All you have to do is be genuine and understand who your readers are and what’s important to them. I don’t know anyone who focuses on authenticity and relationships in marketing who isn’t succeeding at it, but many choose other marketing options because they don’t want to invest the time. It’s unfortunate because it really works, and it’s fun. 🙂

    • Dan Blank says:

      I love that, Angela, and I appreciate the kind words about my book! Huge topic — and I so appreciate your generosity in sharing this with your community!
      -Dan

  11. This is wonderful advice, Dan. I’ve shared it with my audience. 🙂

    Dee Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT (Gift of Travel)

  12. Dan, this is such practical advice. I especially love this bit: “identify the language that readers use again and again to say why these loved these books.” Knowing exactly why customers love the product that’s similar to yours would be so valuable in helping you to provide your product and market it in the perfect way. Thanks so much for being here and sharing with us!

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