For this article, I want all of you reading this to take your loving, sweethearted, humble, nature...all of your shyness and all of your shame...crumple it up and toss it over your shoulder! Because, for the next few minutes, we need to be a full blown 'ego machine'! Period!
Don't worry...you can go back to being humble again when you're done. It passes. It's like a flash fever, or a 24 hour flu. Use it to your advantage while you can.
Whenever you decide that you have your story looking exactly the way you want it to, polished and edited and ready for your audience to read...you've got to take the next step and market the HELL out of your own work! I'm not saying that you should just mention it whenever it comes up in casual conversation. No. You've got to actually make a real push to make sure that people get just as excited about reading your story as you were about writing it. In fact, you might actually have to work even harder to promote your story than you did to write it in the first place. The time for being passive or shy is over. You've got to be able to push that aside for a few short moments and express to other people that this story is just as amazing and incredible as you wanted it to be before you typed the first word.
Now...I'm not telling you to be Donald Trump about it! Don't go out there saying that every story you've ever written is as immaculate and divine as the Bible itself, and that you're the greatest writer that's come along since William Shakespeare! That's just...dumb. And nobody is going to believe you. So...like...why do it?
But, if you're honest and open about your work, and you make an effort to put yourself out there...you can catch the eye of some interested readers who might really like your style and the stuff you write. Not only that, but they might help to spread the word to their friends and family. Some of them have blogs, some have Goodreads accounts or something similar, and some belong to online forums or book clubs where all they do from week to week is talk about new stories and make recommendations to each other as to what they want to read next. All it takes is a few sparks to create a fanbase, and provided you're willing to keep them interested, that can lead to even more attention in the future.
How does an author go about doing that? Well, let's jump right in and see, shall we?
If you're going to take the time to write something from your heart (which is difficult to do), and gather the courage to share it with people that you don't even know (Which is even more difficult to do), then don't you want it to be read? Of COURSE you do! That's why you end up checking your post and email every ten minutes since you clicked the 'send' button! In order to get noticed, you have to advertise your product, and you have to be relentless about it. This is the only way for you to truly get your story noticed and your talent recognized. This is the internet. There are a BILLION different distractions going on at any given moment of anyone's time online, and the fact that you even stopped by to read the words I've written in this article is mind-blowing to me! Because that means it took a lot of hard work to get you here, and you decided to stick around. At least for a couple minutes. But imagine how hard it would be for anyone else to get you to pay attention to their story right now while you're reading this. Hell, even YOU aren't paying attention to the story you just posted right now! You're watching me instead. Hehehe, do you see where I'm going with this?
Please understand that when I say 'relentless'...I don't mean 'obnoxious'. There's a difference. You don't want to run around the internet spamming everybody with unwanted advertisements every time you pop up on their screen. That will get you the exact opposite reaction than what you're looking for. When you continuously bombard people with visual 'junk', they tend to start ignoring it. Or possibly putting you in their junkmail altogether. That's counterproductive. The difference between 'Obnoxious' and 'Relentless' is a matter of finesse and necessity. You don't want to FORCE your story down people's throats. That's obnoxious. What you want to do is make links and contact info available to them at all times. That's 'relentless'. You don't want to send unwarranted emails or make posts three or four times a week with the same information that you gave them just 48 hours ago. That's 'obnoxious'. But whenever you want to post a new chapter or story or update to your site, you can leave a reminder that you still have other projects available for them to read. That's 'relentless'. Getting the picture? Cool. I hope so.
You want to be seen, but don't let your promotion speak for your work. Your work should speak for your work. Period. And IF they like what they see...then there are links available to them so they can choose to follow you further. But leave that up to your readers. You can't force them to support you, and you'll only make a pest out of yourself by trying. Always keep that in mind.
If they're enjoying your work, then their support is merely a pleasant side effect of that. Keep writing. They'll keep an eye out for you. Have some faith in your audience.
Something else that I can't stress enough...answer your email! This may seem easy at first, but could get much more difficult over time. But it is a necessary part of the process. These people took the time to write to you and send you their thoughts and feelings on your project. Read them! And answer back. They are giving you their heartfelt opinion on what you wrote. What parts spoke to them, what parts they may not have understood, what parts moved them...all of these things can be used to get an outside vision of how your story looks to other people. Pay attention, and respond. True fans will comment at length about each and every chapter, and you can't ask for any better feedback than that! If you can find a few trusted voices online to review each story they read by you, you will be truly blessed. But you've got to do your part too. Even if it's just a note to say thank you and let them know that you're paying attention. That goes a long way, believe me.
Speaking of email...choose ONE email address and stick with it! Make it separate from all of your other email accounts, and be STABLE! I know some of you guys like to change your name or email addys every few months for little to no reason at all. STOP that! Stay still. When I started writing in the Summer of '98, I chose Comicality@webtv.net as my email address...and 19 years later...it's STILL Comicality@webtv.net! People who are just finding my very first story online right now, can write me at that email address and talk to me just fine. The harder you make it for your fans to talk to you, the faster they're going to turn away from you and go find some other author that doesn't take a treasure hunt to find online. Get something stable and stay there. Nobody's going to send out a search party for you just to give you a brief moment's praise. Trust me.
Also, build a virtual community around what it is you do. Social media is a huge part of that in this day and age. Get a Twitter account. Look at things like Facebook, or Instagram, or YouTube if you want to get into that world. Find yourself a free mailing list so you can alert people to upcoming posts and updates. Allow your readers to find a 'home' where they can hear from you and locate your stories easily without having to search around the net for them. Remember, that 'backspace' button on the keyboard is NOT your friend! It only takes one click of that button to send you spiraling right back down into obscurity. Avoid that at all costs.
While all social media is a great way to talk to a huge number of fans at once, I personally prefer forums and chatrooms. Because I'm not just dictating messages to a random audience, I'm actually getting a chance to interact with them. The biggest reason that the "Billy Chase" series really took off the way it did wasn't due to my announcements or frequent updates. It actually came from me posting them on the Comicality Library forum. People began to leave reviews and comments, and they began to talk to each other about each and every chapter. That discussion every week ended up boosting that story into becoming one of the most popular on the site in a very short amount of time. Plus, I get to stop by and say hello every now and then, I get to have fun in the chatroom and meet my readers one on one so they get a feel for who I am and vice versa. I get to answer questions and get feedback in real time. AND...as long as were being 'relentless' I have my own platform to toss in the occasional advertisement whenever I feel like it. Hehehe! It takes some time to cultivate your own virtual territory when it comes to this kind of thing, but once you carve out your own little space online...well, as the saying goes...
"If you build it, they will come."
The most important part of promoting your work is putting a tireless effort into making your stuff available...but not shoving it into people's faces. If they want it...they'll come get it. Take my word on this. Add a 'signature' to the bottom of every email you send out, including your website link and return email. If you post on Nifty (A great place to get started), make sure you do the same. Email address, website link, social media contacts, etcetera. On EVERY post! Put it at the top, or put it at the bottom. I do both. Try submitting stuff to GayAuthors and try to get your work looked at there. Try Wattpad too. Let people see your name and get to recognize you. Encourage feedback, and make sure to REPLY when you get it! Don't ever think for one minute that your readers don't deserve your time and attention. They are just as important for reading your story as you are in writing it. Respect that relationship, and be thankful for it at all times. God, knows that I am.
Alright...I'm gonna stop now before I start rambling. Hehehe! But I hope this will help you guys out, and I wish you all the luck in the world in building a fanbase that you can truly be proud of! Happy writing, and I'll talk to you soon!