I don't know if you've noticed, but I seem to have a rather huge following for an unpublished writer person. I get asked about it a lot now—how to build a following, etc. I even got asked to teach a workshop on it, since I'm apparently knowledgeable in this area.
To which I answer: Huh?
To be honest, I don't really know why people keep coming back to my blog. (Feel free to tell me in comments, if you'd like.) It baffles me that anyone would like what I have to say enough to sign up and get my frequent updates emailed to them or whatever.
But I have learned a few things from blogging these past few years, and it's time to share:
1. It's Not An Overnight Thing
I've been blogging for about three years. It started with a family blog, and then when my writing took over that one I made a writing blog. It wasn't anything special—I just wanted a place where I could report about my writing. Having it public made me feel more accountable to my goals.
I was blogging before the whole followers thing, but I know I got maybe 10 hits a day. Those hits were from me. Or my mom. Maybe an occasional friend who came over from the family blog. I was fine with that—I never intended my blog to be popular.
Then I started finding other bloggers I liked and commenting on their posts. Then they came to comment on mine. Then we became friends. Links started happening. I got an agent. And somehow a few years later here I am. Magic!
Or, you know, a lot of time and dedication.
2. Network Because You Like It
Not that you have to air your dirty laundry or anything, but people can smell phonies from a mile away. Lately it seems like everyone is getting on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. just because they're supposed to.
But here's the thing—networking outlets like these don't work if you don't genuinely like them. Who cares if you have a Facebook page if you're never on there? (Yes, I'm guilty there). You actually have to network for it to be effective.
I blog a lot because I honestly enjoy blogging. I'm on Twitter because I love the atmosphere and quick response times. And I hope it shows.
Of course, I'm a tad embarrassed that my lack of Facebook excitement also shows...
3. You Can't Do Everything
No, really. If you spent all your time on networking sites, you'd never get anything done. You can't just say you're a writer—you actually have to write.
It's a fine balance, and networking is a distraction that is easily justified. "I'm building contacts!" "I'm connecting with people in my field!" Yeah, I'm not guilty of that at all...
You have to choose a few outlets and be good at updating those. Take John Green for example—he mostly Tweets and vlogs. He's GREAT at it. Occasionally he blogs, but I don't think he has to. His presence on Twitter and YouTube is more than enough. He puts a ton of work into his videos, and they are freaking awesome. Which leads me to...
4. Do What You're Good At
Play to your strengths, not what you're supposed to be doing. If you don't know how to make an engaging vlog, don't spend your time doing that when you already have a great blog presence. If you don't enjoy blogging, don't waste your time. If you are amazing at face-to-face networking, do it!
And then leave all the rest for someone else to do.
5. Be Yourself
Or at least as close as you can be. Networking, like most everything in writing, isn't about getting people to like you. It's about finding and connecting with people who already like you and don't know it. It's about finding your existing audience, not making an audience. That probably sounds like a small difference in mentality, but it's huge. Promise.
It's the difference between selling yourself and just being yourself. One turns people off. The other draws the right people in.
So go forth—network. Just do it wisely.