3 Steps to Finding (and keeping) Readers
And yes, they work...
Read the post before this one that started it all: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Serials (And Love the Reader)
I am guilty of making the same assumptions and mistakes every single year. I know the answer to my own question but it always bears repeating because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. The inevitable hurdles of self-doubt when it comes to writing are hard to overcome and even harder to believe the hype that if I just follow these steps then finding and keeping X (readers, subscribers, followers, etc) will work. But I have seen it work for others and witnessed it work on myself as well. The science (though I am not a scientist but I feel confident in saying this) is sound…
PLAY THE LONG GAME
And when I say “long game” I don’t mean a few weeks or months or years. The minimum I would say (and feel comfortable in doing so) would be 10 years. That’s right. You’ve got to be willing to commit to whatever your thing is for at least 10 years. And if that wasn’t hard enough there is much more to it than that. But we’ll get to those later.
This thing you love to do and want to do for the rest of your life can only work if you earn money doing it. Sucks to think about because in many ways you can grow to hate loving what you do when money is involved. I should know. I stopped writing for about 15 years of my life for that very reason. I didn’t want my passion to be the way I “earned a living” because it would drain me if I couldn’t make it happen and I would hate doing it and then where would I be?
Instead, I wasted the next decade of my life after I decided to return to the thing that I love, procrastinating and coming up with silly excuses why my thing would never become something someone else would see and want to give me money for. Agony. In many ways I feel like I am still on that ten year cycle of self-defeatism.
And what crushes me even more is knowing all I needed to do was play the long game during those then years of floundering. Of starting a thing, sticking it out for a few months, and then pushing it away before I got anywhere near finishing. I even went so far as to have actually published several books on Amazon before I quickly removed them. Fear will do that to you. Doubt will do that to you. Years and years of hard work that on one will ever see. I have no one to blame but myself. If I had just stuck to it how different would my life be today?
If you have ever had those thoughts race through your mind every single day, welcome, my friend, you are in the right place. It’s good to have those doubts. They keep us grounded and help us at least understand the magnitude of the awesome journey we are each on. But we must use that to fuel our ambitions not stifle our creativity. And before I start to get to preachy, let’s move on to the next thing we must do:
Easier said than done, right? I seem to hold consistency for a time. Then something happens and I find myself searching for an excuse for why I can’t do the thing. Or why I didn’t do the thing. And before I know it one day, two weeks, three months, go by and well…that’s that.
It’s always in the worst time of year too when it happens. We all fall into a similar cycle. Here we are, a new year. January. We walk into it with our heads held high, shoulders back, chest sticking out. We have plans and goals and resolutions. We know what we want to accomplish. Just 365 days to do it all! We are warriors, damn it!
Then mid-February rolls around and responsibilities set it. Life intervenes. But that’s okay. We are warriors, remember? We can handle whatever life throws at us, no problem. Then Summer time times and we want to be out in the world. We want to watch one more episode. See that movie. Wait…what was I worked on back in January? You know what, I’ll start a new project. I had this idea brewing for months now. No time like the present to start a new thing. Nevermind whatever that other thing was. If it was important I’d still be working on it, right?
Then Fall rolls around. Time shifts from more daytime hours to more night. Moods change. Oh, wait, that January project reappears and you’ve not where you hoped you’d be by now. But there’s that other thing you started in the Summer. Can’t leave it behind. Crushing. Rinse. Repeat.
How can we possibly hope to be consistent in this kind of environment where everything is stacked against us succeeding?!
Fear not, my friend. I am here to tell you that consistency is not about burn out or not living your life. It is what you make of it and all too often we insist that we are over consistent to our own demise. What do I mean by that?
Let’s take the simple act of having a newsletter. By design you have a newsletter to communicate to those who sign-up for it. When they do they automatically (should) know what to expect from you in terms of content in the email. But for whatever reason, and I am guilty of this too, I set myself up for failure by making grandiose promises:
“I will email weekly with amazing tips and tricks to do this and write stories that will thrill you of at least 3k works multiple times each week…”
You get what I’m trying to say. It just isn’t fair. To you. To your subscriber. And yet we do it and we do it boldly and double down on our commitment sometimes too. I am here to say STOP IT!
Be gentle on yourself and your abilities. I’d even go so far as to say give yourself less to be consistent with.
If you can write an email or story or whatever every week, that’s great. It doesn’t mean you should. Because one day there will come a time when you can’t. And unless you’ve been keeping consistent for 10+ years so your readership will understand when you miss a week here and there, it’s not a good place to start a relationship. Don’t cut off your legs with promises you may not be able to keep just because everyone else is doing it. Do what you can do and do it the only way you know how.
There is nothing wrong with a monthly email. Heck, I know a guy who boasts that he only send three emails a year! And his email list is massive and continues to grow. Why? Because he keeps his promise. Only three emails a year. Boom. Done. You may not have a following that will remember you enough to only communicate with them three times and know they will answer to whatever CTA you put in the email.
I stick to one email a month. And in 2022 I sent 8 out of 12 emails. Not bad, but not consistent. I am still struggling with having a consistent year, let along 3. And this year will be no different as I missed January already! UGH! But It’s not about when you start but that you start, period.
And the last thing you gotta do before we wrap this all together into a neat bow:
PRODUCE QUALITY CONTENT
What is quality? That is subjective. But what isn’t subjective is the act of producing something to the point of completion that can then be shared with others. It’s not enough to start something. You gotta finish it. You gotta finish what you start. Otherwise, you got nothing. That’s not to say you should finish everything you start. Some things are just not worth continuing and that is understandable. Knowing what those things are is up to you to decide.
I am guilty of starting so many things and never finishing any of it. I started so many book series I have not finished. This includes reading them and writing my own. It’s hard to get to the quality part when I can’t even finish the rough draft sometimes!
I never said any of this would be easy. But if you love doing something enough then you’ll take the time to hone your craft and make it the best it can be for public consumption.
What have we learned here today? That you need to make something consistently for at least 10 years before expecting any real results. Can you do that? Heck, can I do that? I haven’t even done this for one year, let alone 10?!
But I am willing to take the pledge with you if you would like to join me. We will be gentle with each other when we fail (as I know I am apt to do if history has any track record of belief) but be there for moral support if we do.
Right now my only real line of consistency I really want to get better at is my monthly emails. I send them on the 1st of every month for those who may not know. If I can do this for 12 months in a row, I’ll even take just 6 months in a row, it will be a great start for me.