If you’re anything like me, you’ve dreamed of being an author since you were young.
As a kid, I scribbled books on construction paper, and as an adult, I took writing classes, joined writers groups and filled notebook after notebook with story ideas.
Then, this year, it happened — my book proposal was accepted by the first publisher I approached.
My book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, will be out this August.
How did I do it?
It all started with a blog.
A blog turned community
One day, after another unproductive coffee shop session in which I was trying to pen an “award-winning” novel, I retreated to my bedroom, pulled up the free version of WordPress, and created a blog called Introvert, Dear.
I had recently come to embrace my identity as an introvert, so I decided to write about being an introvert living in an “extroverted” world. The blog was just for fun; it was supposed to be an escape from my more “serious” writing endeavors.
I started the blog anonymously (how very introverted of me), so for my author headshot, I used a picture that showed just my shoulder, which has a tattoo of five bird silhouettes. The first post I published got more comments about my tattoo than anything actually related to what I’d written.
Nevertheless, I kept writing.
I shared my posts in introvert Facebook groups. To my surprise, people engaged with them. I wondered, Do I have something here? No one had ever responded this positively to my fiction.
I kept sharing my posts on social media, eventually starting a Facebook page, my own Facebook group, a Twitter account, a Tumblr, and Pinterest boards. I knew it was important to build up the community aspect and give introverts a space to interact with each other. That way, they had the chance to connect with each other and tell their own stories. Plus, it kept readers coming back.
But it wasn’t all just likes, shares, and comments. When I talk about Introvert, Dear, people seem to think that my situation is “special” or I just “had what it took.” That I’m one of those “lucky few people” whose writing makes it big.
What they don’t see is that I put a ton of effort into my blog. I spent hours learning about the Facebook algorithm and tweaking my site. I studied other successful publications and tried to replicate the strategies they were using that were working. I noticed what kinds of content engaged my readers (and what didn’t); I tried not to let my ego get in the way — if a post wasn’t getting engagement, it had to be reworked or scrapped. I stepped out of my comfort zone to network (online) by asking other bigger sites to share my posts.
I did all this in the evening and on weekends, because I was working full-time as a teacher. Most nights, I was pretty exhausted from my day job, but something inside me told me I had to sit down at my computer for at least an hour or two and press on.
The site soon became less of a personal blog and more of a publishing platform.
Three years later, I quit my job as a teacher to manage Introvert, Dear full-time.
Today, it gets about 600,000 page views a month and has over 160,000 followers on social media, as well as a Facebook group of nearly 100,000 members.
And it led to my first book.
Landing my book contract
Here’s how it happened: I had been asked by a publisher to review a fellow introvert blogger’s book. I was thrilled — someone wanted my name on the back cover of a book?
That got me thinking. Maybe I could write my own introvert book.
Before submitting the review, I asked the publishing house’s editor if she’d look at a book proposal from me. I gave her my “qualifications” — which, really, were just a large number of social media followers and blog page views. To my surprise, she said yes.
She made it really easy for me; she told me I didn’t have to submit any sample chapters, just a short outline and some market research. Soon after, my proposal was accepted.
I would finally get to write a book. It wasn’t the type of book I’d always imagined myself writing.
Maybe someday, I’ll try my hand at fiction again. But ultimately, I found that writing a nonfiction book about a cause I care deeply about was just as fulfilling — if not more so.
You can do it too
Are you a new writer who wants to land a book deal? Consider starting a blog based around a community.
- Think about what group of people you can speak to: introverted moms, serious gamers, millennial vegans or people who knit tiny hats for cats. In other words, determine who you will be writing for, not what you will write about. When you build your blog around a specific group of people, you’ll automatically have an audience.
- Figure out what problems your audience struggles with, and what their needs are. For example, do millennial vegans struggle with finding the time to cook dinner at home? Do introverted moms wish they could get more time away from their kids to recharge in solitude? If you’re not sure what your audience’s needs and problems are, try joining some “mom” or “vegan” Facebook groups; see what your audience is posting about. Then, create content around what your audience needs and experiences.
- Make sure to get social. Think of social media sites as busy street corners, parks, or other public places where people congregate. If you want people to read your blog, you’ll have to go to them. You don’t have to sign up for every social media site out there, but choose 2-3 to start — sites where your target audience “hangs out.” For example, if you’re starting a food blog, make sure to share your recipes on Pinterest. If you’re knitting hats for cats, snap pictures of those adorable felines and post them to Instagram. For more social media tips, check out this article about building a writing brand and this article about getting the most bang for your buck on social media.
- Identify other bloggers in your niche, and reach out to them. If you’re truly starting a community, you’ll want to be keyed into what other bloggers are writing about. Plus, this can help your blog grow. I’ve found a lot of success in reaching out to other introvert bloggers and asking them to do a “Facebook post swap” — I share one of their posts and they share one of mine. It helps both of us find a new audience, and grow!
Finally, be patient. Your community won’t blossom overnight. It will take time for your audience to get to know you — and time for you to get to know your audience.
Keep at it, and a few years from now, you might find yourself blogging full-time, with a book deal to boot.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!