Communities are important, and they can be powerful. As an author, your community consists of your readers, your fans, people who support your work. In addition to selling more of your work, or having a successful launch, your community can be a great place to share ideas, engage and connect with fans, and give people with shared interests a space to belong.
You can build your community, whether you’re an author or some other sort of content creator. I’m a podcaster, and one of my favorite parts of podcasting is interacting with our listeners and our community.
We recently gave a talk about how to build a community around a podcast, but a lot of the key takeaways apply to writers. For example, you want to have a central place for your community to convene, and you want to find ways to interact with your community and strengthen relationships. And of course, you can turn to your community for feedback to make your work even better.
There are a lot of places where you can build your community and give them a central place to hang out and reach you. One interesting one is Substack, or some sort of newsletter service. Substack has an interesting case study about Caroline Chambers, a writer whose cookbook proposal was rejected, but she turned the proposal into “a thriving reader-support Substack.” As of the time of writing, she had over 11,500 free subscribers and 3,000 paid subscribers, and she started earning money for her work within a year of moving to Substack.
The gist is she posts once per week, easy to follow recipes that people can use when they don’t feel like cooking. She shares her newsletter on social media often, and runs regular promotions. Her call-to-action (CTA) is “Subscribe for $35/year, the price of a cookbook.”
You can choose to make your community free or paid. Sometimes when you have to pay, the community is called membership. The Membership Guide has a lot of resources, mostly related to how journalists can create membership programs. With membership, the idea is your readers are your equals, and you deliver content they value. For membership programs to work, make sure you listen and experiment and offer flexibility.
Once you’ve decided how and where you want to set up your community, you’ll want to set some guidelines and find ways to engage with your community. Steve Stewart has 8 tips, including creating group rules, posing questions and not statements, and having a content schedule.
How are you building your community? Share in the comments!