For Authors and Journalists: Build the Community

by Trish

I’m so sorry for my absence. South by Southwest Interactive 2011 was AWESOME!

I had a fabulous time. I met so many people, which was very cool, but I also just loved the creativity undercurrent in Austin. You could feel it under the surface, like a auditory thrumming everywhere you went. And SXSW was everywhere. We truly took over all of Austin. Every restaurant, cafe, store, hotel, coffee shop was taken over and the hospitality blew me away. Austin really rolled out the red carpet for us and for that, thank you, Austin!

But right to the point: the biggest buzz word for authors and journalists was community. In other words, build it now.

I brought together some of the best minds in the world (literally) to my panel “The Care and Feeding of Blogs and Book Contracts” and what an action-packed hour we shared! But from the first planning meeting, I knew I would have to tell my blog readers first thing: building a community around your story is more important than ever before.

I repeat: building a community around your story is more important than EVER BEFORE.

Here’s what I mean:

1. Publishers are actively soliciting books from authors and journalists who have built their communities. These people share a vision and a passion with their community. Their community feels as if the author/journalist is really taking them somewhere. And that somewhere is where both the author/journalist and their community both really want to be. In other words, offer a solution. The community will buy whatever that author/journalist writes, sells, offers, because he/she has offered a solution that the community desperately wants.

2. Authors/journalists who are having trouble getting their book proposals looked at or seriously considered and/or bought should look at what kind of community they are building. Of course, my first question to authors/journalists is: do you have a blog? Do you know what your audience wants as an end result? Does it include a print book? These are legitimate questions that publishers will be asking. If you can’t show how you can sell 15,000 (random number that is just for example purposes) print copies to your community, the publisher is not going to be interested. How does an author prove this? By beginning to interact with a community and testing what exactly they will buy from you (see #1).

3. If you do have a community and are still not getting anywhere with publishers, take a step back and ask yourself what kind of community you are actually building. A lot of people may have built a group of people who read their stuff, but haven’t yet ascertained if that community would ever plunk down 12.95 for a print book. They may be only part of the community because it’s free and will likely never pay a dime for the content. That’s not what I think community is. To me (and to publishers), community is the ability to sell to a core group who will in turn recommend you to their core groups.

But enough about what I think. What do you think?

  • What kind of community do you want to build and what issues have you had building it?
  • Or do you have another definition of community that you think works better than mine?
  • Does it frustrate you that publishers are asking for yet another level of commitment from you as an author/journalist before they will even consider your book idea?
  • Are you ready to give up on print altogether?

Talk to me. I got to chat with authors/journalists/bloggers for 40 minutes after my panel and I loved it. My comments are open to you!


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