4 Ways to get More Exposure for Your Story (and 4 Ways Not to)
Writing can be a lonely business. Sure, you have conversations with the characters in your head and that's great for the most part, but sooner or later for many of us, that ends up not being quite, well, enough. We start wanting to know what the outside world thinks of our writing. So what's the next step to get more exposure? To show people, of course!
That's where a lot of us get stuck. Part of that's down to lack of skills - how does a writer go about getting attention from an audience these days? - and part of it's down to self-confidence. What if they don't like your story? What if your writing gets trolled? What (and this one can be the real kicker) if nobody's interested in it?
My quick answers to all of these would be:
- You can't be all things to all people, and neither can your story. Don't let this stop you from finding your flock!
- Trolls can be a pain, but you need to remember two things: first of all, they only have the power you give to them. Secondly (and crucially), trolls add to your views and comments/reviews counts just as much as the most supportive fan, whether they like (or "Like") it or not. Some web site platforms assess the quality of written works by how much traffic they get - that's all views, whether they result in Likes, faves, or comments - and rank them higher on the web site's search engine accordingly. If you get a troll, don't give them the power to stop you writing, but also don't stress about the attention they're giving your work. Whether they realise it or not, they might very well be helping you!
- And to answer that final question: you'll never know whether anyone's interested until you put your story out there.
Which brings us neatly back to the start of this blog entry. How do you get exposure for your story? I've laid out 4 dos and 4 don'ts to help your novel get more attention.
- Show your story to the people who are most likely to be interested. What's the theme of your novel? Is it a sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, cyberpunk, horror, slice of life, young adult, or something else completely? Who - or what - are your main cast? Dragons, teenagers, animals, warriors, detectives? Somewhere out there, there's a group of people who are particularly interested in that kind of cast. Indifference to your writing can be a bitter pill to swallow so make sure you're showing it to the people who are most likely to enjoy the themes and characters you're writing.
- Overcome your self-consciousness. Many writers feel that they will be criticised, mocked, or laughed at, but the truth is, at some point we all need to rob our self-consciousness of its power. So, what can you do? Asking friends for feedback can be a good start as they're inclined to be kinder to you, but bear in mind point 1. - they may be your friend but if they're not interested in a post-apocalyptic sci fi world of cyberpunk dragon warriors, then they might not feel motivated to read much of it, no matter much that friend likes you as a person. Try finding a few people who already demonstrate an interest in the themes of your novel. Alternatively (or indeed, in addition to this) you could check out one of the many reviews groups around the Internet. Project Comment on Deviantart is a good place to start to get detailed reviews of your writing, almost regardless of the genre.
- Enthuse about your story to people. Enthusiasm is hard to fake when you don't know how much other people like your story, so you might want to arm yourself with some feedback from friends or commenters. But once you know what your target audience likes about your story, go nuts! Your own enthusiasm will become infectious to the right people - and believe me, people love enthusiasm!
- Find a crowd who love what you write (and keep on showing it to them on a steady basis). After you've identified your target crowd of potential readers, had your first bits of critique, and gotten your confidence up, then is the time to start building your very own community of fans. It doesn't matter if it's just one person to start with. Keep on finding people to show your story to (like I said, enthusiasm is key!) and watch your readership grow. Give them something to keep coming back for (like regular new chapters) and soon you'll have a dedicated group of readers!
- Rely too heavily on the most obvious web sites like DeviantArt, FanFiction.net, or FictionPress. I don't have anything in particular against those specific web sites, but I do want to warn against quantity at the expense of focus. They may have a lot of traffic but you'll have a lot of competition to get exposure on such sites. And when I say 'competition', I don't mean from other writers with the same interests, I mean competition from sheer weight of numbers. It's hard to get exposure in such places when you're drowning in other work in a multitude of genres. Some web sites - like these three - have become the go-to web sites for anybody and everybody to post on, and have become victims of their own success. Because everyone posts to them, it can be hard to find your niche. They theoretically have niches to help target exposure of your work: for example, DeviantArt has specialist groups, while FanFiction.net and FictionPress both have filing systems based on genre or fandom, but it can still be difficult to be found by the people most passionate about your work. Try smaller, more niche web sites. Whatever your novel's niche, the Internet is likely to already have a community for it.
- Convince yourself that 'if I write it, they will come'. Unfortunately, the days for this are long past. It would be wonderful if you could simply upload a story and it would automatically be found by a dedicated readership, but there is too much content around for that to be likely. Even good tagging of your work (and I'm not saying you shouldn't tag things well; good labelling of anything is helpful regardless) is unlikely to do the job by itself. You need to write it, upload it, and then show it to people yourself.
Talking with people about your work, using social media to talk with people about subjects similar to the events in your novel, and creating content in all sorts of different formats (bear in mind that writers are just as capable of posting to Instagram as anyone else. Here's an example of it done well. And another. And another!). Keep on posting, keep on drawing the attention of real people to it, and your work will begin to get noticed.
- Feel ashamed of your work. This (or variations of it) is such a common problem. Only you know the degree to which this is a problem for you, but most of us feel self-conscious about our works to some degree or other.
Firstly, don't take it personally if you don't get many comments. It's unlikely to be a reflection on the quality if your story, and far more likely to be the fact that the pressure to write a comment puts people on the spot. How many times have you liked something (online or offline) but not had the words to describe what you liked about it? For that matter, how many times has it been easier simply not to say anything and to move on with your life without commenting on it? Leaving comments on a story online is not a high-pressure situation, however people will still most likely take the path of least resistance and not leave any comments, even if they liked it. Generally, more people feel confident leaving Likes and faves of works that they enjoy.
If you do take the time to get comments from others, make sure you listen to the positives (because the self-conscious among us find it hard to accept them, especially when there are negatives in the reviews too), decide what you want to do about the critique, and then move on to something else in your life. If you can, work out what your shame is about and overcome it. Shame alone can only solve the problem by causing you to hide your story from the world. And, if you're reading this, I'm guessing that isn't what you want.
- 'Forget' to upload it. This may be an extension of point 3, but whether you upload your story or not is the proof of the pudding. If you look back over the past few weeks and notice that you haven't uploaded anything, then that's a sign that something may be wrong. Ask yourself: "Why haven't I uploaded any of my writing lately?", and be honest with yourself about the answer. Is it (really) about not having the time? Is it (really) about not knowing how to upload on a particular web site? Or is it because you're still wary of the outcome? Whatever it is, if you want (or even just a part of you wants) to show your writing to the world, this stage will tell you the real reason you're not uploading anything.
And those are the 4 Dos and Don'ts. I hope they've been helpful!
Title image by DA-Requests and used with their kind permission.