In all of human history there is probably no better time to be a writer than now. The Internet has smashed through the floodgates, and stigma over self-publishing is letting up quite a bit as new and respected writers are making names for themselves.
For this blog post I’ll go over some examples of big writers I’ve seen utilize the Internet to build a following. Although there are certainly more (and equally talented) indie writers I’ve highlighted these three case studies to demonstrate different methods for building a fanbase.
Probably the current darling of the indie publishing industry turned traditionally-published, Andy began his career by posting several projects online for free on his website.
Weir is the author of the The Martian, a story about an astronaut stranded on Mars, which was turned into a movie starring Matt Damon. How did he do it?
Well, he wrote the following stuff:
- Dr Who fanfiction
- Two Concurrent Webcomics (one of which, Cheshire’s Crossing, is getting a Reboot)
- Andy is also considered one of the first webcomic writers to post prolifically on the Internet, also utilizing new technology to explore a nascent publishing medium
- The Martian was originally published for free on his website, until his readers encouraged him to upload it to Amazon. After it took off the story was then traditionally published.
In summary: Andy created stuff. A lot of stuff for free on his website.
Ok, I admit it: Brandon’s career wasn’t as rocky as others. I remember when he was still a new writer and just got on board with completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, which propelled him to stardown in the mid-2000’s.
Brandon and his team are part of a leading group of writers and publishers who hop on board the Internet train to promote his many projects.
Consider his past and current campaigns:
- Annotated chapters of his books posted on his website
- Posting the first draft of Warbreaker as he wrote it
- Blogging about his reread of Wheel of Time
- Oathbringer Release: posting chapters once a week on Tor.com before its release on November 14, 2017.
- Writing Excuses: collaboration podcast about writing fiction, with rotating guest speakers
In summary: Brandon utilized new technology to work alongside his career launch that came with finishing The Wheel of Time and collaborates with others to build his audience.
Although the only writer on this list that I don’t know anything about her fiction, I am familiar with her non-fiction regarding ebook formatting and free content for self-publishing.
Sharing her earnings online and removing the transparency makes her popular. When I was looking around for articles to read about the business side of writing she came up first. After downloading her free ebook I realized that she knew her stuff, and had valuable work experience that co-existed with her dream to write for a living.
In summary: Joanna not only writes fiction, but utilizes her work experience to make Indie publishing a viable income for her. Her transparency with statistics and honesty with her publishing process attracts new writers also looking to make indie publishing work for them.
What About Me?
Building a following isn’t easy, and jumping from fanfiction to original fiction is an ongoing challenge. Constantly re-engaging my followers requires a lot of chit chat, a lot of asking questions, and getting to know which of my stories they are interested in.
The model that worked for me when I posted my most popular fanfiction. Admittedly, it was just for fun. A 250k word monstrosity posted over the course of six months online. Every single chapter was posted on Friday, and since I was in college I was able to stay up late enough to rally readers on my tumblr page at midnight.
With original work I essentially have to start over building a fanbase, as not all of those readers will follow me to original work. But some will, and I make sure to reconnect and ask questions and invite them to beta read my original fiction.
I also connect with people in my industry by creating silly non-profit webcomics, which don’t take me long to make and are easy to share and link back to my website.
In summary: Quality and consistency is key. With a predictable schedule readers will come back for the next part.
Lessons to Learn
Ultimately, no matter what case study you’re looking at, there is a universal rule that they all follow: they posted consistently online, and for free.
- Never underestimate the power of binging! Make a lot of stuff!
- The Internet has brought back the art of the serialized novel.
- Your day job can help you with your writing
- Don’t be afraid to utilize new technology or platforms, such as Patreon
- Collaborate with others
The Influencer Economy by Ryan Williams
Patreon Blog Posts:
- Patreon for New Writers
- Building your fanbase
- How to organize your personal database using an Excel spreadsheet
- Building your Patreon Page
- Working with Artists: How to Make Your Budget Work for You
- Ongoing campaigns: The Ask Event Model
- Collaboration and Launch!