Distribution Follows Purpose

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

As writers it’s easy to find a laundry list of advice on what you should do to reach people – have a Newsletter, have a Blog, use these formats, etc.  There’s so much common wisdom that we never ask if the common part is exceeding the wisdom part.

And no, this was not inspired by the latest Twitter drama.  It reflects on it, so I’m sorry.

I have several writing projects – and not all of them involve what you see here.  I write at work, have side projects, help people out in groups and clubs, etc.  I’m a writer, but I have many facets if you’ll indulge the metaphor – and those facets let me learn.

As of late one of my other writing projects spun up with an agonizingly slow speed, and I had to consider what forms this effort would take.  The old list mentioned above came into mind, but I stopped and asked a question that derailed me from doing “the usual.”

I asked, “How do I want to reach people with this project?” and my mind ground to a halt because we usually assume the audience is “as many people as possible.”  That book, that flyer, that business announcement, we all want it to be spread as far and wide, right?  It’s just what you do, right?

What you want to do is reach the right people and interact with them in a certain way.  You just need to know who the “right people” are and how you really want to interact with them – even if it’s to sell them a book.  The usual “do-this-as-a-writer” list is not universal.

For instance, a fellow author of mine was deep into Facebook marketing as a core way to reach people.  Sure they liked interacting with their audience, but they were so good at marketing they could reach a lot more than through a newsletter.  Their goal was to sell books first, and that worked for them.

For me socializing is a big part of writing.  Even though I have to juggle newsletters and blogs and such, I enjoy the human connection of being around writers and readers.  I’m juggling some wild ideas for my blog and newsletter where I merge some content and do regular zoom chats.  Trust me, I had some crazy ideas during covid I still might act on . . .

For one of my side projects, the goal is to build a newsletter for a group that may also involve outreach and adding new people to the project.  That’s a completely different world – a specified target audience where the goal is outreach but also building archival information.

Different goals.  Different forms of outreach.  None of them fit a checklist of “how to be a writer.”

So when you’re asking the question of all the tools you can use as  a writer, all the ways to distribute work?  Pause.  Ask yourself how you want to reach people and how you want to interact with them.  Find what fits your goals.

Also, at least now when people say “you must be on Twitter” you can just glare at them.  For multiple reasons.

Steven Savage

Promoting Professional Geekery #32 – A Newsletter?

(For more Promoting Professional Geekery check the roundup.)

Let me take a moment to praise MailChimp.

For those of you not familiar with it, MailChimp is not a character in an Adult Swim cartoon called “Primate Postal Service,” though that would probably be popular.  Instead, it’s a mailing list and mailing campaign management system with some sweet free options.  Pretty much – it’s a way to run newsletters.

Of course it’s just one way to do it – I myself use it to run my own Geek Beacon.  Based on my experience, I’m noting it’s awful easy to run a newsletter . . .

So you probably see where this is going.

If you want to promote the Professional Geek ideal and lifestyle, you have to share your knowledge and wisdom (of which I’m sure you have at least one if not both).  We’ve discussed blogs and books, but the humble Newsletter is a great way to reach people as well:

  • People have to opt-in to one (so you get an interested audience).
  • It’s delivered right to their email inbox (so it’s hard to ignore).
  • It’s an alternative to having to go to a blog or read a book or soforth.
  • It lets you engage with people very personally (because it’s not necessarily public).
  • It’s easy to put little subscribe widgets on your website(s) which looks cool.

I myself subscribe to several newsletters, and, yes, I actually take time to read them.  There’s some great stuff out there, and it comes right to me.

It’s also way for you to share Professional Geekery.

Think what you can do with it:

  • You can target.  You can focus on a very narrow, given area of interest because people who sign up for something like this are probably actually interested in what you have to say.
  • You can do serial work easily.   You can run continuing series of columns on advice, jobs, careers, a specific career, etc.  People will easily follow it since it’s in their email inbox.
  • You can make it personal.  People respond to (and I find, like) personal tones in email newsletters a lot more – and you may find it more appropriate than blog posts or books.
  • You can gauge interest.  The amount of people who sign up tell you who’s interested in your subject – which may give you other ideas.
  • You’re hard to forget.  Face it, you’re in people’s email inbox.  Don’t abuse that, by the way.

As for your subject?  Well what are you a Progeek about?  Then do a newsletter.  Cosplay and body type, the role of nonfiction writing in a fiction writer’s life, computer careers in your state/province.

A blog or book may not be your thing, but the more intimate, immediate world of the newsletter?  That can let you share your Professional Geekery quite easily with the right people – you may even be more comfortable with it!

Of course this could tie into a blog, or launch a book, or something else.  That’s just one more way to keep spreading the word and encouraging people to make their hobbies their careers.

Steven Savage