Back when I was publishing The Trip, I made a big mistake. I sat on starting an audience until after the book launched. In this post I figured I’d share some of my advice about when you should start building your audience.
Don’t Go Too Early
Back in Make Them Want You I talked about seeing other writers pitching stuff to editors who hadn’t finished the piece yet. In software we call this vaporware, which usually turns out to be empty promises with nothing of real value to prospective customers. The problem with promising something and constantly not delivering is that in your audience’s eyes, you start losing credibility. Do this often enough and you’ll find yourself in a very difficult space to recover from – it’s like the kid in class who always forgets their homework and winds up failing.
When should you begin audience building? I say when you know you have a reasonable chance at finishing the project. This is going to be a judgment call on your part: how far is enough? Half of draft one? All of draft one? After the first external edit comes back? You have to think carefully about this and plan accordingly.
Late Isn’t Great – But It’s Workable
From what I’ve read, most indies will spend up to six months building interest in a book. During this time there are teasers, outreach, and other work to get ready for the eventual release. For those of us running the whole show ourselves, this is a lot of work and it takes time away from the creative process. Know that these efforts will take you away from working on the story, and it could delay or in extreme circumstances even derail your effort.
I will say this – if you put the effort into a quality product, you will find an audience over time. You’re much better off writing a good book people want to read that takes a bit longer than you expected than a crappy one to meet an artificial deadline. Look at my post They Never Forget You’re Wrong for my thoughts on the Half-Life 2 video game for a fantastic example.
For those of you close to finishing and launching your project, check out my post The Indie’s Social Marketing Toolkit for some tools I find helpful in getting the word out. Good luck, and please reach out and let me know what your experience was like.