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Six Rules to Widen Your Platform
by Jennifer Brown Banks

If your goals for your writing career include increasing your fan base and your bottom line, you need to understand how to reach audiences and draw them in.

After all, other than editors, they’re the most crucial component to a successful career. Readers are the ones that actually shell out money for steamy romance novels, click on Ads to purchase products from web sites, and place orders for subscriptions to magazines.

The more you’re able to solve their problems, appeal to their emotions, entertain and enlighten them, the more marketable you and your “brand” become. And for today’s busy reader, that means standing out above the vast competition, and drawing audiences in from the onset.

To this end, here are six fool-proof ways to capture their attention, seal the deal, and convert them into loyal followers and future “customers.”

  1. Understand their needs—There’s a psychology to “sales” whether you’re a writer, a used car salesman, or a traveling encyclopedia peddler. For example, web readers usually require quicker reads than purchasers of print materials. So writing has to be tight—brief but substantive. Readers of trade publications, academic journals, and consumer magazines have different needs comparatively. Research by reading writer’s guidelines and sample copies, or consider polls, surveys, and interviews. Then deliver.

  2. Make your titles vital—Ideally they should be captivating, bold, funny, paradoxical, and/or intriguing. Here are a few I’ve come across in my recent web reads: The Gift of Anxiety; How to Turn Profits Instead of Heads; 7 Signs That Granny Hi-Jacked Your Blog; You Are What You Tweet; Cool Advice from Hot Editors About Queries.

  3. Be authentic—Don’t short change your readers by pretending to be something or someone you’re not. Know that they’re not seeking perfection, but rather “connection.”

  4. Play to your strengths—How can you deliver your best if you have yet to identify and assess what that is? Are you humorous like the late Erma Bombeck? Into horror like Stephen King? Versed in verse like Robert Frost? Keep a journal, (or mental notes) of what writing feels most “at home” for you and resonates with your spirit. Analyze where the bulk of your sales come from, and which types of writing give you the most grief for valuable clues. Armed with this information, concentrate your creative efforts accordingly.

  5. Give them more bang for their buck—Use quizzes, expert quotes, photos, links, and sidebars to round out your words, reward your readers, and provide additional resources.

  6. Don’t underestimate the importance of the intro—Think of it as “curb appeal” similar to real estate. Before others are inclined to want to “enter” your world, there has to be an inviting scene. Start off with a compelling question, an alarming statistic, a quote, or a joke. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Follow these six savvy tips to pique and sustain readers’ interest from the time they land on your page. After all, quick chemistry, (also known as love at first sight) can often lead to long term relationships.

© Copyright 2010, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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