THE #1 tip Ryan Holiday gave me to grow an audience
Ryan touches upon the creative process, positioning your work, marketing your work and building your platform. Which is, I think, what most of us writers desire in the end. To reach as many people as we can with our stories.
One of the tactics Ryan described in the book dealt with approaching other people you look up to. I decided to use this tactic on Ryan himself and I asked him for advice as to how I would be able to reach as many people as possible. This is what he said to me in an email:
Publish your writing in as many places as humanly possible and do as many different types of writing as well. A stand up comic doesn’t build an audience performing at home-they go anywhere there is a mic. Same with writers.
So, the past few months I took action on his advice. Here’s what I’ve learned about growing my reach.
1. Start your own blog with a goal
However, my website is where I began, and will stick to for all the things that the future might hold. For one thing, it’s the place where I host my Podcast.
Curious about my podcasting tips, read them here.
Before you try to build an audience and try to expand your reach, you must have a goal. How many people would you like to reach in a month? In half a year or a year? Write it down. Be realistic, but make it challenging enough for yourself to work hard at achieving it. Then, even if you will not make the exact mark, you’ve stretched yourself and have reached more people than with a save goal.
For me, my goal is to reach 250,000 people in the coming year. Gulp, that’s a lot of eyeballs!
2. Publish on Medium
Fat chance you’re reading this on Medium. And I’d like to pay homage to this wonderful platform. Besides the fact that I learn a lot from other writers who publish here, I’ve been able to grow my reach even more than on my own website. The platform is probably the most writer-friendly AND reader-friendly out on the internet.
Medium gives people a platform to teach, to grow, to express their ideas and their thoughts. They even came up with a way to reward writers for their work. (Which is not a given for any writer).
Following people, interacting with authors about their stories, clapping, learning. I’m spending a lot of time on the platform. I’ve even connected with great authors and shared insights. Living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, I’ve interacted with fellow writers across the world. Amazing!
You can tag your stories (obviously) to reach people who are interested in those subjects. If you write often and publish quality work, you can become a top writer in a topic. You’re able to become part of a larger platform within Medium and publish through publications. I’m really excited about this platform and I’m curious what the future holds.
3. Publications and contests
Traditionally, if you’re a fiction writer, you try to get published through (literary) magazines with your short stories. Nowadays, you still can, but naturally, there had been a shift towards online publications. There are hundreds, thousands of publications out there. For short stories, flash fiction, poetry, you name it. Some are directed towards a specific topic, some not. But where to try?
A friend of mine gave me the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market book of 2017. A thoughtful and above all useful gift! You can learn a lot about the craft and the writing market. Lists of literary agents, magazines, book publishers, contests, workshops, and conferences. All specified and organized. Check out www.writersmarket.com for more tips or buy the book.
Sadly, but understandably so, for submitting my stories, at least 90% of the publications and contests want previously unpublished work. I put all my short stories online, therefore I can’t submit to everything. Besides, usually, you pay a reader’s fee. Alas, I don’t have a Money Tree growing in my garden like the guy in my first published story.
I have submitted some stories here and there for contests and publication. So far, no luck, but I keep trying. A good one I found is Glimmer Train.
Another tip is to check out Submittable. They list all the coming contests and publication deadlines per date. You can filter on the topic of your choosing (for me Short Story) and find endless possibilities. Check it out!
4. Reach out to other blogs
This I’ve done very diligently when I started out with my website last September. However, since I decided to explore Medium since February this year, I haven’t had the time to keep reaching out to other blogs. (I have a full-time job too ;-)).
With every story I published, I made a list of blogs that touched upon a similar topic as the topics in one of my stories. Usually, blogs post non-fiction articles, but a similar message can be really powerful through fiction I think.
In my first week, I hit a bullseye. It was crazy. In that week I landed over 3,000 people on my site in a weekend (2,500 in one day!). This was through an amazing guy called J. Money from Rockstar Finance. He was kind enough to give me a chance and he shared my first story The Money Tree on his blog and in his newsletter because he liked my writing. I was – and still am, over the moon with that.
Some blogs reposted my stories on their own site as well. Not all of them could provide me with numbers, but my second story The Sapien Zoo had attracted over 6,000 views on a blog about futurism and ethics. Talking about reaching people :-).
5. Try to get published on other writing platforms
So you could publish on your own blog and on Medium, maybe even in (print) magazines, but there are more ways to spread your words!
Here’s a list of options I’ve stumbled upon, although I haven’t tried all of them:
- Thrive Global: This one I am publishing on. Thrive Global is founded by the inspiring Ariana Huffington. In line with the tactics offered by Ryan Holiday, I’ve sent Ariana Huffington an email as well. I talked to her about my anxiety issues and she wrote a really kind email back. Plus, she invited me to write for Thrive Global! WOW! On Thrive Global I publish a selection of mental health articles (mostly to do with how I try to manage my anxiety) as well as more philosophical stories. There are editors behind the website who determine if your stories are fit to be published.
- Thought Catalog: I’ve read a lot of articles on this platform. Coincidentally a lot by Ryan Holiday. It seems to be a great writing platform too, but I haven’t tried to get on it (yet).
- Reddit: Very open, very interactive and highly topical. You can find threads on anything on there. I’ve posted a couple of stories there, just to try it out. I’ve gained some hundreds of views or website clicks through it. It has a high troll environment I’m not very keen on, but hey, it comes with the trade. Quora is similar, I guess. Although I haven’t posted anything on it.
- Wattpad: One of the biggest self-publishing platforms for (short) fiction. I’ve posted one story, but to be honest, I haven’t really looked back. Like with Medium, it takes a lot of work to grow, but it could be very worthwhile. Especially if you write fiction!
- Patreon: In my research, I’ve stumbled upon Patreon. An ideal platform to offer something extra to your readers (and if you want to ask for a fee). Haven’t tried it yet, and I think it makes more sense once you’ve made more of a name for yourself.
6. Try different types of writing
I started out by simply writing short stories. Most of them fantastical and fairytale like. Others more science fiction like. I love doing this. I do this every day. However, I started doing this to practice the craft of writing. To publish. To learn about the market. To eventually publish a novel (series).
In the past year, I’ve done a lot of research, I tried a lot and I learned a lot. So, I decided to share what I’ve learned. About writing, the creative process, about publishing, anything. I write 1-6 blogs per month about this process, sharing tips.
I’m also experimenting with poetry (although I’m not really sure yet if it’s my thing) and flash fiction – or at least 1,000-word stories instead of 6,000-8,000.
Another thing I’d like to write about is talking about (my) mental health. I’ve had issues with anxiety ever since I started studying. Only in the last couple of months, I’ve really dived into why and how it came about. It’s therapeutical to write about it and I’ve noticed I struck a nerve with some people, which I’m really grateful for.
7. Bonus: start a podcast
Last one! This is also a different platform. Maybe more of a different medium (pun intended) too. A few days ago I shared my resources for starting a platform. It’s not difficult, but it’s a lot of work.
Potentially I reach another group of people. People who don’t like to read or don’t have enough time to do so. People who potentially like to listen to a 20-30-minute short story on their commute or while they’re running.
I have a long way to go here, growing a podcast takes a lot of time and patience. But with every episode, I seem to reach more people!
So, these 7 ways have been helping me to grow an audience. Some work better than others, but all have huge potential.
I suggest you do the research yourself, find what you like to do. What you have time for. Do what works for you!
And I’m curious if you have any additional tips? I would love to hear about it :-)