Award-winning writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been running a great series on promotion for writers (which I highly recommend you read, whether you’re a writer or just someone who’s interested in how writers find readers), and it got me thinking about the best advice I’ve ever gotten about how to find an audience. It was this:
Be so good they can’t ignore you.
It was actually from Steve Martin, a comedian. Well, the truth is, he’s actually a writer, too, as most good comedians are. Martin may have said this before, but I first heard him say it in an interview with Charlie Rose, when he was asked what he tells people when they want advice on how to break into show business.
“Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear,” Martin said. “What they want to hear is ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script,’ . . . but I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you … If somebody’s thinking, ‘How can I be really good?’ people are going to come to you.”
Of course, what’s good is somewhat subjective, so in the end only you can be the judge of what’s good. But instead of thinking about how to use Facebook to promote your book, how to reach readers through Twitter, or, God forbid, how to build your “author platform,” bet on being good. Do what Steve Martin did. Ask yourself why others succeed? Study their work. Break it down. Then apply what you learned to your own work and do something new and innovative in your own way.
There’s no secret sauce, no magic bullets. It’s not about who you know. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Yes, luck plays a part, as it does in all things in life, but if you’re really good — and I’m talking about being so good that people can’t help but notice — luck will find you.
Yes, that’s the harder path, but it’s also a lot more fun.