Start Small Now–End Big Later

An article I recently came across from The New York Times revealed that the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House of New York (and house to NY University’s Creative Writing program) is one of only few places left in Greenwich Village to hold reading sessions of the literary arts.

While the building is not fancy–nor holds fancy equipment–it’s still in Manhattan (home to lovers of literature like you and I) and is situated in an area of affordable apartments, bars, coffee shops, etc.–which make it ideal for people on middle-class incomes to live there. (You can read the article for further information if you’d like.)

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There are probably many conclusions you’re inferring from this story–one of them being that since the house was founded in 1836, its historical significance is what attracts writers, readers, and other everyday people alike. This is true, but there is a bigger picture to consider: its area. With society finding more ways to save money, writers, publishers, and other businesses are finding ways to appeal to their budgets.

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But for once, let’s put aside the money equation and think strategy (and audience). Before you can end big (become that best-selling author with who knows how large of an income), you have to start small–case in point, the Lillian Vernon in NY. Starting small is the best time to build your audience–and you too could hold reading sessions with some friends or local writers you know. (Specifically reading your work to others–but certainly invite them to come with works of their own to read to the group.) Collaboration is key.

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This tactic isn’t limited to finding a space to use–such as your limited 10×10 room–to read to others. You could host a live-streaming session online and receive feedback from maybe ten to twenty (or less if you’re fairly new to your website) on what’s working for your book or what isn’t.

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Critiques aside, this is how you make yourself known to the writing market–and other writers such as yourself could come across your video and maybe offer you a business deal you couldn’t turn down. Posting fliers around your neighborhood for a reading session being held in your home is one way to host an event–but holding an event online opens your publicity to all the world’s eye.

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Still, we writers don’t want to stay in the free space forever–and this is where I will bring-in the money equation again. You could post a video blog asking your patrons / audience / etc. to send you something minuscule as a dollar per-person–or you could monetize, say, your YouTube channel.What this entails is ads being ran on the videos you post to YouTube, followed-by some compensation that comes your way based on how many people watch a video ad all the way through. (This is further explained on a Reddit thread I found.)

One other method of hosting an online video of your reading (though there are many) is to use Google’s HOA feature (as mentioned by Kawasaki in his book The Art of Social Media, Ch. 8.) For any video you host, have an outline of where you’re going with your message (i.e. what books you’re going to read).

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Additionally, start your video with a message such as “Thank you all for viewing!” or something along those lines. Follow it up with saying what you plan to cover (i.e. stories you plan to read), and engage your audience with saying something like, “Feel free to comment at any time with questions.” Remember: the audience’s engagement is crucial.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. The first step: grow your audience. And even before then, know who you want to pursue. And even-even before then: know what they want–what will engage them, for instance? This has been mentioned non-stop in my previous posts, but has to continue being mentioned as this is one of the easiest steps for writers to miss. And when you miss a step, you could get a boo-boo.

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So let’s get down to the bottom line: how (and where exactly) do you start?

Start writing a story (even some stories). Or if you have some stories prepared, proceed to step # 2.

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Invite some friends (not necessarily family) to a reading session you intend to hold. (You can hold this either in-person–whether in your dorm lobby if a college student, or at a sleep over in your home if you’re yonger, etc.) But if you want your audience to be limitless (and your reading session timeless), go the online route. Post a video or two of you reading one of your works out loud–not the work of another writer as that could get you in serious hot water.

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Devise a strategy: how many times a week will you read? Will you invite the same people, or invest in new followers? (The answer is that you should try combining both tactics–because the more followers, the bett–oh, but now we have to cut to step # 4.

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Bigger is not always better. Remember, start small. This makes your relationship with your audience more intimate. (Even reading to a group so small as one person counts.) The bigger the crowd, the harder it could prove to receive feedback on an intimate, personal level. This is not saying keep your reader group small–but certainly don’t try to make it any bigger than you can handle if you’re just starting out.

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