by Katey Schultz, Guest Contributor, Literary Stewardship

Any writer who wants to grow an audience or build her online presence should start by studying sustainable and authentic marketing practices. As writers, conversations are the foundation of genuinely building lasting relationships, whether online or face-to-face. Yet with so many social media outlets and voices, online marketing can be a medium that makes many of us feel uncomfortable or frustrated.

I believe it’s possible for us to identify our best audiences via online marketing by starting with one simple promise: whatever we share, write, post, or link, it needs to touch on one of the three points below:

1. Contribute and Collaborate

When you treat social media like a bulletin board, always posting but never connecting, you often miss the opportunity to collaborate. “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up” (Oliver Wendell Holmes). Sure, hashtag research and pertinent tags or shares or likes can be essential. But what matters more is the consistency in which you represent yourself as someone with something to add to the circles you run in, as well as someone willing to collaborate in the success and creativity of others.

PhonesPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

2. Share Conversations You Care About

How you contribute and collaborate with fellow writers will feel genuine if you start from a conversation point you care about. This is the foundational concept of my Literary Stewardship e-course—helping writers, bloggers, freelancers, poets, and artists discover what they care about. How does sharing conversations you care about relate to your business or your success “building a platform” as a writer? Simple. As writers, it’s our job to remain curious and become intrigued by new topics. These days, in particular, demand new insights and current reflections. And even in the privacy of our studios, we can become captivated by a new concept…one that’s worth sharing and deepening. It’s possible to share, without preaching. It’s possible to converse, without debating. It’s possible—in other words—to begin with conversations you care about, and grow into circles of people online who not only have something to offer you, but who also will come to care about your work, and your platforms.

3. Show Your Creative Life

Writing is inherently a solo task, but our readers are curious about how we engage with our imaginations to create the work that touches them deeply. Austin Kleon is a proponent of showing your work to your audience. It helps them see how you see the world and that, as we all know, is also the gift of great literature. As a writer and teacher, I consider it my duty to bring awareness to my creative process and share what I learn with others. If I can name what’s working (and what’s not working) for myself, the least I can do is articulate that to others who might see a parallel with their own experiences. And at the very best—which I encounter more often than not—this kind of sharing can spark conversations between writers and their audience that inspires and informs, leaving each feeling more connected to the creative process.

How you see the world, coupled with how your imagination works, feeds the conversations you want to engage in. The more skilled you become at sharing, the more readily you’ll be able to contribute and collaborate, without feeling like social media sharing is sapping your energy or soul. In fact, many writers I’ve worked with have experienced a total shift—actually starting to enjoy sharing online, and seeing the positive, lasting results too.

Katey Schultz’s story collection, Flashes of War, was awarded IndieFab Book of the Year from Foreword Reviews and received a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America. Her foundational program, Literary Stewardship, helped her DIY a “52 Events in 52 Weeks” for the Flashes of War book tour. Home base is North Carolina where she can be found working on her new novel and mentoring other writers via the Airstream Dispatches.