It’s about the reader, stupid

Back in the good old days, I was a magazine and book editor at Pacific Press. I was rewarded with the opportunity to co-edit a brand new magazine for parents entitled ParentTalk. It lasted about a year. It was a wonderful opportunity, and was loved by the 11,000 people who subscribed. But 11,000 just couldn’t help us make ends meet, so in the end, Pacific Press had to pull the plug.

At the end, I realized that if I were to do it again, I would start off by building an infrastructure that would support the magazine BEFORE the magazine arrived. Marketing is not about trying to sell a product. Instead, it is about learning what the needs of a particular audience are, and then trying your best to meet those needs. So if I were able to build a network of parents who were interested in information about parenting, and then start the magazine, our chances would have been much better.

I was thumbing through the 2009 issue of Writer’s Market the other day, and one of the book editors said something that reminded me of those days. Richard S. Dansbury of Dan River Press writes: “Spend some time developing a following. Forget the advice that says, ‘Your first job is to find a publisher!’ That’s nonsense. Your first job as a writer is to develop an audience. Do that and a publisher will find you. Forget trying to get ‘good enough’; instead, find an audience.”

The age of social networks makes it more possible than ever to build that audience. So guess what I will be doing that summer? First, I will be exploring how other writers and musicians and marketers are using to build their following. Then I will be doing more of the same.

And then, of course, I will be writing.