friends vs. fans

I can’t get Mistake Number Nine out of my head, so the NaNoWriMo post I had planned (where I brag about FINISHING A 50,000-WORD NOVEL IN A MONTH) will have to wait.

So, we know that bloggers who hope to get a lot of traffic need to develop a brand, a primary message, something consistent that readers keep coming back for. If Random is a brand, then I’m all over it. (Bless all of you dear hearts who commented yesterday that you just love my rambling and “Don’t ever, ever stop!”)

Here’s the quandary (man, I love that word): I have a job. That job is to write and sell books. The writing part? I’ve got it down. (did I mention that I just chonked out a 50,000 word novel in 29 days?)

Here’s how I used to picture an author’s job: Write book. Get book published. Sit back and watch book sell. Repeat. As it turns out, yeah. I was missing a huge slice of the Successful Author Pie.

Here’s what publishers are looking for: a person who can write (me! pick me! I can write!) AND has an enormous following of people who will all buy that person’s book once it hits the shelves (bummer). In other words, you need more than great writing to convince a publisher to take a chance on you. You need semi-celebrity status and/or a history of stellar book sales. I have neither (my sales have been “modest” or “mediocre,” depending on who you ask).

Ideally? I would blog to make friends. As an author? I’m supposed to amass fans. I’ll tell you what. Making connections and building genuine friendships is infinitely more rewarding than knowing a lot of people read my blog. Sure, it’s fun to be popular. But I’d rather be liked (and yes, there’s a difference).

Fans are fickle. Friends are loyal. Fans inflate your head. Friends inflate your heart. You can have thousands of fans and still be very lonely. Friends are there for you when you’re hurt or frustrated or need prayer (or a hug).

I would love to just be Marla The Person (Friend, Sister, Mentor) here on the blog. But Marla The Author is a big part of who I am too. I wish numbers didn’t have to matter. But in my line of work, they do. (The obvious solution? Each of you promise to buy 100 copies of my next book.) I guess what I don’t want to be is the Girl Who Pretends to be Your Friend So She Can Sell You Something. I want to be the Girl Who Wants to be Your Friend. Period.

I know God is in control of my career and all that entails. I also know that it’s my responsibility to use my gifts wisely and not let them go to waste. I don’t know, unfortunately, quite how all of that is supposed to look in my daily life and blog.

Do you have any brilliant ideas, friends? (500 words! Again! Kapow!)

19 thoughts on “friends vs. fans

  1. Pingback: Most Tweeted Articles by Church Experts

  2. Gabe Taviano

    Gail made a good point (that you don’t have to relate to Mr. Hyatt). Michael Hyatt might gain a decent audience, being the CEO of the largest Christian publisher in the world. But he isn’t the model to look at when people are curious whether or not they are successful at blogging. I’m sure he’d agree, but he wouldn’t be where he is if he were a mother, author, cook, doing laundry, writing books, etc.

    Each woman has their own responsibilities, but I think here are a few things that might tell you your blog is worth it:
    1. You engage your audience, no matter the size.
    2. Your audience continues to grow. If your subscribers decline each day, something is wrong!
    3. You are passionate about the content you are providing.
    4. People will benefit (especially your children / family) from reading your blog long after you’re gone.
    5. You are able to encourage others either through your material, or through guiding them (into blogging or progressing through something that interests them – writing, design, motherhood, finances, etc.).

  3. Gail

    You asked for thoughts. You didn’t specify that they HAVE to be completely topical. So here goes…as I read the comments from yesterday, and thought about the mistake of talking about yourself too much, I was struck by this thought: Mr. Hyatt is a MISTER. Men don’t like sitting around talking about themselves and their feelings and stuff. Women DO this. We share our lives. And it’s interactive in the process.

    When you tell a story about Nina’s latest puzzle conquest, I feel invited to tell you how Josie’s been making puzzle museums in our basement all week, and so it goes. Sure, you can jump to deeper topics from your life as Mr. Hyatt mentions, but sharing your life and God’s work in it IS your message. It’s what your books have done well, in my opinion. It’s why you are totally accessible.

    I think of the blogs I love, and they certainly aren’t that narrow. Now men’s blogs (like one you live with) DO tend to be “on brand.” But successful girly blogs are much broader, unless you are The Nester. (See BooMama or The Pioneer Woman.)

    OK, I am rambling now. All this to say, I’m not sure I’d worry about breaking that particular rule. As long as you break it the way you do!

  4. O mom

    You can’t change what God has put on your heart and for you that is not being fake, so I suggest you just keep being you and then when God does finally bless you with the ‘success’ it will be everlasting and so easy to give Him back all the glory!!

  5. Kimberly

    Way to go finishing that namo-whatever thing 🙂 I started as a fan, but after I met the “real” you and learned you are just as you seem, I think you will always be a friend. I don’t know how you find that balance in your blog life. I’ll pray for you though!

  6. Sarah Montanye

    I think you are fabulous! Anyone who meets you is going to want to buy your books, shoot – I bought all of your books before I even met you ;-). Thinking of your newest book…..could you market to the zoo gift shops of the zoo’s you guys visited and see if they’d be interested in selling it? Also – I just listened to her speak this morning so it’s fresh in my brain, but the Christian author/speaker Gigi Schweikert goes to my church and I could probably put you 2 in touch and I’m sure she could give you some great ideas too. Let me know!
    Blessings on your day my friend!

  7. Tarah

    I think that if we are available to God and seeking His direction as far as what opportunities we take…..that we can trust Him not to waste our talents. I don’t think you have to worry about that being your responsibility. You are obviously using them when given the opportunity. God is in charge of the opportunities. If they don’t seem to be coming your way, trust Him that perhaps He has something different or unexpected for you. Don’t be stuck in thinking that He can only use your writing. He knows the desires of your heart, and also ALL the strengths that you have, even the hidden ones. He sees the big picture. Sometimes God doesn’t use the things we think we are good at because He likes to work through weakness and dependence. At least that has been my experience, and maybe if I’d learn the whole dependence lesson well enough….I could be done with it!

  8. Crissy

    In your last paragraph you stated “…God is in control of my career and all that it entails.” He is in control of the ‘Big Picture’ and He is also in control of your friends/fans (I personally am both!!). That is the great thing about letting God have control we don’t have to worry about gaining fans. He will bring those who need to hear the words you have written to you!! However, it is the leaving the control in His hands that is the hard part. I think you are using your gifts wisely and He will bless that! Love you!

  9. jess

    keep using the work kapow, and you’ll be good!!
    (really. it made me smile.)
    and listen…i had a dream about you! i know,right? I didn’t remember that I had a dream about you until I hopped on your blog, and then i was all, “oh YEAH! I had a dream about her!” I was listening to your AUDIO BLOG. Like, I just push a button and i get to listen to you talk, rather than just read your words. And you were, like, bouncing off the walls excited. I don’t know over what. But, it was fun. And you got lots of traffic that way. Maybe you should do an audio blog. Maybe The Angel of the Lord came to me in a dream to tell me about your blog. huh? huh? huh? ‘-)

  10. Peter P

    I look at it this way.

    Look after the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

    In the same way, be genuine and make real friends and the fan base will take care of itself. Some fans will be friends, some will be friends of friends and others will be folk who just see that you’re being genuine, can write well and are not just trying to build a marketing base.

    You’re doing just fine, Marla!

  11. gitz

    I totally see how your blog needs to be both things… but I am such a novice blogger I wouldn’t have a clue how to market yourself out in the world.

    Do I count as two followers since I’m a friend and a fan?!? 🙂

  12. Holly @ Crownlaiddown

    Pick Me! Pick Me! I’ll be your faithful friend. I’m giving your wonderful book to an expectant mom tomorrow. I’m going to blog about it, too (and give it away), when I have a little extra to do a giveaway. It’s what friends do.

    I like you, Marla, and your heart. God may bless it by selling many books or He may bless it by giving you many authentically wonderful friends OR He may do both. I pray for the last one for you.

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