Academy for Wayward Authors email 31 of 45: Audience, Demand, and Winning the War for Attention


We are now going to turn our attention to the concept of attention.

We will spend the rest of our time in the academy discussing how creating your audience maybe even more important than your content.

Yes, you create your audience.

Before we go deeper into audience creation, let’s return to the other point of contention: that your audience is more important than your content.

If you feel that there is an author who consistently outsells you, but you feel you write a better story than they do, then you’ve made my point.

The audience and their perception of the product are more important than quality.

That may not sit well with you. That quality doesn’t trump everything.

It doesn’t. The greatest book ever written dies a lonely death without a reader. Without reach and mass approval, it will never be a bestseller.

Awards are equally worthless.

The 2022 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction has a 4.0 rating with 2,200 reviews and a rank of 59,000 in the store. The number one book in the store at this time has 66,387 reviews and is rated 4.4. The number two book in the store has 163,124 reviews and a 4.2 rating.

My point is that if you expect to make a living at writing, you need to be focused on earning attention and nurturing and retaining an audience to build reach.

Building reach is an act of creation.

The mysterious and beautiful process that transforms your book idea into a reality is the same process used to build an audience.

Rick Rubin discusses an artist’s creative process as a devotional process in his book, “The Creative Act: A Way of Being.” He shares that you work on something until you, as the artist, are ready to share it. That is the point that matters when you are ready to put it into the world. He goes on to say that you don’t have control over whether people will like it.

However, I disagree.

If you apply the same ideas to creating a devoted audience, you can heavily influence what a large group thinks about your ability to create.

Traditional ideas about supply and demand do not apply. If they did, no one could earn a living from writing. In fact, with the advent of AI, logic would dictate that people would just have AI write an entertaining story to suit their needs. Why not eliminate the whole author side of the equation?

This will never happen. A considerable portion of our society does not wish to put in the effort to create a good story, even with the help of a robot. They see the act of reading or listening as a way to pass the time. It is their entertainment. Furthermore, we want to partake in culture as a society. We seek common cultural items to discuss and share.

Do you look at marketing, reach, and the ideas around cumulative advantage as obstacles to overcome or as a new medium for you to apply your creativity?

If your dream is to create a successful, sustainable career as a fiction publisher, then you must create an audience along with your works of fiction.

A simple shift is to think of how elements of marketing and advertising serve your creation of that audience. This isn’t the idea of saying, “Oh, my ads process is an uncut gem I need to polish.” Instead, does this ad or marketing gambit polish the uncut gem of your audience? Does it attract the ideal reader? Does it increase reach? Does it improve retention?

Suddenly, a lot of what you are told to do doesn’t serve the creation of that ideal audience, and you can move them to the “DO NOT DO” list.

In the next email, we are going to explore the old masters, not Titian and Rubens, but the OGs of direct advertising.

Thank you for your attention,