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Salmon and Fields: A Journey in Mixed Metaphors by Jim Hart

It’s writer’s conference season, and soon there will be multitudes of writers coming home to start blogging as if their lives depended on it. It makes me think about salmon swimming upstream to spawn. All of these writers are in the same stream, struggling towards the same destination. And now the stream of the world-wide-web is full of authors who are building their platform, and are struggling to reach the same readers as all of the other authors in the same stream who are building their platform.

Rob Eagar’s marketing blog recently addressed something similar to this in what he calls ‘preventing sales burnout.’ He cited “publishers who try to sell more books to the same readers” as an example of sales burnout.  He says “modern-day farmers know that trying to harvest too many crops out of the same field creates negative consequences. Over-farming can extract too many nutrients from of the soil, eventually leaving a field barren and useless. To maintain a good harvest, farmers will rotate crops, let fields rest, or expand their acreage to prevent one area from burning out.”

So it may time for you to ask yourself if you’re wearing out your current network, and how can you expand outside of your current network?

Blogging is still a great way to build, and maintain your platform, especially when used to collect subscriber’s e-mail addresses. But it has to be more than that if you want to engage those readers on a regular basis. You’ve got to offer not only something of value to your intended audience, but also something unique that blog readers may not be able to find elsewhere. If all you do is write about writing, and post it on Facebook, well – you run the risk of just being another salmon swimming upstream.

Here are two things to consider:

1) Blog in another field. Is there a hobby or skill that you are competent in, beyond writing books, in which you could write about? What have you learned, or experienced in some other area of your life that could be of real value, and a service? There could be an untapped community just waiting to hear from someone like you. Look for opportunities to be part of a new community and that will naturally add to your platform.

Writers spend so much time in research – what interesting things have you uncovered that could be shared in a blog or other social media post?

Some other ideas would be: devotions, healthy living tips, recipes, crafts, social concerns, raising a family, vacation tips, life hacks, banjo lessons – tell your readers how-to, where-to and why-to.

2) Let the field rest. Try another different social media platform. If you’re starting to get burned out on Twitter and Facebook (can I get an “amen”), don’t give up on them or forsake them, but try something different like Pinterest, Goodreads, YouTube, or even pod-casting.

Or get out from behind the keyboard and take part in, or host, public events at your library, church, bookstore, or coffee house. The key is to have content or a presentation of value. This is a great way to connect on a personal level. Don’t worry that this could be just be local exposure, because someone in attendance could go home and post about the event on their Facebook page, gaining you exposure that you would not have gotten on your own.

So here’s where we really mix our metaphors: Salmon can live in both salt water and fresh water. If they couldn’t make the transition from the sea to the stream, there wouldn’t be any more salmon. Learn to naturally navigate through different platforms and media. But like the salmon, and the farmers, you have to have a plan and a schedule.

You want new people (readers) to find you naturally without forcing them to wade through post after post on Facebook and Twitter encouraging them to “buy my new book”.  There definitely is a time and place for announcing your new title, or if your e-book is on sale for the next 48 hours, but that can’t be all you post, or you risk burning out your audience.

So work to increase your audience with people who discover you by reading something totally unrelated to your new book, or WIP. The beauty of this is now you’ve created an opportunity to hook a reader, and down the line, when you do need to announce your new book to the world, you can set the hook and reel ‘em in.

What have you done to expand you current on-line reach? Have you enjoyed blogging about topics unrelated to your writing endeavors?

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