Bilbo and the dwarves briefly encountered a white stag. They are deep in the dark of Mirkwood when they hear the horns of a hunt and the stag runs by, knocking Bombur into the stream that must not be touched. It’s a little different in the movie, but I’m always up for a movie clip. At heart, I’m a fan who likes to re-live moments of beauty, victory, tenderness, awe.
White stags (or white harts) are in myth and legend around the world. There are different flavors to the legends, but always there is awe and desire, the fleeting opportunity and the chase. And today we’re talking about the Arthurian flavor — where the white stag was always something to be desired yet always out of reach.
A lot of authors feel that’s what readers are: something to be desired, yet always out of reach.
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Where are all the readers?
They feel like rare and elusive beasts, don’t they? Your book sits there, waiting to be purchased and read. Or it sits there, waiting for reviews. Is the forest empty? Did someone else already kill the stag, leaving you with nothing, forever?
Come on, surely you’re smiling now, realizing how silly that is. Even though it feels that way.
The readers are out there!
Your readers are out there. And it’s time you start finding them. To begin, consider this: What if finding new fans really is more like pursuing the white stag than you thought? What if you have to venture into the forest, search them out, and follow them until you catch them?
Because if we’re honest, we were hoping that reaching readers would be more like that scene from Finding Nemo where the big net scoops up thousands of fish at a time. Throw out the net. Scoop up the readers. BAM. Make a living as a writer.
Well, yes. There are strategies and tactics that are more net-like. But if you are just starting out, and nobody knows you, and you don’t have a lot of money to throw into advertising, then one of the ways to get the ball rolling is to find readers one by one.
- Start thinking like a fan. Reverse engineer this whole thing. What draws you to a book? A TV show? What judgments do you make about how you spend your entertainment time?
- Be strategic. Start thinking of readers to target who have influence over groups of other readers in your target market (teachers and principals influence students; reviewers and celebrity authors influence their subscribers, etc).
- Start a list of people you want to introduce to your work. Don’t do anything with it yet. Just follow them through the forest, observing them, for now. Yes, you are fan stalking.
- Leave a comment below with three guesses about who your readers are. You can include demographics (“My readers are women between 20-50 yrs old”), ideology (“My readers care about humanity and value scientific progress”), similar stories (“My readers watch Gotham and Supernatural and read George R.R. Martin”), or shared fandoms (“My readers are fans of Star Wars and Firefly”), or whatever else you may imagine about your readers!
Interested in hearing more about the legends of the white stag? Check out Wikipedia’s entries on the white stag and the white hart, Mythical Beasts: The White Stag by zteve t evans, and Mythic Creatures: The White Stag by Sarah Sawyer (gotta love these fellow writers and their research!).