What I Learned From WANACon - Part 1: Community Building

By Stacy Melanie Jerger (@ApoideaEdits)

This is part 1 of 2 in my WANACon blog series. This series isn’t about retyping pages of notes I took during the conference, nor is it a regurgitation of info. It's about a few things I thought worth mentioning and how they apply to my journey as a writer and developmental editor.

Image courtesy of iStock

Image courtesy of iStock

Building a community. We’ve heard of this. We’ve longed for it. We know it can be a slow process.

Gabriela Pereirafrom DIYMFA said community is not about popularity, but about the true fans.

That really stuck with me because my editorial work is about making true connections. There are no shortcuts in this business. I work hard for authors and I want us to be happy and successful in our partnership.

Gabriela Pereira and Piper Bayard talked about author identity (or in my case, editor identity) and how to build a home base.

I’m still working on my design, but here’s a few things I’ve done to establish myself that fall under their tips:

My Website

My website is my cyber home and I treat it like a real home—inviting, helpful, and safe. (Granted, my real home is a bit messier than my website, but thankfully you don’t have to see that.)

Here’s some things my website aims to do:

I’m a solution to someone’s problem: I tailor my website to my target audience.

  • Authors who are stuck in their writing and don’t know what’s wrong with their book.
  • Authors who need professional feedback and content editing to help them revise their manuscripts.
  • Authors who need my services to please an agent or a copyeditor.

I’m likeable: If authors find themselves interested in my services, they can look further at my bio, which gives them some insight into where I come from and what my goals are (and probably to make sure I’m not some creepy guy living in a dark basement).

My voice is positive: I pay special attention to my tone of voice in blogging, on social media, and on my website so my audience knows how professional, friendly, and passionate I am.

Social Outreach

Gabriela said outreach doesn’t mean content overload. It’s about staying in touch with people.

These are some ways I’ve been reaching out and staying in touch:

Blogging weekly: Blogging takes a lot of time and effort, and it’s a very slow build to recognition. But I’ve been blogging since last spring and I can see how it’s started to pay off. My website comes up in Google search results more. I’ve connected with and engaged readers. I’ve given back by using my blog to promote people I admire.

Social media: Piper had some great analogies to describe certain social media outlets. Twitter is like a cocktail party and Facebook is like a coffee shop. So true! And no matter where we are publicly, we mingle, we share, and we mind our manners.

My approach to social media is to inform, engage, connect, and to have a daily presence so people know they can contact me. I want people to know I’m a real person. (This doesn’t mean over sharing and TMI that make people uncomfortable, ha!)

Piper also said people will forget what you say and do, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. For instance, being encouraging and cheering someone up goes farther than shouting a sale pitch and “Buy my book!” Make others feel good and impact them positively, and they'll remember you.

This is what drew me to #MyWANA on Twitter. I like interacting with people and making friends. If I need to notify people about my editorial services, I like to approach it in an informative way, not an aggressive way.

Emailing: I’ve recently discovered MailChimp and the value of building a mailing list. When I upload new services to my website or want to offer discounts to NaNoWriMo-ers after the holidays or romance writers before Valentine’s Day, I need to be able to send people newsletters and let them know what’s up.

I’ve never been a fan of shouting on social media accounts like they’re rooftops or bugging people to spread the word, so building a mailing list suits my goals.

With that in mind, if you’d like to sign up, here's the link. *smile*

Direct, personal emails have also worked for me in connecting with people. It’s a ballsy move, but the worst someone can say is “no thanks” and that’s fair. Some of my closest connections started through emailing. Some of those connections led to jobs. Some didn’t.

Unchained Kindness

Kindness should not come with a price. If we’re only nice and helpful to others because we expect reciprocation, we’re doing it wrong. I like to be helpful, but if it doesn’t lead to any new business, at least I can be a friend or a cheerleader or brighten someone’s day. Those who do reciprocate, I’m grateful. Not expectant.

This brings me to the last thought. Gabriela said that despite all the tips and tricks out there to learn how to build a community, find practices that work for YOU. Piper said be YOU. Be yourself.

A method that works for someone may not work for others, so learn for yourself and try a bunch of ways to get out there. And always be true to who you are. So far, this is what's working for me.

Maybe you can add to my list of methods or share your experience. What’s worked for you? Have you built a community as an editor, writer, or book reviewer? Still trying to?