How Building an Online Community for Introverts Led to My First Book Deal

How Building an Online Community for Introverts Led to My First Book Deal

If you’re anything like me, you’ve dreamed of being an author since you were young.

As a kid, I scribbled books on construction paper, and as an adult, I took writing classes, joined writers groups and filled notebook after notebook with story ideas.

Then, this year, it happened — my book proposal was accepted by the first publisher I approached.

My book, , will be out this August.

How did I do it?

It all started with a blog.

A blog turned community

One day, after another unproductive coffee shop session in which I was trying to pen an “award-winning” novel, I retreated to my bedroom, pulled up the free version of WordPress, and created a blog called .

I had recently come to embrace my identity as an introvert, so I decided to write about being an introvert living in an “extroverted” world. The blog was just for fun; it was supposed to be an escape from my more “serious” writing endeavors.

I started the blog anonymously (how very introverted of me), so for my author headshot, I used a picture that showed just my shoulder, which has a tattoo of five bird silhouettes. The first post I published got more comments about my tattoo than anything actually related to what I’d written.

Nevertheless, I kept writing.

I shared my posts in introvert Facebook groups. To my surprise, people engaged with them. I wondered, Do I have something here? No one had ever responded this positively to my fiction.

I kept sharing my posts on social media, eventually starting a , my own , a Twitter account, a Tumblr, and Pinterest boards. I knew it was important to build up the community aspect and give introverts a space to interact with each other. That way, they had the chance to connect with each other and tell their own stories. Plus, it kept readers coming back.

But it wasn’t all just likes, shares, and comments. When I talk about Introvert, Dear, people seem to think that my situation is “special” or I just “had what it took.” That I’m one of those “lucky few people” whose writing makes it big.

What they don’t see is that I put a ton of effort into my blog. I spent hours learning about the Facebook algorithm and tweaking my site. I studied other successful publications and tried to replicate the strategies they were using that were working. I noticed what kinds of content engaged my readers (and what didn’t); I tried not to let my ego get in the way — if a post wasn’t getting engagement, it had to be reworked or scrapped. I stepped out of my comfort zone to network (online) by asking other bigger sites to share my posts.

I did all this in the evening and on weekends, because I was working full-time as a teacher. Most nights, I was pretty exhausted from my day job, but something inside me told me I had to sit down at my computer for at least an hour or two and press on.

The site soon became less of a personal blog and more of a publishing platform.

Three years later, I quit my job as a teacher to manage Introvert, Dear full-time.

Today, it gets about 600,000 page views a month and has over 160,000 followers on social media, as well as a Facebook group of nearly 100,000 members.

And it led to my first book.

Landing my book contract

Here’s how it happened: I had been asked by a publisher to review a fellow introvert blogger’s book. I was thrilled — someone wanted my name on the back cover of a book?

That got me thinking. Maybe I could write my own introvert book.

Before submitting the review, I asked the publishing house’s editor if she’d look at a book proposal from me. I gave her my “qualifications” — which, really, were just a large number of social media followers and blog page views. To my surprise, she said yes.

She made it really easy for me; she told me I didn’t have to submit any sample chapters, just a short outline and some market research. Soon after, my proposal was accepted.

I would finally get to write a book. It wasn’t the type of book I’d always imagined myself writing.

Maybe someday, I’ll try my hand at fiction again. But ultimately, I found that writing a nonfiction book about a cause I care deeply about was just as fulfilling — if not more so.

You can do it too

Are you a new writer who wants to land a book deal? Consider starting a blog based around a community.

  • Think about what group of people you can speak to: introverted moms, serious gamers, millennial vegans or people who knit tiny hats for cats. In other words, determine who you will be writing for, not what you will write about. When you build your blog around a specific group of people, you’ll automatically have an audience.
  • Figure out what problems your audience struggles with, and what their needs are. For example, do millennial vegans struggle with finding the time to cook dinner at home? Do introverted moms wish they could get more time away from their kids to recharge in solitude? If you’re not sure what your audience’s needs and problems are, try joining some “mom” or “vegan” Facebook groups; see what your audience is posting about. Then, create content around what your audience needs and experiences.
  • Make sure to get social. Think of social media sites as busy street corners, parks, or other public places where people congregate. If you want people to read your blog, you’ll have to go to them. You don’t have to sign up for every social media site out there, but choose 2-3 to start — sites where your target audience “hangs out.” For example, if you’re starting a food blog, make sure to share your recipes on Pinterest. If you’re knitting hats for cats, snap pictures of those adorable felines and post them to Instagram. For more social media tips, check out this article about building a writing brand and this article about getting the most bang for your buck on social media.
  • Identify other bloggers in your niche, and reach out to them. If you’re truly starting a community, you’ll want to be keyed into what other bloggers are writing about. Plus, this can help your blog grow. I’ve found a lot of success in reaching out to other introvert bloggers and asking them to do a “Facebook post swap” — I share one of their posts and they share one of mine. It helps both of us find a new audience, and grow!

Finally, be patient. Your community won’t blossom overnight. It will take time for your audience to get to know you — and time for you to get to know your audience.

Keep at it, and a few years from now, you might find yourself blogging full-time, with a book deal to boot.

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Filed Under: Blogging

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15 comments

  • Cynthia says:

    I love writing, that’s the best way I know how to express myself. I have written news reports and some articles (not really tho)but things that matter to me and I know matter to people as well. The thing is, in all I think I’ve written, I feel very insecure or lack confidence in my writing skills because I haven’t had the opportunity to get evaluated. I can’t confidently take up any writing job without asking myself if it’s the right thing to do or if I’m not shooting myself on the leg. This is a help cry from an amateur writer. Please put me through.

    • Hi Cynthia, I can totally relate to wanting to write things that matter to you personally! I also know what it’s like to question/doubt yourself as a writer. I think the best thing you can do is keep putting your writing out there (which I know is easier said than done). When I first started blogging, I was not great at it, but I was able to improve my writing through feedback from readers, and through submitting posts to other sites as a guest (the editors gave me feedback). I hope that helps!

      • Jackson Munyua says:

        Will your book be available in Eastern Africa , Jenn? I would like to read when it is still hot from the production line.

  • This is great. I especially love the part about “determining who you will be writing for, not what you will write about”. I think that’s a lot harder because we’re so egocentric. We want to write about what interests us and hope that others are like us — which sometimes may be the case. But if you start with the customer (reader, community, etc), you’ll be much better off. Thanks, Jenn

    • Brent, I’m glad to hear that you found my advice helpful! To add to this point, I think writing about our interests can be tied to our audience, but I’ve always found it helpful to start off thinking about the people, first.

      • Jackson Munyua says:

        Hello Jenn, your story has just made my day. The spirit of writing found space in my soul. I am interested in fictional genres.My first manuscript of 52000 words is complete. I’m plotting my second fiction work- a crime thriller as I hunt for the best in class publisher who will put my work in print. I just need a small orientation about blogging and how I can win my social networking community.Any assistance from you, I will embrace. All the best Jenn. Jackson Munyua from Nairobi Kenya.

  • Duke Stewart says:

    Very cool that you’ve created a community this way. Congrats on getting your book contract as well. People certainly don’t know the amount of time and work that goes into blogging, and I’m happy that you highlighted that. You mentioned learning the FB algorithm, which is something that I’m struggling with. I was wondering if you had any insight there or relevant posts that you’d be willing to share. If that’s considered spam or not allowed here, feel free to shoot me an email at the one I listed when commenting. Anyway, thanks for sharing your success and I’m happy to have found you here, Jenn. All the best to your book and career as a full-time writer.

    Best,

    Duke

    • Thanks so much, Duke! To answer your question, here’s a recent article I found helpful: . Also, be aware that Facebook is constantly tweaking its algorithm, so it’s important to stay up on “algorithm” news, which you can do through Facebook’s blog or other social media sites.

  • Savannah says:

    Congrats Jenn, this is really exciting! I can’t wait to read your book when it comes out!

  • Martin Hall says:

    Hi Jenn,

    Thanks for a great article. I very much enjoyed reading it.

    I myself am in the process of starting a blog. It’s purpose will be to provide information on weight loss and general health matters for people who suffer from vascular problems. I also intend to offer suitable recipes(food has always been an interest of mine).

    In January 2010 I suffered a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke. After this I decided to lose weight and managed to lose thirty-five pounds.

    Like you I’ve taken some writing courses

    Unfortunately in my case what is sometimes called “low self-esteem” has held me back my whole life.

    Have you any advice on what I should and shouldn’t do to get this blog off to a good start?

    Kindest regards,

    Martin(UK)

  • Hello Jenn, my name is Orlando York. I am a Husband, Father, Provider, and aspiring WRITER! Lately I’ve been having financial struggles and have been trying to find a way to make money by writing professionally. I keep getting pointed towards the direction of blogging. I have an idea for a blog, tell me how this sounds; I want to appeal to the middle class workers who in my personal case tends to be educated, and quite talented in one way or another who seek to become ENTREPRENEURS, and have had enough of working for others. How does that sound?

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