What I Learned About Connecting With Readers From Dan Blank

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

Dan Blank helps writers find and engage readers. He teaches online courses, workshops and does private consulting with authors and publishers. He has written several Writer’s Guides, all available on his website, on blogging, social media and email marketing.  You can find him at WeGrowMedia.com and on Twitter at @DanBlank

When writers come to me asking how to build their author platform, Dan’s website and newsletter are among the top resources I recommend. You would think it’s because his work is so well-done and his insights always spot-on. Or you might think it’s because he’s been a long-time mentor and good friend. These are all true and perfectly good reasons to boot, but the real reason might surprise you.

Let me explain.

In December of 2012 Dan wrote an article in which he connected building your author platform to my favorite ride from the Disney’s Epcot Center. In this article, he tells the story about how a ride Horizons was designed and then later destroyed when sponsorship fell through. Two guys who were huge fans of Horizons (Hoot and Chief) took it upon themselves to record every detail on video before it was demolished. This was long before the smart phone and digital video revolution, so imagine two guys climbing out of a moving ride with those old-school video recorders, immortalizing every aspect of that ride on tape.

Even more impressive than the Horizons story itself, though, was how Dan tied it together with this notion of an author platform. He could have written something like “Top 5 Ways to Build Your Email List” or “Marketing Your  Book on Twitter” but instead he took this much riskier approach and the result was an article resonated so much with me that even now, almost a year later, I still remember it.

The reason Dan is one of my go-to people for information on author platform is because he doesn’t just teach the methods, he lives them.

We’re all terrified about putting ourselves “out there” on the internet. We obsess about how much is too much, and with every passing keystroke we worry that instead of connecting with people, we’re either alienating them or getting lost in the white noise. It can be tempting to play it safe.

As authors trying to build our platform and make a connection with our audience, we have to put our work–and ourselves, in all our quirky glory–out into the world. As a champion for authenticity and making real connections with readers, Dan walks the talk and helps writers do the same.

When it comes to marketing their books, Dan urges writers to think of their readers as real people, to connect with them through social media as individuals, not just avatars on a screen. When was the last time we thought about using social media as a way of truly connecting? The idea here is to be your authentic self, but treat your readers as individuals too. The idea here is:

“Forging relationships that are about so much more than the sale of a book.” –Dan Blank

It’s easy to forget that there are real people on the other end of the screen. Or that your book will eventually find its way into the hands of a real honest-to-goodness person. Who are your ideal readers? What motivates them? And where can we find them right now?

Given Dan’s focus on writers and readers as individuals, it’s no surprise to see him warn against best practices. “The problem… is that by the time they are known practices, everyone is using them. Every day, every hour, every minute. The effectiveness experienced when the ‘best practice’ was first discovered has likely worn off.” Again, it comes down to embracing this notion that each writers journey is unique.

But just because we’re each “a unique and special snowflake” (as Dan would put it) there are some cues we can take and lessons we can learn by watching more experienced writers do what they do best. I’ve heard Dan speak on more than one occasion about this idea of  “guideposts,” which are books or authors you observe in order to inform your own journey. The idea here isn’t to copy what’s on the surface, but to go deeper and understand the how behind the what.

Dan has been one of the “guideposts” in my writing life, not just because he is an excellent teacher, but because lives his own advice. I first connected with Dan at a conference, and then on Twitter afterwards. He took the time to reach out to someone just starting out and it’s led to great projects and collaborations. We even gave a talk together at a conference this past May. I share this because while making real connections might be more terrifying and challenging, but it’s worth it in the end. Our readers are worth that connection and we’re worth it too.

I am excited to announce that Dan will be speaking at Lit Loft this year.



Dan Blank will be speaking at LitLoft 2013
Are you ready for Lit Loft? Register today!



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