While we’re discussing the questions inherent in Jane Yolen’s suggestion about how we can maximize a poetry audience, here’s another part to chew on: How do I increase my own fan base?
Here’s a quote from Sandy Asher in our WRITERS AT WORK series about The Joys and Perils of Writing in Many Genres (January 2011): “David, you’ve heard me say this before, but I think you’ll agree it bears repeating. The road to riches and fame is a direct one: Do one thing, do it well, and do it over and over. This applies to almost any field. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, but when you think about the rich and famous, do you have doubts about what you expect of each of them? I think not. Oprah is Oprah every day. Her fans count on it; her sponsors bank on it. Riches and fame depend on building a huge fan base, and that’s done by delivering the goods so consistently that folks can and do keep coming back for more, bringing their friends and relations with them.”
Sandy wasn’t talking about poetry then but poetry would be included in her statement. One of her telling points is to remind us of how long it may take to build a fan base for our work. Another is to pick a genre and live it, be it, stick with it, become branded by it. I might add that a lot of famous people are multitalented and do more than one thing well, but generally speaking they’re famous first for one specific thing. Paul Newman drove race cars. Red Skelton painted. But Newman as an actor who happened to like fast cars and Skelton was a comedian who happened to paint. To see all the episodes in the WRITERS AT WORK series, here’s the link. http://usawrites4kids.blogspot.com
Sticking with one thing can be the hardest part. Jane has written so many books in so many voices that she’s the exception to the rule but it’s probably sound advice for most writers to choose one genre and keep at it until success (and fans) grow over time.
The floor is open. I hope someone is going to talk about the need to self promote these days and some of the ways to approach it. Whether we like it or not, today’s writers are required to thump their chests and yell through a bullhorn from the back of every wagon. The old adage, write a better book and the world will beat a path to your door (okay, something like that) may still be true, but kids there are a lot of books out there and many good ones are never discovered.