Image: Matthew Loffhagen
It seems that pretty much any movie ever released on DVD or Blu-Ray these days comes with a ‘Making-of’ documentary to accompany it.
The thing is, we all love to find out about the stories behind our favorite stories, and to see what the creators went through to build the worlds we enjoy.
My personal favorite story behind a story is that of Joss Whedon’s 2012 movie adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare. Whedon has talked widely and openly about how, during his vacation time from working on a stressful Hollywood movie, he got a bunch of his friends together and made the movie while having a party (it shows – all the movie characters are constantly drinking alcohol!).
Your fans will be eager to hear the details of your own personal story: your struggles as a writer, your challenges to balance writing with your day job, the thrills and spills of your literary career.
By sharing your personal story with your fans, you can draw them into your ongoing life narrative, and make them eager to do everything they can to ensure that it has a happy ending.
We’re all made of stories
The rags-to-riches author story is one that we see played out constantly in the media, each time with different actors. Readers of the Divergent book series, for example, are often interested to learn about how author Veronica Roth wrote the first book on winter break from college, and sold the movie rights before the novel had even been printed.
Of no less interest to fans, though, are Vincent Van Gogh stories of unrecognized genius. Readers love to hear about the struggles and challenges that great writers had to overcome in order to achieve success.
Or, to put it another way: nobody has ever made a biopic about an author who had it easy.
The great thing for your readers is that your story is interactive: they can change the ending by contributing to your success by buying your books and sharing them with their friends.
So ideally, you want to tell the story of a hard working author who, thanks to the support of their fans, achieves their dream of writing bestsellers.
Drop by drop
Telling your own story to your readers means exposing your personal life to strangers, and it can be quite daunting, but you don’t need to share everything with them.
Have a look at how some of these authors describe themselves on Patreon – this is their attempt to connect with readers and persuade them to donate a small amount of money each month.
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller give a quirky and humorful account of their history as writers. They’re self-depreciative and witty, which helps to frame them as human beings rather than as salesmen.
Anne B Walsh explains how, as a writer, she has to deal with a frustrating day job that gets in the way of her writing. This is an all-too-familiar struggle for anybody who’s ever wanted to do something creative, and it encourages potential donators to help her out of a crummy situation.
Ashley Balzer lists her passions and the inspiration for her writing. This helps readers to identify with her, and it helps her to appear human to her fans. I also enjoy her testimonial from her mother – a little humor goes a long way.
None of these authors have offered up their full life stories. Instead, they’ve opened up a little bit about their dreams and goals as writers, in the hope that fans will be inspired to do something to help.
Social media is an excellent way to give your fans tiny insights into your personal story without overloading them with information, or opening up too freely with complete strangers. A casual tweet here or a Facebook status there can be all it takes to subtly introduce the narrative of your life to your followers.
Personally I like reflection tweets: February 23rd is the anniversary of the first time I posted my work online, and around that time every year I always like to make mention of what I’ve learned since I started.
If you’re having a hard day trying to find the right words, let your social media followers know about it. If you’re having a great day and you’ve written something really satisfying, again, post about it online. This way, your followers see the ups and downs of your career.
The more you can draw them in to your personal story, the more they’ll want to support you by sharing your books with others.
It’s the thought that counts
Believe it or not, people want to hear the story of your struggles as a writer. We all love to hear how an unknown artist has overcome adversity and leapt into mainstream popularity. You just need to inspire your fans to want to help.
The best way to do this is to show them that you’re a person, and allow them to get involved in your personal story.
Because, at the end of the day, to quote Charles de Lint, ‘we’re all made of stories’.
Have you got any suggestions for how to inspire fan loyalty, or how to tell your own personal stories? We’d love to hear them – feel free to share them in a comment below.