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About the Episode

Fed up with platform growth advice that doesn’t seem to apply to your world as a fiction writer (especially if you are unpublished)? Rachel shares what’s really working against you (spoiler: it’s not the algorithm) and tips for moving forward.

📒 Show Notes and Resources 📒

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Why building an online author platform is so hard as an unpublished author
  • What you are actually “selling” right now
  • What you don’t know about “Know, Like, and Trust” as a Fiction Author
  • What your reader’s REAL problem is
  • Two mindset shifts to make

Grab Gifted + Guided Prayer Journal



Click for Transcript

[00:00:00] Have you ever found yourself, after listening to some really smart online marketer, share their magic, secret, winning formula for growing an audience? They’re telling you how to gain the followers, how to grow the email list, how to get those numbers way up there. They share all of this. They share their sage advice.

And you find yourself going, Hey, yeah, but I’m a fiction writer. I haven’t been published yet. How does this actually apply to me? Well, if that’s you, I’m so glad that you’re joining us for today’s conversation because we’re going to talk about what exactly you’re up against as an aspiring fiction writer. What’s working against you and spoiler alert, it’s not the social media algorithms. I promise you. What are the real things that are at play here? How are they hindering your growth? And what are some proactive steps you can take to kind of circumvent that? That’s what we’re going to get into today’s episode.

So glad you’re here. Let’s get to it.

 Is a ton of information out there on [00:01:00] how to best grow your platform. There’s different words for it. There’s different ideas, different sentiments. A lot of times it feels really heavy and overwhelming. It feels a lot of work to do on top of already trying to write a novel that’s really in depth and requires a lot of thought and attention and time.

You’re oftentimes doing this as a side hustle right now until you get that book deal. I want you to know that I, what I’m about to tell you today is coming from a place of understanding that and respecting that and honoring that. I don’t think that God asks us to steward our creativity into one debt or to exhaustion up to a point where we’re just completely exhausted and we want to just give up.

I don’t think that’s what God is asking of us. And so as Authors, as Christian authors in particular, who are trying to steward creativity, trying to steward this gift that God has given us as a story and steward it well, I think we have to peel back the layers on everything that everybody’s telling us and see the overarching business [00:02:00] principle.

And apply it to what we as fiction writers can and cannot do within the context of our industry. Now, I want to preface this all by saying, this is my little disclaimer. What I’m about to tell you is not going to give you immediate results. This is not a secret formula. This is not a do this and you’re suddenly going to grow your platform.

What this is, is me trying to help you understand the bigger picture. What’s really like hindering your growth so that you can Reflect on it and possibly analyze what you could do to move forward in growing your own platform. So, just hear me. I’m not promising that you’re going to get a hundred, you know, a thousand subscribers overnight because you understand the things I’m going to tell you about, but I do hope that it empowers you a little bit.

It can be a little bit discouraging having these conversations, but I want you by the end of the conversation not to be discouraged, but rather empowered to make decisions, [00:03:00] calculated decisions that are going to help you steward your gift, your creativity, your passion for the story.

And so with all that said, I’m going to talk about two business principles in particular. So you may have heard the phrase that branding is about creating a know like and trust factor. So I’m going to talk about that. And then I’m also going to talk about this thing that you probably have heard that marketing is about identifying your customers need and then selling to that need. Okay, so we as we are serving our customer, we are, giving them what they need. We are solving a problem for them. We’re providing something that they don’t have already all these things. So we’re going to talk about those two different business principles that kind of drive online marketing.

All right, so let’s start with the first the branding of the know like and trust factors. So As fiction writers, we are able to deliver, aspiring, I should, I should [00:04:00] back up a second. Let me, let me define what I mean by aspiring fiction writers. So if you are going to be traditionally published, you probably already know what this means.

You’re aspiring to be published. You don’t have a book deal. You don’t have a literary agent. You have maybe written your book. You maybe revised it. You may be querying agents, but you have nothing concrete yet. You don’t have anything in writing. So you are in a period of waiting and you are aspiring to be published.

Now, if you’re an indie author, maybe you have made that decision, but you too have not gotten to that point where things are in motion for a book to come out. You may have written it, you may have edited it, you may be in revisions, maybe it’s gone to beta readers, but you haven’t actually gone into that production of cover, interior, loading it up to KDP, or IngramSpark, or anything like that.

Like, you don’t even have a deadline for when it’s gonna come out, right? That’s what I mean by aspiring author. So you may have made that [00:05:00] decision about, if you’re gonna traditionally publish, self publish, hybrid publish, whatever. But you haven’t actually gotten into that production process yet. You haven’t, you don’t have a contract, and you don’t have a deadline.

Okay? So that’s what I mean by aspiring. So let’s start with the first principle I mentioned. The, that branding is all about the know, like, and trust factor. So people do business with brands that they know, like, and trust. You may have heard this said to you before.

And you may have been like, okay. I can help them get to know, like, and trust me. I can show up on Instagram. I can write blog posts. I can do these things. And so you start to do them. And you’re like, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I show up. And nobody follows me. Nobody likes my posts. So there must be something wrong with me.

They don’t know, they don’t like me. And you kind of get into this cycle. And that’s when we start blaming the algorithm. Really, like, oh, well, I’m just not getting in front of people, so they can’t get to know me. So they can’t get to like me, so they can’t get to trust me. And you [00:06:00] say this, and you try to do all the things to get in front of the algorithm, so you might start doing Content that you don’t necessarily enjoy, like dancing in front of a camera.

So you’re like, I really hate reels, but I have to do them. And so you do it. And so there’s just this like this cycle, this hamster wheel that you get on and you are in this mode of trying to appease the social media platform. Because you think that it is the reason why you’re not gaining followers because they can’t get to know, like, and trust you.

The reality is that’s not really what’s hindering you. You as an author can help somebody get to know you. You can help somebody get to like you. But until you have a book contract or you have a book in production, you cannot deliver that trust factor. Here’s what I mean by that. Up until the point you have a book contract either with the literary agent or a book publisher.

Actually, I would probably argue not until you have a book contract with a [00:07:00] publisher and or your book is into production as an indie author. Up until that moment, you have no product to sell. You only can sell the possibility of a product.

So imagine with me for a second, that you are in Instagram and you’re scrolling past and you come across a complete stranger.

And they’re like, I’m a writer, I have this novel, I really love this story, and I think you’re going to love it too. And here’s this general premise, and here’s some little bitty tips about, or little tidbits about the character. The setting. Here’s the aesthetic. Here’s the genre. And you give all these little pieces to them, and they’re like, ooh, okay, I can see this.

I can see this going somewhere. I’m intrigued. So you follow them. And then a year passes by. And it’s still, I have this idea. This is where it’s at. I’m querying people. You’re like, okay. All right. So she’s in the middle of the journey. [00:08:00] Another year passes. She’s still querying. You’re like, okay. Another year passes.

And you’re like, I’ve seen that mood board before. Oh, she’s revising her novel again. Another year passes, and you’re like, um, okay, this is, this is, this is starting to get repetitive. I, eh. And maybe you unfollow her. Or you’re scrolling, you come across a stranger, and they’re like, so I have this novel, it’s this, this, this.

And you’re like, okay, that sounds good. And you’re like, when is it coming out? Where, where could I buy this? And they’re like, but I’m just shopping it around. I have queries. I’m going to go attend this conference. And you’re like, okay, I’ll come back when she actually has something. And Right now imagine you’re in your inbox and you’re going through your emails and you’re like, oh, let me see if she has any news Oh, nope.

No news. Oh, who is this author again? I followed her but I don’t remember who she is because she doesn’t email me that often and What was her book again about I [00:09:00] want you to be really honest put yourself in the shoes of somebody who is on a noisy platform or in a very full inbox and they’re dealing with having to decide how they’re going to divide their time, how they’re going to navigate the sheer amount of noise that they have to navigate in their newsfeeds, in their inboxes.

If you were in their shoes, would you pay attention to the complete stranger that has only a possibility of a novel? I wouldn’t, now there are some people that I have stuck with and I have been in this journey with them, following them on Instagram, following them, being a part of their email newsletters.

I will tell you, they are my friends. I, there are very few people, I can only think of like two accounts that I still follow just hoping that they will get picked up by a publisher because I really like the premise of their book and I really like them. But [00:10:00] I will tell you that when I come across new accounts and they’re like, I’m a writer and I have this novel idea and I’m doing these things, they don’t look professional to me.

They look like they have a hobby, and I don’t know that I can trust that they will ever deliver on that promise of a novel. And there’s other people who can deliver on a promise of a novel, and so in my limited time frame that I have to spend, I choose to follow the people that can actually deliver on that promise. The people that I trust to give me a product that they promised me.

 So that may sound a little harsh. Right? You as a listener who writes fiction and haven’t been published yet, you might be like, throwing your hands up in the air and being like, Well, I’m screwed.

Like, there’s nothing I can do. These people are not following me because I can’t deliver on a promise. And you, Rachel, you talk about showing up and doing the things that you can control and not worrying about the outcomes. So now are you telling me I have to worry about the outcomes? To that I’m saying, no, you don’t have to worry about the outcomes, but I want you to think about the inputs [00:11:00] differently.

I want you to think about the fact that you have this little bitty time to catch the attention of a stranger. Because, more than likely, you probably have a couple hundred people following you on Instagram or wherever you’re at, and the majority of those people are your friends and family.

So you have to get outside that network of friends. You have to get outside of that network of writer friends, outside of that network of church friends. You have to get that outside of that to a new ring of people and those new ring of people, they are strangers and you have five seconds to capture their attention. You have such a short attention span with social media.

 You can’t control how fast your platform grows, but you can control the content you put on your social media channels.

You can control the type of things you create that you point Pinterest to on your blog. You can control YouTube videos that you [00:12:00] create. And you can control these things, right? You can control these things. I want you to start thinking of them not as content. I want you to start thinking of them as mini products.

Because what you have to start doing is training people that if you say you’re going to create this thing, you can deliver on that. That gives them enough Buy in to stick with you during the long years it takes to get your book published traditionally. And even if you’re not going the traditional route, you still have to give people enough of a taste of what you can do and that you can deliver on your promises so that they trust you as an indie author.

Okay? Because we all know, we all know there are indie authors out there who promise all these really big things and then they don’t deliver on them. Okay, we’ve seen it. And we don’t want to be those indie authors. We don’t want to be the authors who are always saying they’re going to do something and then they flake out.

That’s not who we are. And the Bible actually talks about not being those people. [00:13:00] That your yes is yes, and your no is no. That you are true to your word. That you are found consistent and faithful, right? And so we need to look at the content we’re creating, whether it’s a post for our social media, a video for our YouTube, or a blog for our website.

We look at those as mini products that people are getting to consume and anticipate, and I would say probably more so than just like post on your, on your social media platforms, I would say really consider creating blog posts that are short stories, or creating videos on YouTube that are you telling stories, either one, I know there’s this That’s more for another episode, um, because there’s more I can say there about that.

And so you as an author, what you’re trying to do is you’re not just trying to get them to know you and to like you, you’re trying to get them to trust you. And as a brand, the only way you really truly can do that is by creating a product, by promising something and [00:14:00] delivering on it. By giving them a product that does what you said it’s going to do.

So if it’s a short story, and you say, this is a short story about X, Y, and Z, and you’re going to experience this, and here’s the synopsis, then that’s, better be what that short story does, right?

 Now there’s different thoughts on like what should be free, what should be paid, you know, what should be an email opt in, and that we don’t have time for that in this episode, but I want you to just shift your mindset into: so, what can I do to create trust between me and the audience?

And one of these things that I’m going to challenge you on is showing up consistently in your email, on your social media platforms. Show up consistently, even if it’s just in your Instagram stories. Show up consistently, because if you said, I’m an author that serves you, the reader, And then you go and hide for a couple of months.[00:15:00]

How is that building trust between you and the audience? So I just I want to encourage you to think really critically about this Really take a good look at yourself and say am I doing this am I building trust between me and my reader? Am I telling them that I do these things that I serve them in this way and If I say to them, I’m serving them in this way, am I actually serving them in this way?

Now, nonfiction authors have an easier time of this because it naturally flows. They say, I’m going to help you do X, Y, and Z. I’m going to teach you how to do sourdough. And then they teach them how to do sourdough. They’re not waiting for that book deal to teach them how to do sourdough. Now, they might get a book deal with recipes of sourdough and how to as a beginner, but in the meantime, they get to do the thing that they’re promising they’re going to do.

Fiction writers, we have to get creative about showing them that we will do what we said we’re going to do. We’re going to [00:16:00] entertain them in the way that we said we’re going to entertain them. We’re going to move them in the way that we said we’re going to move them. We’re going to talk about a certain subject from a certain worldview in the form of a story. And then we do that. We have to build trust with our audience. That’s one of the key ways we’re going to grow an audience.

Now that’s building know, like, and trust with your audience. And that goes a long way. That people do business with brands that they know, like, and trust. Right?

Okay, so let’s go into, The second part of this, the idea of serving your reader. Now, you have probably heard this. I kind of just hinted at it a little bit with the non fiction example. And it is so hard for fiction writers to figure out, how do I serve my audience when I don’t have a novel? Like, there’s nothing I can really promote them, promote to them.

How do I get them on my email list? All those things. Now, I’m not going to go into lead magnets and all that right now, your email list. What I want to focus on right now [00:17:00] is changing your mindset about how you’re serving your reader on your online platform and in your email list.

 Because here’s the thing, you’ve done the hard work of figuring out what problem your product, your novel is solving for your reader. You’ve done the work of figuring out who your reader is. You have done this research, you’ve identified this, this person, you’ve identified their desires, their wants, their problems.

You have created a novel that is going to I am it’s going to appeal to them But that’s not why they’re coming to your platform. That’s not why they’re opting on your email list The reasons why they’re doing those two things is because they’re trying to get to know like and trust you. Those are primarily but also they’re trying to figure out are you actually going to deliver them a product that is going to be worth their time and energy. That’s their problem when they’re coming to you on the platform. Their problem [00:18:00] is Will this novel be a waste of my time? Will this novel be worth it? And that is the thing they’re trying to solve.

That’s the problem they’re trying to figure out when they’re Googling you, when they’re following you on Instagram, when they’re reading your blog posts, when they’re watching your YouTube videos, when they’re doing any kind of engaging with you, even before you are published, they are trying to figure out, is your novel going to meet their needs?

Is it going to be worth it? And so their problem is not What their problem is when they read the novel their problem is trying to figure out if your novel is going to be worth it. So they’re doing they’re like due diligence They’re doing the research into you and if you reframe the content that you’re making on your platform To that angle it suddenly becomes clear what content you need to make right?

It suddenly becomes clear what you’re your lead [00:19:00] magnet is, it suddenly becomes clear how you write your emails to them, what videos to make on your YouTube channel. You’re going to create content that answers this big overarching question, is it worth it to read this novel? Is this novel going to be worth it?

And your content is going to overwhelm them with yes and it’s going to get them excited about this novel.

So your content is going to revolve around sub questions, questions that fall into this big category of, is it going to be worth it? It’s going to be more things like, is this going to be written by a worldview I agree with? And if it’s not, is that going to be a problem? It’s going to answer questions like, is this novel going to trigger me in any way?

Is this novel going to go deep? Or is it going to stay a little surface level? Is this novel going to make me laugh? Or is it going to make me cry? Or is it going to make me do both? Is this novel going to be, [00:20:00] Something that I want to spend a long time with? Or is this something that’s going to be a quick and fun easy read?

Is this novel something that’s going to have a lot of verbose prose in it? Let’s try to say that phrase three times fast. Um, verbose prose in it? Or is it going to be more of an easy read? You know, there are some readers who struggle with reading. And so, knowing That you are a wordy author or more of a literary approach in your writing, um, might be something they need to figure out.

Is your novel going to be really unique in its formatting, in its approach, or not? Is your novel going to come from the first person or the third person? Is it going to be dual, dual perspectives? Is it going to time jump? There’s just all these things that they want to know about your novel because if the answer is like a flowchart, it’s like If this, then this, if that, then this, if [00:21:00] this, then that, all going down to the bottom of the flowchart where it’s, buy my novel.

If this is true, if this is true, if this is true, buy my novel. If you like books like this, go here. If you don’t, then go here. To the bottom of the flowchart where it’s, yes, buy my novel. Right? And so your content is helping them go through that, even if you haven’t published your novel yet. And so the key here, I think, is first believing you have a novel that is worth their time reading.

But you also have to identify it’s worth their time reading if they like this. If they enjoy that, if they have this worldview, if they care about this, or if they care about that, then they’ll enjoy reading this novel. You have to answer that for them. That’s how you’re serving them on your online platform and in your email list.

I hope this has been helpful for you today in Identifying these kind of big marketing perspectives and how we can maybe apply them a [00:22:00] little bit better to our own platform growth. If you got any value out of this episode, please, if you’re watching this on YouTube, leave me a comment below. Tell me which of these you found insightful.

Maybe you disagree with me. Maybe you’re like, yeah, that’s not at all true. Or maybe you’re like, yes, this makes sense for the first time in my life as a fiction writer. Either way, let me know. I would love to engage in that conversation with you in the comments. If you’re not watching this on YouTube, if you’re listening to this on the podcast, you can always DM me on Instagram at Rachel Fahrenbach. And if you have a writer friend that is also struggling to build their platform as an aspiring fiction writer. Would you please forward this episode to them and let them know about it because it might help them reframe and rethink some things so that they can make a little bit better progress this year in serving their reader and building that know, like, and trust factor.

 Thank you for joining me today. Join me back here next week as we continue this conversation on the business of Christian fiction.


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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!

I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority. 

You can learn more about how I’m in your corner here.

And you can learn more about my personal journey here.

One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.

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