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What Publishers and PR People Don’t Understand

Lauren Marie Fleming (otherwise known as Queerie Bradshaw) wrote a fantastic post on BlogHer about not having a lot of followers but her blog and social media accounts still having worth.  The irony is that I read the post, and ultimately ended up featuring the post, because her name caught my eye.  It was an instantaneous, “what does Queerie Bradshaw have to say?” moment of recognition.  Which is ironic since she was told by publishers that her platform wasn’t strong enough:

Four years and one major brand redesign later, my numbers are still not impressive to many people. On a regular basis, I am still shot down, rejected, and denied simply because I am not famous enough.

Clearly famous enough in my world.


I know that publishers and PR people and the gatekeepers of the world need to start somewhere, but numbers are such a bizarre way of determining a person’s worth and reach.  A person could write hateful, anger-producing things and ultimately gain a lot of attention by trolling people.  So big numbers, but do they really have big reach and big influence?

The people who get under our skin, who ultimately influence our spending habits or move us to action, are rarely the big names associated with far reach.  That type of influence is personal, and because it is personal, it usually happens on a smaller, more intimate level.

For instance, JK Rowling can tell me to buy something, and maybe I will if I was already inclined to buy the product anyway and was looking for a reminder to push me over the edge.  Or maybe I won’t because in the back of my mind, I just don’t feel that sort of connection to her because I’ve never interacted with her.  I’m sure she’s a great person and I certainly love her books, but there is a piece missing in that relationship.  It is entirely one-sided.

On the other hand, my mother can tell me to buy something, and even if I wasn’t thinking about buying that thing at first, it’s now in my mind because I trust my mother’s opinion.  We have a personal connection.  The same goes for other family members, friends, and bloggers I loyally read.  If you’re in my feed reader, it means I trust your opinion and am interested in hearing what you have to say.

True reach is having a small core group of people who are so smitten with your words or thoughts or product that they’re willing to use their reach to extend your reach.  And those big names who have never gotten a chance to connect personally with people skip that step.  There is no foundation to their reach so it folds like a card house once the wind changes.  But a small, steady blogger like Lauren Marie Fleming — I would argue — has farther, longer-lasting reach because she has loyal readers who are willing to extend her reach by letting her indirectly use their reach.

Like this post.

Listen, I don’t know Lauren personally, and I’m sure she couldn’t pick me out of a crowd.  But I spoke to her once at BlogHer and clearly was impressed enough to retain the name and read her online.  And now I’m writing a post about her post, which means that her words are spreading to a new audience (or, at least, partially a new audience since I’m sure we have some overlap).  THAT is more important — being able to get people to lend their reach — than having that reach yourself.

Because here’s the thing: you can have 1 million followers on Twitter.  Unless all 1 million followers are invested in your words and want to support you, that enormous number is meaningless.  Remove the bots and spam accounts and you still have a large chunk of those followers who are as insubstantial as air.  They are going to drift away the moment they don’t feel like they’re getting any value from your words.  Easy come, easy go.

But a person with 1000 followers, who has built personal relationships and supported the people who support her, has lasting power.  And when she needs to use her reach, she not only has 1000 followers.  She likely, with a simple request, has their followers and maybe even those follower’s followers.  THAT is true reach, and that is something the people mentioned in her article don’t really get because it’s difficult to measure.  It’s easier for publishers and PR people to flock towards the person with 1 million followers because they can point at a number and say, “See, people listen.”  And sometimes that does pay off, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of the time, it doesn’t pay off for the long haul.

But there is no clear way of measuring lasting power and extended reach.

Her post is food for thought, and the end message is simple: keep writing.


1 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.03.16 at 9:05 am }

Her post really resonated with me, as does this one. Klout, Kred, and others I don’t know about (like the one Lauren mentions in the article) — none have an algorithm to measure what’s really important.

2 Noemi { 05.03.16 at 12:34 pm }

I don’t know if I agree that numbers are a bizarre measure for publishers and PR people to grab on to. I mean, their ultimate goal is to make money, and the more people know about something, and are possibly invested in spending money on it, the more chance there is of it being successful (at making money). If connection is the desired outcome, then I think you’re right: numbers is not the ultimate goal. In fact, I would argue that the more people you have reading and following you, the less likely you are to make real and lasting connections. But if making money is the goal, then I think 600 dedicated, avid readers is not the same as even twice as many less dedicated readers. I could be wrong though.

This reminds me of that conversation on Lori’s blog, about whether people should pursue something they love even if they will never be recognized by the world at large for their efforts. If they are doing that thing (dancing, painting, writing) for the love of doing it, and find satisfaction in the time spent on that endeavor, then why not pursue it for as long as it continues to make them happy? But if they are doing it to ultimately make a living (or even just some monetary compensation) and the end goal is for others to recognize their talents, pursuing that thing forever might ultimately cause them misery (if they never gain that recognition or make money).

I write because the actual act of writing is rewarding, and because I have come to depend on the community of people who interact with me via my writing. In that way, my blog is a huge success in my own life. But I could never use it to get published, and if recognition is what I craved, I would probably consider it a failure. Because I would agree with the publists and PR people, my small number of readers are amazing, but the aren’t going to make my book successful or generate earnings.

3 Mel { 05.03.16 at 12:42 pm }

It reminds me of an old post by the Bloggess: http://thebloggess.com/2009/01/im-starting-to-question-why-i-even-have-minions-to-begin-with/. It’s sort of the point — just because someone has a lot of followers/readers/etc doesn’t mean that those numbers translate into loyalty or sales or sustained interest. And while the post is tongue-in-cheek and I don’t really think she cared if she won, the point is that she highlights this fact about the Internet. Big numbers are often empty numbers.

For what it’s worth, I think a blogger with a smaller, loyal, long-term, steady following is a better bet than a blogger with a larger, explosive following.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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