Launching an Online Community: Q&A With Author-Entrepreneur Alexis Grant

Alexis Grant

Today I have the pleasure of sharing an e-mail interview I conducted with author Alexis Grant (@alexisgrant), who just launched a new site for writers, The Write Life.

If you’re not familiar with Alexis, her background is in journalism; she’s written for a wide range of publications, including the U.S. News & World Report, the Houston Chronicle, Salon, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune, and many more. Since 2011, she has worked as an entrepreneur, helping small businesses with blogging, e-mail marketing, and social media—which includes serving as managing editor of Brazen Careerist.

You’ve long had your own site and blog (alexisgrant.com), where you’ve served an audience of writers, and now you’ll be maintaining both your personal brand website and The Write Life website. One of first questions that would come to any author’s mind is: Do you now have double the work for yourself? What’s the advantage of having the separate site or brand, The Write Life, instead of growing alexisgrant.com?

The advantage is we’re able to reach a specific target audience: writers. On my own site, alexisgrant.com, my focus is more broad, on careers and making your own luck. While a lot of writers do read my blog, I don’t want to write only about writing.

And yet, while building my own brand, I recognized a HUGE need for writing-related resources—which is why I created The Write Life. This new project is my baby, but it’s not directly associated with my name or my brand. We want it to live as its own brand.

Building a website and a community is a lot of work. But I don’t do it all myself. I’m in the business of building brands; my company, Socialexis, runs blogs and social media for small businesses. I have a team of about 10 awesome go-getters who deliver value for our clients, and they’re making The Write Life happen, too. I oversee the site, but I’m not doing all the legwork myself.

I should also mention that my team and I only write a portion of the blog posts on The Write Life. We’re open to guest contributors, so plenty of other experienced writers share their advice, too. We still have to edit, schedule and promote those posts, but we’re not writing everything ourselves.

What does The Write Life offer writers that they may not be finding elsewhere?

We’re looking to fill a few big gaps in the blogosphere.

First, it’s a one-stop shop. You won’t find a lot of websites for writers that cover both freelance advice and how to write fiction. Most blogs focus on a particular aspect of writing, while we’re covering everything from marketing to blogging to traditional publishing to self-publishing.

Second, we really want to create a community where you’ll hear from lots of voices. So many writers have great knowledge to share, and we want to give them a place to share it, so we can all benefit.

Third, we’re pulling back the curtain on products for writers by reviewing e-books and courses. There are so many resources out there that writers can use to improve their skills, and we want to help writers figure out which ones are smartest to invest in.

You’ve got some hard hitters who have posts at The Write Life, e.g., Chuck Sambuchino and Rachelle Gardner. How did you make that happen? 

Yes! We’ve got an awesome Launch Team. This is largely a result of my own personal network, one I’ve been growing since I started blogging in 2008. Here are three things that helped us get these big names on board:

+ I had personal relationships with almost everyone on the Launch Team. Many of those bloggers were willing to join the project as a favor to me, and I’ve done what I can to help them succeed in return. Networking is so much of succeeding with a project like this!

+ We tried our best to make it worthwhile for the Launch Team. We’ve looked for ways to send traffic to their site and featured their names prominently on the site, as well as our Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter channels. We really appreciate their contributions, and we want them to feel that love.

+ We made it easy for them. This is the biggie. We didn’t ask our Launch Team for much more than two blog posts, and we did the rest of the heavy lifting for them. When you ask someone for a favor, you really want to go out of your way to make it easy to accomplish!

As far as all the guides and courses you offer writers, which one (or ones) have been the most popular?

Glad you asked this, because we just launched a new course specifically for writers! It’s called Social Media for Writers: Grow an Awesome Network on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. When you sign up, you’ll get a series of 20 daily e-mails, each with ONE practical tip to help you grow your network. Several of my courses are in this format, and participants love them because it makes social media—which can feel overwhelming—doable. Plus, it’s fun.

I also offer a guide called How to Build a Freakin’ Fabulous Social Media Strategy that a lot of writers turn to for help figuring out where they should focus their efforts when building a platform online.

I see that you’ve used Facebook ads to help grow the Facebook presence of The Write Life. I can’t help but ask—because I know many authors are curious about how to use Facebook advertising effectively—if you’ve been satisfied with the experience. Any advice?

Yes! I’m really happy to talk about this because I learned a lot through this experiment. And that’s really what it was: before this campaign, we hadn’t used paid Facebook advertisements much to grow our Facebook pages.

Here’s what we learned: It works. For good or for bad, Facebook has set up their system to reward pages that pay for advertising. We worked with a strategist who specializes in Facebook ads to target the right people, and added more than 1,000 fans to our page early on as a result.

This was an investment on our part, but I believe it’s worth it because it helps jump-start the website and the brand. It’s never easy to get over that initial hump when you first launch a project and look to grow a community, and this helped us quickly build a base of loyal fans.

What are some of your favorite posts on The Write Life so far?

I love blogger James Chartrand’s post on how to become a master copywriter in just one year. We’ve also got a super piece from fiction writer Dana Bate on why the book chooses the writer—not the other way around. And freelancer Tom Ewer wrote about why he’s been able to succeed as a freelance writer.

We’re also offering a free e-book: How to Land Your First Paying Client. I hope a few of your writers grab it!


The Write Life

Click here to go explore The Write Life for yourself.

Posted in Author Q&A, Marketing & Promotion and tagged , , , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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4 Comments on "Launching an Online Community: Q&A With Author-Entrepreneur Alexis Grant"

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Lexa Cain

It’s great to hear about Alexis’s success and her new venture. I’ll be visiting the site soon. 🙂

Chris

Thank you for the interview, I signed up for The Write Life posts when they started and have enjoyed and learned from all the posts. Just like I do from yours, Jane.

Alexis Grant

Awesome to hear, Chris!

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[…] Launching an Online Community: Q&A with Author/Entrepreneur Alexis Grant by @JaneFriedman – A behind-the-scenes look at a new writers’ community that looks like a great resource: The Write Life. […]

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