Audience Development for Writers: Your Life-Long Career Investment

It’s not about the number of friends or fans you have.

It’s not about yelling the loudest.

It’s not about biting your lip and engaging in self-promotion.

Audience development is about finding meaningful ways to find and connect with your readers, over the span of your career.

In my lunch talk at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop (20 minutes), I discuss my personal story of growing my readership, then share principles I follow to make it an enjoyable and sustainable process.

A fun place to start is about 4:20, where I show how much traffic my website received after I first launched it. To get straight to some practical tips, start at 13:00.

Share this
Posted in Business for Writers, Digital Media, Marketing & Promotion, Social Media, Work-Life and tagged , , , , , .

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 publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

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. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

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.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary Buford Hitz

Jane – your speech to the Midwestern Writers’ Conference was superb – very helpful to me. In October I will launch a self-published novel about horseback riders who run into the backlash from Hurricane Camille in August of 1969, that
dumped 29 inches of rain in five hours on Nelson County, VA. David Moody and Chris Read are helping me go from 0 to 60 with social media, and everything you say confirms the legitimacy of finding the kernel and expanding from there.
Thank You,
Mary Buford Hitz

[…] Friedman: Audience Development for Writers: Your Life-Long Career Investment. Excerpt: “In my lunch talk at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop (20 minutes), I discuss my […]

Jennifer M Eaton

It’s really great that you share so much of your experience. I have no idea how I originally found you, but your posts are some of the few that I do look forward to. Your content is always fresh and real. It must be hard, though, to keep that up and have a life too.

Anne Hill

What a great set of principles for growing audience engagement, Jane. I know you write about electric speed, but what I like about your suggestions is that they are about learning at human speed. It’s important to get those lightning strikes, but even more important to settle in for a long-term investment of time and effort.

Margaret Duarte

Thank you Jane. This was helpful in showing that success isn’t instant, but gained slowly–and earned. How nice to know the process can also be enjoyed!

Newton Saber

That is a great talk. Thanks very much for sharing. I’ve struggled with having a domain but never actually developing it also. I finally completed 3 of my books and now attempting to balance the web site dev / marketing (required work) with the writing (the work I really want to do). Thanks again.

Nina Amir

I loved this speech, Jane. I think it’s so helpful to people to hear how others who are ahead of them on the path have succeeded. It provides mentoring. I loved your five audience development steps, in particular the “incremental improvements.” I tend to beat myself up when I discover I haven’t done something on my blog that I know I should be doing. :~0 But my blogs continue to be a work in progress. I know a lot but don’t always have the time to implement. So I take baby steps, which is what I tell others to do… Read more »


Excellent speech, Jane. Thank you for sharing your pathway to audience development. Such practical and solid advice about how our platform should be an extension of who we and what brings us enjoyment. You show how being “passive and patient” and having fun pay off. I’m sharing this all over as so many feel so pressured to be everywhere and make “it” happen overnight.


My favorite part of the video is when you advise others to build around an activity they enjoy. People often give this advice, but you really live it. In fact, what stood out the most about getting to know you, Jane, is how well you segue from work to play. Because you enjoy what you do, the transition was invisible to me.


Thanks for sharing this speech. Love the bubbles as they do show that every writer is unique in what they are about. I finally got my blog turned into a webpage (with a blog). Better for landing where my books are while sharing what I love — history. I enjoy Twitter and find it very helpful in finding articles on publishing, agents and writing. I started following you at your website then twitter, now here at Google+. Try to not let it consume me while I write.

Trish Feehan

Great speech, Jane. I found you on Twitter and love your posts. It was nice to ‘see’ you in person! As you say here, ultimately it’s the quality of the content that attracts and KEEPS readers. Your posts are intelligent, relevant, current and – most importantly – your authenticity shines through. It’s not all about self-promotion. You genuinely want to help, to share your knowledge and insights with others. I, for one, thank you! I like the idea of the kernel and will put some thought into what that is for me. Also, really appreciate your advice to only contact… Read more »

Danica Boutte

That makes total sense. I started thinking that it was going to be a process long ago and that if I just made sure I continued putting out new content, eventually, it will all work out properly. Thanks for the reinforcement of that thought.

[…] VIDEO: Audience Development for Writers | Jane Friedman […]

Shirley Hershey Showalter

I love speeches about how voice and focus emerge and how relationships develop in social media. This was fabulous, Jane. Thank you.

[…] week, Jane Friedman posted a video of her talk from the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop on Audience Development. In the video, she […]


Thanks for the encouragement and for posting where sections start. I’d love to hear your story, but didn’t think I could spare 20 minutes. Seven minutes to check for new things to do was much more reasonable.
It’s funny, you have a huge audience and no book. I HAD to write a book because I couldn’t find one like it and am working on building an audience for when it comes out. Life is odd. 🙂


[…] One of my favorite bloggers on writing and publishing – Jane Friedman – talks about how to build a platform. Funny *and* […]

[…] can watch her video, Audience Development for Writers here, or check it out on her blog to hear more about her personal journey with audience development and enjoy her use of […]

Marlene Cullen

Jane, this was an especially meaningful post for me. I’ve been struggling with getting my bog launched. Your honesty is an inspiration for me to keep going . . . a little at a time and with patience and fortitude, my blog will be launched!

[…] platform is not something you do overnight. It’s not a one-time event. Jane Friedman has a short video explaining the importance of starting early for your long term career […]


Seems the male species is somewhat under-represented as it pertains to the comments and accolades for your lovely speech 😀 I’m a budding writer, working on my first novel and ran across your website… Just wanted to say that I enjoyed it much and appreciate the information – and loved the delivery too! I already have a website etc. but ZERO traffic and so have let it slip away without adding any content to the first flush of posts! I really did enjoy writing and also posting photographs (I’m a photographer) but just ran out of motivation. Your little talk… Read more »

[…] Friedman, J. (2013, Aug. 3). Audience development for writers: Your life-long career investment. Jane Friedman. Retrieved from […]