How do you follow that fabulous article?

By Jessica Albon

It’s every writer’s dream: to write an article that’s so well received by readers that it prompts a rush of emails. When it happens to you, after that first flush of the thrill of genuinely connecting and communicating comes the challenge of responding. And then, as you answer the last reader email, your fingers crooked and cramped from all the typing… You slowly realize you have to write next week’s article.

And the question becomes how do you follow that success?

Fortunately, there’s an actual surefire formula and I’m going to share it with you.

Step One: Watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk. Know that this is super common and can strike on any scale. Perhaps you have a smaller list and were blown away by hearing from six or seven subscribers. Or maybe you have a larger list and are recovering from answering a hundred or so. Or maybe you’re really lucky and you heard from nearly 250 lovely readers… The truth is, the number of readers writing in doesn’t matter as much as you’d think it would. What matters more is both the increase in numbers over “regular” feedback numbers and the kind of feedback you get. It’s one thing when most readers write: “Loved the issue. Thanks!” and another one entirely when an article you’ve written really inspires them and they share that inspiration with you. Anyway, watch that talk and know that all writers can become daunted by feedback–or not–depending on how they view what’s going on.

Step Two: Accept that they’re not going to all resonate with your readers. And, if you can, let go of trying to predict which articles will resonate and which will fall flat. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun if you let yourself be surprised.

Step Three: Go back to your formula. Typically, articles that genuinely inspire your audience fall outside your “normal” structure in some way. You might be tempted to make that your new formula, but truthfully, it’s usually smarter to go back to your regular approach in the next issue. That way, those times when you break with your standard formula will continue to stand out for readers.

Step Four: Know that it’s okay to want to dissuade feedback a bit after you’ve gotten a lot of it. For me, I tend to feel a little hesitant about publishing immediately after a popular article. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from you! It’s just that sometimes the volume of feedback I get is a little intimidating and I worry both about the next issue being a disappointment and about how I’ll handle another surge of email. As you get more accustomed to surges of feedback, you’ll worry less about future surges, but I’m not sure you ever lose that concern that you’ll disappoint your readers going forward. (And if you have, by all means, tell me how! ;-))

Step Five: Give yourself *more* time to write the next issue. Sometimes my clients get a little cocky when they get a lot of extra feedback on an issue. They believe they’ve “unlocked” the *secrets* to article writing and they think it’s all downhill from there… Sadly, what usually happens after a big burst of feedback is that the next issue is harder to write and takes you more time. So, make sure that you schedule a bit of a cushion in so that you don’t unnecessarily frustrate yourself (or rush through the issue).

As exciting as it is to hear from a big surge of subscribers, it does require a shift in perspective for your next issue. By following these five steps, you’ll be able to confidently follow up your most popular articles.

(And by the way, if you’ve never had a big surge of reader feedback, let’s talk. I can brainstorm article topics with you that your readers are sure to love–heck, if you’d like, I’ll even write them for you.)