Rhys Keller is no stranger to writing. For twenty years, he’s been creating things in written format, but only in the past two years has he put that creativity to work for him. If you’re a creative, you’re going to LOVE this next interview! It’s all about how to build your brand and make a splash online. Check it out! 😃
Full Interview with Rhys Keller on How he Built his Brand:
1. Welcome to Journey to KidLit! Tell us a little bit about yourself as a creative.
For nearly two decades, I’ve been doing just that (the telling a little bit about myself) but in a terrible way. I grew up making websites, primarily blogs, and went from one idea to the next. At each transition, my message and audience changed to ultimately leave scattered and disconnected pieces across the web.
Over the last two years, I’ve taken a closer look at the underlying motivations of creative pursuits. It’s led me to realize my own passion for communicating and connecting with people.
One day, for a reason I can’t remember, I wondered what I would do to fill my days in retirement. The answer was clear. I would write and speak on topics that helped people or at a bare minimum, entertained them. Then, a crazy wild thought popped in my mind. Why on Earth would I wait until retirement to do that?
That moment ignited a spark within me that took more than 20 years of blogging, poetry, and technical writing experience and channeled it into a creative pursuit to communicate to people.
2. We’re all about children’s books here. What kind of books do you write?
The very first result of my rediscovered passion was a picture book manuscript. That manuscript, which I am still tweaking, pointed me in the direction of learning all I could about children’s books, the authors and illustrators that create them, and the publishing teams that bring them into the world. Many children’s book manuscripts later, my older brother self-published a science fiction novel titled Trials.
While I read it, I couldn’t hold back ideas for the series and, after sharing some ideas with him, I began writing the prequel. At the time, I hadn’t expected to be involved in building a blog, writing children’s books, and writing science fiction all at once. But as us writers know, it was only a matter of time until another bug bit me…Young Adult.
Many tens of thousands of words later I find myself in the querying trenches across genres and more importantly, in the #WritingCommunity on Twitter with amazing people by my side. As a father of three, children’s books hold a special place in my heart as I’ve read many thousands of available books and notice holes on the bookstore and library shelves that could contain many more delightful reads.
3. You’ve been able to build quite a brand for yourself! First, what made you want to start a blog?
Believe me when I tell you I had no idea what my current blog, RhysKeller.com would become. Like any other pursuit, I could only see the first step and then the next step. I began sharing thoughts on writing, motivation, and creative pursuits. But when I held my first interview with an author, I was blown away by how satisfying and helpful the content was.
I couldn’t help but continue looking for more remarkable people to interview in order to bring encouragement and insight to the many people in the publishing industry. While my website grew, so did my Twitter platform. Unlike many other social media platforms, Twitter’s focus on short text communications makes it ideal for creatives to connect and share.
I am humbled by not just the number of people that connect with me on social media and my website but also the quality of people. There are truly amazing people all around us and I believe I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
4. What has been the most rewarding thing for you since starting your blog?
Connecting with people. It’s all about people and we are all in the people business. What started out as a solo endeavor to develop my work, promote my work, and ultimately sell my work, became an endeavor to learn about and connect with other people. I quickly realized Zig Ziglar’s classic saying holds true, that you’ll get everything you want if you help enough other people get what they want.
Interestingly enough, I hadn’t realized what I truly wanted when I first started blogging. I thought it was just about me. What I found is that elevating other people, bringing exposure to them, and helping other people succeed has made me more successful and more satisfied.
5. You also manage a Twitter account with a large following! How were you able to grow your network?
It’s still wild to me to think that I’ve connected with so many people. When you’re climbing steps, you really don’t see or expect to see what will happen 12,000 steps up the staircase. When I first started with Twitter, I was just shooting in the dark. I didn’t have much rhyme or reason for how I interacted with the platform or people on the platform.
I’m curious by nature though to understand how things work and become more efficient. I’ve written a few different blog articles on how to grow Twitter followers the right way and how we can build our brand as creatives in the way we interact with people. Ultimately, growing a Twitter following or any social media platform comes down to 3 simple ingredients: Providing value to people, interacting with people, and giving to people before expecting to get from people.
Notice how it’s all about the people?
6. How has that reach impacted your blog or writing at all?
I learned first hand two remarkable things when I held my first blog interview. The interviewee shared the content on their social media platforms and people who knew the interviewee also shared the content. Giving other people exposure magnified my platform. As I provided more and more value on social media and my blog, and more and more people were eager to share the content because it was helpful to them or they had skin in the game for whatever reason, my reach was impacted in a big way.
About two years ago when I launched the blog and my Twitter account, no one was reading either of them. Now, my reach on Twitter has nearly approached the 1,000,000 impressions per month mark, something I never even considered was possible. And that is done while having less than 13,000 followers. My website traffic and engagement levels have similarly grown as my Twitter reach grows, though now I see more incoming traffic from other social media sources because of people sharing the content.
I can’t imagine how many more people could be helped and encouraged if I was connected to hundreds of thousands of people. And since I can’t imagine it, I’m going to keep growing and find out first hand.
7. What is the essential step creatives should take to build a brand?
Creatives want to create something unique and valuable. We want to be remarkable. It is essential then, for us to not lose sight of authenticity. We already have everyone else doing their thing. We need you to do your thing. We need me to do my thing. We must take responsibility for exploring, determining, and carrying out our own goals and objectives in life, not someone else’s.
8. When’s the ideal time for someone to start to build their brand awareness?
The ideal time to start building a brand is the same as the ideal time to plant a tree. Twenty years ago. It is never too early to begin building the brand and the sooner we do it, the sooner we will reap the rewards from it. It’s far easier to set sail for a course than to learn how far off track we are and have to course correct.
9. What’s the hardest struggle you’ve run into while building your brand?
Confusion. I often confuse myself with distractions. While I can easily blame time management or other responsibilities for taking my focus away from cultivating my brand, it’s really that I am walking a meandering path. As we all are. Singular focus is the optimal way to achieve any goal. But people aren’t naturally bent to do that.
We meander. We stroll. We take detours and wonder if all is lost and we should just give up now and go eat a tub of ice cream. Consistent quality work is hard. That’s why “they” say hard work pays off.
Hard work separates us from the masses. Hard work separates the aspiring from the accomplished. Building a brand, a remarkable brand, is hard work. You’ve got to do it when you don’t feel like it and you’ve got to keep at it when you feel like changing course. Thankfully, overcoming the struggle of being confused leads to a greater sense of satisfaction in our work and our brand.
10. What would be your number 1 piece of advice for other creatives looking to grow their network?
It’s really easy to make assumptions or cling to preconceived notions. I say lose them. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Right?
Well, we are the horse. We have to decide if we’re going to drink or not. We have to decide if we are going to implement solutions that successful people are recommending to us. We have to decide if we’ll let go of how we “think” the world works, how we “think” blogging works, how we “think” Twitter works, or how we “think” publishing works, and truly learn. The water is right there for the taking.
Countless people pour themselves out for us to teach us about how to do it. How to gain followers on social media. How to write that query letter. How to engage that literary agent. How to approach that publisher accepting unsolicited queries. How to ask someone to consider your work. How to become a Critique Partner. It’s all there. But will we take it? My advice, don’t just take a drink, dive in headfirst.
Thank you so much to Rhys Keller for his insightful interview! I hope you are all inspired to start to build your brand online and that this interview helped you get started.
And for more articles to help you market, check out these around the blog: