As authors, the main goal of our storytelling is to put it into the hands of others: readers we know and readers we’ve never met. In this day and age, it’s also important for authors to have relationships with these readers.
Author-reader interactions have been greatly facilitated by the Internet Age. Telling your favorite author that you loved their book now takes a fraction of the time it used to and you can do it in a variety of ways: sending an email, tweeting, leaving a comment on their Facebook page/blog/website, publicly gushing on their Instagram post, or reblogging their Tumblr post– complete with squealing in caps lock. If you’re old fashioned (or if the author is old fashioned and doesn’t have social media), you can still use the time-honored method of writing a letter.
Since most authors have at least some form of social media, and new authors are actively encouraged to interact with their readers that way, that’s primarily the medium I’ll be discussing. (These tips are very easily adapted to the pen-and-paper medium, should you so happen to prefer that.)
Many and varied are the social media platforms available to authors. I won’t go into those today but there will be a post on it in a few weeks, including pros and cons with each one. For today, just know that this applies to any and all platforms you use to interact with your readers/fans.
Regular engagement is the first step. This looks different for each author depending on their daily lives. For some, it means that once a week they go through their social medias and respond to comments. Others are constantly connected to social media and responding as comments are made. Most adopt something between these two extremes. Whichever method works best for you, the key is engaging. Answer some of their questions about plot and characters… but be choosy about which ones, so you’re not revealing spoilers. As much as they wail about it and bemoan your hardheartedness, readers like to be tantalized. They like to be kept in suspense for a reasonable amount of time. (I don’t speak from personal experience at all, I read a book that told me this. *cough*) Being coy with answers and information is fine, but be careful not to be annoyingly taunting with it. Mysteriousness doesn’t mean you have to be that person sing-songing, ‘I know something I won’t tell.’ This isn’t grade school.
Authors usually CAN’T engage with every single follower/fan/reader, either because they have a large following, they’re an introvert, or they are a very busy person. You don’t have to respond to each one individually, but regularly engaging with a variety of them does give your fanbase an idea of what kind of person you are… and if they like you as a person, they’re more likely to check out everything you write, even when it’s not their favorite style or genre.
Most importantly, thank them… which brings us to our second cornerstone:
These people gave their time– and usually their money– to read your book. Even those that didn’t like it, took time to read it. Be thankful for that. Those that did like/love it and who show it are the foundation of your fanbase. Make sure they know how grateful you are to them.
Readers who actively recommend your books to their friends or leave reviews on their blog/social media drive your sales. This is the single biggest way your fanbase grows. Always, always, thank readers for this.
As I said above, authors often can’t thank every fan personally, but regularly telling them how much they meant to you or featuring selected reader comments/fangushing on your social media shows people how much you appreciate their love.
Never forget that you sell books because readers buy them. Which takes us to our third cornerstone:
Respect their opinions. They might have hated your book. They might not be a nice person in real life. They might be one of those annoying people who can’t distinguish between a book that was actually badly written and one that just isn’t their style. (This happens A LOT, authors, so get used to it, as frustrating as it is.) It’s okay to be irritated that a review they wrote slamming your book for being ‘awful’ was just their reaction because they personally didn’t like it. It’s okay to be upset that the bad review turned some potential readers off. It’s even okay to ask readers to please try to distinguish between what they don’t like and what is actually bad.
No matter how annoyed/disappointed/upset you are, respect their opinions. Respect the fact that they spent time and money on your book. Respect that they think you should have done something differently. It’s their opinion, as bigoted or uninformed as it might be. Respect them as humans, even if you can’t stand their opinions or beliefs or you’re upset over their reaction to your books.
As authors, putting our story into the world is vital. But once it’s out there, the thing that keeps it going is READERS. Remember this (HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO FORGET IT, you cry, and I say, well, some actually do, as inane as it sounds), and you’re on your way to becoming a good author, even if you’re not a widely successful one… yet.
Come back next Monday for tips on when to listen to readers’ opinions/requests… and when to politely NOT listen. *wiggles eyebrows*
Merry Writing… and may all your readers be fantastic and insatiable!