Writer and blogger Laina Turner was kind enough to write this great guest post.
Writing is an amazing profession. Most of us writers would say it’s a calling rather than a profession. Because it’s not like we have much of a choice to write — we have to write. There are stories inside us demanding to be told.
There are many reasons writers write. Some of us write for fun, and some want to make a living at it. Whether or not you care about making a living with your writing, all authors (at least all the ones I’ve met) want people to read what they write. It might terrify them, but they want it.
Don’t get me wrong self-satisfaction from writing IS important but it sure feels good when someone reads your work and likes it. And even if the reader doesn’t like it though it might not seem like it in the moment. As hard as it can be to take feedback, it can make us better writers. If it’s constructive.
So, let’s talk about the all important question: how to grow your readership. There are many ways, and book marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. What works for fiction might not work for non-fiction, and what works for romance might not work for mystery.
However, there are things you can do regardless of your genre to consistently get incremental gains in your readership.
- An Author Website – You want to have a virtual home for your readers to visit. A place where they can see who you are, what you’ve written, and what you’re currently working on. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or fancy, in fact often simple is better. But I firmly believe that having a place in the virtual world to anchor yourself is crucial to building an audience. While you can achieve this goal on a social media platform, there isn’t any certainty they won’t disappear one day. You don’t own what you put on social media. They do.
- Email List – Building an email list as an author is the best thing you can do for yourself. Social media can come and go, and you don’t own those followers. Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest does. Your email list belongs to you, and growing your list should be your number one priority. Especially if you want to make a living with your writing.
There are many ways you can build your email list. People love free stuff and offering something to your readers in exchange for their email is the best way to get it. Once you get them on your list, you continue to engage them, but not annoy with smarmy promotions. You can do things like give exclusive insights into what you’re up to, sneak-peaks to upcoming works, or backstory to their favorite characters. I know some authors who send out a short story for email subscribers every so often. Then when you have a new book out, you have a list of people anxiously waiting to purchase.
- Long-Term Strategy – I’m a big believer in planning. If you don’t have a plan, how will you get to your goal? You first want to set goals for your writing and building readership. Especially if you’re an author looking to earn a living, you need to treat your writing as a business. And solid businesses have goals. Set a publication date for that book you’re writing and a goal for how many words you need to write per day to achieve that goal. Decide how many readers you want to have on your mailing list and following you on social media channels by your release date. Then work backward planning your activities to get you to those goals.
- Be Your Own PR Person – The reason many writers die in obscurity is because, well, no one ever knew about them. Today there is no excuse to not have at least a small audience. With social media as a free way to promote yourself and your writing, there is no excuse. Now I know many writers don’t like the shameless self-promotion aspect of being an author, but it’s something you must do. Everyone you meet should come away knowing you’re an author and where they can read your work. Be proud of what you do.
- Connect and Engage – You want to cultivate an audience, and the best way to do that is to engage them in dialogue. Create ways to interact. Social media is a two-way street if you want it to be effective. Ask questions, share trivia about your books, or ask readers their opinions on things (people love to share opinions). You want to create a following that looks forward to what you have to say because it’s interesting, insightful, or fun. And it doesn’t always have to be about your writing. Readers want to know you, the author. I don’t mean you have to share all your intimate personal details, but if you like cooking, you could share a recipe. If you like animals, you could share funny photos or fun facts. Readers want to connect with a person, not an avatar.
In all you do, be persistent. Growing your readership isn’t a one-and-done. It’s a constant cycle of writing and marketing. Juggling both is the hardest aspect of this business. Most of us writers prefer to write but we MUST do the marketing part or we won’t have anyone to read what we write. However, don’t feel you need to be on every single social platform or need to grow your Twitter to a million followers to be successful. While numbers are great, having a few engaged fans is much better than a million who aren’t.
Do the research and find out where your audience lives. Then work on that social channel until you’re in a routine, then move to the next if you feel like it. Trying to do it all at once will lessen your effectiveness and take all your time, and you won’t have time to write.
Building your audience is a marathon, not a sprint. You work at it daily, growing your fan base reader by reader, and working toward your goals.
See more on my website www.lainaturner.com