To be a successful author, you must reach readers. But is it better to reach new readers or cultivate a relationship with an existing ones?
Too often, authors are only focused on how to get new readers. However, nurturing their relationship with their existing readers can lead to a myriad of opportunities. A single sale can lead to:
- More books purchased
- Reviews posted to Goodreads and Amazon
- Word of mouth
- More first-week sales of the next book
Plus, it’s far easier to reach out to readers who already love you and your work. I mean, who likes cold calling anyway?
Think about it. If one person buys your book and not only loves it, but feels a connection with you, not only will they read your other books, they’ll also tell a friend about you. That friend may buy your book, connect with you, then buy more of your books AND tell another friend. See how quickly that can snowball?
I’ll share a brief story about one of our Your Breakout Book members, Mary Lee Ashford. Mary Lee is half of the writing duo Sparkle Abbey, who write the pampered pet mysteries. My step-mom loves dog mysteries. So, when she saw Mary Lee speak at an event, she immediately bought the first in the series. She loved it so much, that she bought ten more. I mentioned this to Mary Lee, who promptly asked for my step-mom’s mailing address. She sent my step-mom a Pampered Pet t-shirt.
Not only is my step-mom wearing that shirt frequently, she’s telling everyone how one of her favorite authors sent her a t-shirt.
Mary Lee transformed my step-mom from a reader into a fan.
So how can you focus less on reaching new readers and goosing your numbers and focus more on creating fans?
The first step is to identify what happens after the first sale. Let’s say a reader picks up one of your books at the library. Or maybe they bought it as an e-book deal, or borrowed it from a friend. They take a chance on you, read it, and love it.
At this point, they may close the book and move on to the next. But if you prompt them with a call to action at the end of your book, you give them an opportunity to further connect.
Most authors simply include their website in the About the Author section at the end of the book, but that’s not really enough to entice readers. Plus, the readers who go to your website may be overwhelmed with all the choices (Do I subscribe for the newsletter? Click the social media buttons?) that they end up doing nothing.
People need to be told exactly what to do in order for them to take action. That action may look like a freebie or other bonus content that readers can opt-in to receive (thus building your mailing list). It may be to join a Facebook group or other online community to further the conversation. Maybe you have an online course or worksheets that complement the book. There isn’t one right action, and you may consider testing out different methods to see which works best.
The point is that when a reader finishes your book, they’re the most engaged and motivated they’re ever going to be. You did your job as a writer – you kept them turning pages until the very last one. It’s at that pivotal moment that you must have them take the next step.
From Getting Readers to Creating Fans
You have a reader that has opted in to your email list, signed up for a course, joined your Facebook group or reader community, etc. How can you begin to transform them from a reader into a fan?
You can do this in three ways: through content, community and control. Which path you choose will depend on how you prefer to engage with readers and what you feel your readers most want. Most successful authors do a combination of two, or even all three, but I recommend picking one at first before adding more to your plate.
Let’s start with content. Social media is a powerful tool. But when it comes to nurturing readers through content, I find that email marketing works best. Social media makes it too easy for people to be distracted. If you catch people in their inbox, it’s easier to grab their undivided attention.
By giving your newsletter subscribers exclusive, interesting, and engaging content, you can nurture these reader relationships in an ongoing, even automated way. Your newsletter subscribers should be the first to see your next book cover or receive an excerpt of your upcoming book. You can share deleted scenes, character sketches, or alternate endings. This type of exclusive content will make readers feel like they’re in an exclusive club.
You can also create content that engages with your readers and helps them learn more about you. This can be done through live Q&As, recorded videos or audio clips, or just sharing a nonfiction piece about you. Readers want to learn about the person behind their favorite books. And just like in any other business arrangement, people do business with people they like. If they love your books AND love you, you’ll have yourself a loyal fanbase.
Most authors deliver this content through monthly newsletters, which is great, so if that applies to you, keep it up! You may also opt to create an automated email sequence that delivers some of this content automatically. When someone signs up for your list, it can trigger a welcome email that thanks them for signing up and includes a piece of bonus content. You can create additional emails to be sent every week or bi-weekly with additional content, more background on you, or even offers for sale-price e-books. Automated welcome sequences take more time to set up, but once they’re done, you can put your reader-engagement strategy on autopilot.
The next is community. How can you create a space where your fans can interact with each other? We all love talking about our favorite books, and for many, YOUR BOOKS are their favorite. So by creating a Facebook group or other online community, you can help connect your readers with each other and cultivate a community.
One of my favorite aspects of reader communities, is that often times, they can exist without the author’s involvement. We’ve had several authors empower fans to manage reader communities and facilitate discussions. Sure, the author will pop in to do Q&As or offer a recorded video. But for the most part, fans discuss the books amongst themselves.
And finally, a great way to cultivate a fan base is to relinquish some control over to your readers. People are more loyal to brands they feel ownership over. I may be dating myself here, but do you remember when M&Ms let the fans vote on the new color of M&M? I know my friends and I flooded the submissions (go blue!) and when they released the new color, we all went out and bought packs.
When you let fans have a say over your brand, their loyalty and engagement increases. When you receive your book cover mockups, if there are 2-3 you like, what would happen if you let the fans decide which one you go with? Could you let your fans choose a characters’ name in an upcoming book, or the name of the dive bar or café your characters gather at?
Years ago, there was a company that allowed fans to pool other fans together in an effort to get performers or speakers to come to their venue. Sort of an “if you build it they will come” approach. So we started taking that approach with our clients’ book tours. If they only had the budget to go to 3 cities, we’d let the fans vote on which ones. And guess which events had the best turnout? The ones where fans raised their hands and said, “Come to my town and I’ll show up AND bring several friends.”
Letting your fans have a say in your writing career does require relinquishing some control, so I understand why most authors don’t pursue that path. But I know from experience, that giving more control to your most engaged readers comes with a big payoff.
Now it’s your turn. What small action can you take to turn your casual readers into fans? You may have dozens of ideas swimming around in your head, but for right now, focus on one. What’s one small step?
Do you have a deleted scene you can send to your newsletter subscribers? Can you compile a list of fan email addresses and invite them to join a private community or attend an exclusive Q&A? Can you let the fans decide on a characters name, book cover, or even your next book title?
Any sales person will tell you that signing a new customer takes exponentially more effort than up-selling a new one. But when you have a loyal community of FANS, they will be your sales force, your cheerleaders, even your focus group. So instead of focusing on the numbers, make an effort to focus on the fans.
Want o join a savvy community of authors who are implementing strategies just like these? I invite you to become a member of Your Breakout Book. For just $50/mo, you’ll gain access to our active online community, as well as a library of recorded trainings, templates, and tutorials to help you launch Your Breakout Book. You’ll also have the opportunity to attend monthly live events, including workshops, mastermind sessions, and roundtable discussions. Click here to get started!