At the heart of all marketing — no matter the industry — is the relationship between the seller and the buyer. I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: the key to successful marketing is navigating the know-like-trust axis. When your readers know you and like you and trust you, they will invest in you and your books. And when they feel that you, the author, are invested in them, the rewards are huge — and extend far beyond the monetary payoff. If you’re struggling with finding ways to engage your readers as part of your marketing strategy, try these five tools.
1. Your Amazon Author Page
There are a number of great ways to engage your readers right on your Amazon author page. Thrillers with Heart author C.J. Lyons, for instance, has a brief bio, a Q&A session, her Twitter feed, a video trailer, and a blog feed — not to mention the listing of all her books. Each of these offers a way for readers to connect to her and her books. As you populate your own author page on Amazon, get creative — consider your books and your audience and put yourself in their shoes. As an author, you are also a reader…so what do you appreciate from authors you admire? Would you jump at the chance to ask questions and get answers? Would you like to get a sense of their writing life and adventures from reading their blogs?
I’ve mentioned the importance of a professional author photo, and I don’t think this can be overstated. People connect to other people, so get a good photo and use it!
2. Social Media
Social media is a double-edged sword for authors. You always have to balance your engagement with readers with your actual work — getting words on the page every day. Don’t get so engrossed in social media that you neglect your writing. Your readers love you…but they want books, not just a snippet conversation in 140 characters or less.
That said, you can use social media to connect effectively with your readers. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook (and Instagram too) are mainstays of the social media universe now, but Google is making inroads with Google+ and Hangouts. If you’re interested in the possibilities of using Google Hangouts, Daley James Francis has a great article here on using them to engage with readers successfully.
Blogging is another great way to connect with your readers, but, again, I just caution you to find balance. If blogging is an agonizing process, then don’t do it. Find something you’re comfortable doing and stick with that. Focus on writing great books and use static tools like your author page and bio/photo to establish connections with your readers.
Depending on your audience, these can be ideal ways to connect with your readers on another level. If you are a nonfiction author, webinars and podcasting can increase your value in the eyes of your reader, because you’re giving them another way to access great information. Thriller author Joanna Penn has been a brilliant pioneer in the world of podcasting, and her Creative Penn website has hours of free podcasts available.
You can conduct podcasting and webinars as a fiction author as well. If you write historical fiction, for instance, you could do a podcast on your research. Figure out what your readers would love to learn about, and then offer it to them in a creative way. You could do a reading of your work, for instance…and that leads me to my next tip.
4. Author Readings
Doing a reading can be a great way to connect face-to-face with your audience. Your passion for your story will come through in the way you read your own words, and that is riveting for an audience. If public speaking isn’t your strong point, you might feel more comfortable doing a recorded reading for a podcast, but if you aren’t afraid of a crowd, then I encourage you to find ways to get out in the public square.
You could also take a bit of a different tack. Volunteering your time to lead children’s story time at your local library, for instance, might be personally rewarding as well as a great service to the community. It can also garner you some positive buzz in the local press, and that never hurts. Reading to children is also a terrific way to build your confidence in your public reading skills. If you can captivate an audience of 4 and 5 year-olds, after all, you can read for anyone.
5. Connect with Other Authors
This may sound counter-intuitive, but fostering relationships with other authors in your genre — and outside it — can be a great way to reach new readers. Guest blogging, interviews, or just getting a retweet now and then can boost your visibility in a new audience. And when you are generous with your own audience, welcoming other authors into your space as well, then everyone wins.
In the age of digital publishing, it’s becoming more and more popular for authors to band together to offer collections of their books at amazing prices. This brings everyone’s collective platforms together, and, again, everyone wins. The readers win: they get a great assortment of books for a steal. And the authors win: they have the chance to get their books in front of new eyes. If you have author friends who write in your genre, consider the strategy of offering some kind of book bundle deal.
Writers tend to be a private sort, and we aren’t necessarily naturally inclined to be the life of the party. Finding creative ways to engage with your readers, though, is a real aspect of this business. Modern tools like social media, blogging, and podcasting make it easier than ever to build connections with your readers that don’t push you too far outside your comfort zone.