12 Keys to Connecting with Readers

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

The whole idea of building a platform and marketing your book is to get people to read what you’ve written. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, connecting with potential readers is crucial. There are many good ways to do this (although it’s not necessarily easy), and plenty of resources to  help you. Today I want to point out the 12 basics of connecting with readers.

1. Create a plan and strategy for connecting with readers—don’t try to do this haphazardly.

2. Understand who your reading audience is.

3. Focus on gathering a reading community, rather than trying to “sell.”

megaphone-150x1504. Consider whether your blog is the most effective way to gather your reading community. Most author blogs are read by other authors. Are your readers showing up?

5. Utilize all the resources available, including crowd-sourcing and hiring professionals. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

6. Focus on places readers hang out online, rather than writers.

7. Consider social media coaching or at least doing a serious study of it by reading available resources.

8. Avoid one-sided communication on social media. Engage with fans and respond to them.

9. Use social media to its fullest potential, i.e. Facebook campaigns, Goodreads promotions, Pinterest engagement, Twitter chats, author hangouts and interviews on Google+, etc.

10. Choose a couple of marketing/PR avenues that suit you, and become expert at them. Don’t try to master everything at once.

11. Take advantage of the special topic, era, genre and/or content of your book to locate and engage readers.

12. Seek opportunities for local, in-person appearances (book signings, book clubs, writing groups, school visits, workshops, library readings and local area meet-ups.).

Are any of these areas problematic for you? If you haven’t marketed a book yet, what do you anticipate will be the hardest part?



Want to learn more about connecting with readers? Check this out. Click to Tweet.

Here are 12 keys for connecting with your readers. Click to Tweet.

If you want to connect with readers you need a plan & a strategy. Click to Tweet.

39 Responses

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  1. Janet Ursel says:

    So where DO readers hang out online?

    • Look for forums or what used to be called ‘chat rooms’ that have a theme in keeping with what you write. Lurk for awhile, then post the occasional comment, and in many places you can paste in the URL of your website.

      As time goes on, increase the frequency and depth of your posts.

      DON’T be there just to promote your book. Mention it, sure, but be engaged in talking about the works of others.

      There’s nothing more appealing than a writer who’s willing to step away from the literary mirror.

      (And yes, this means you’ve got to read a lot in your genre.)

    • Janet, I’m not on this yet, but Goodreads might also be a good place to hang out with readers. I’m planning on joining it in the near future.

      • Jeanne–I just recommend as authors, you read the rules for each Goodreads group. Some allow you to mention your book/freebies, etc., some don’t (as I’ve shared, I got kicked out of a group for mentioning mine in relation to a discussion we were having). But some Goodreads groups exist to hook up readers with authors. Just always check before posting! 🙂

      • Thanks, Heather! Since I haven’t officially joined up with Goodreads yet, this is good to know going in. 🙂

      • Thank you for sharing that, Heather!

  2. That’s a very useful list – and much of it isn’t easy.

    Two things that might be worth adding –

    * Be patient. We hear about overnight sensations, and things ‘going viral’, but that’s usually not the way it goes. A platform following and readership are built one person at a time.

    * Engage with readers, but beware of those who like to argue. Not everyone will like you, and some people get satisfaction from scoring ‘zingers’ against people they choose not to like. It can be waste a lot of time, and if it takes place in a public forum (like blog comments) it can reflect badly on you. Best to maintain a dignified and Olympian distance from the carpers.

  3. Rachelle, I didn’t know there was a way to interview on Google+ … I’ll check that out.

    You are so right … go to the reader. After speaking to a group of women on surviving hardships, I had precious women coming up and asking me to pray for them or others they knew. They had heard first-hand what I’d been through and said they knew I would pray. We must connect.

  4. I’ve seen a few authors gathering reading communities. It seems like a process that takes time, but can be very effective.

    One thing I need to do is get out of the mindset that I have to do this by myself. It seems like more and more, in order to effectively connect with readers, it’s wise to have a good team of people adding their strengths to my efforts.

    The tips you offer make a lot of sense, and can be done, with a little effort. 🙂

  5. Jim Lupis says:

    Very important and timely information, Rachelle. Especially when you self-publish. My first book I didn’t have to do any marketing, Simon & Schuster did everything. Now that I self-published, it is a whole new learning experience for me. Your tips are great, thank you.

  6. I’m seriously thinking of starting a blog at Goodreads. I’m already there, but I think blogging there might attract more readers than my regular blog is.

    I think interacting with potential readers on FB is a problem area for me. When I try to engage others it isn’t always successful. Perhaps my content is too varied and not specific enough for the audience I am trying to attract.

    • Facebook’s tough. I think most people are there for sound bites, so to speak, rather than content.

      And cute dog pictures…yeah, me…guilty.

    • I decided to put most of my effort into the blog, for two reasons –

      * it allows me to elucidate my values – which are the core of what I write

      * it’s a writing sample, both in terms of style and content

      To gain readership I’ve been reaching out to other blogs and forums that work in the same area (relationships).

      But the main thing is still this – when the effort starts to sound like “buy me”, people will switch off, and they won’t come back.

      I use Twitter to ‘advertise’ the blog, and to publicize other blog post that I like. I’m not sure how to effectively use it beyond that – could you share any tips, Cheryl?

      • I can’t say I feel I use Twitter as effectively as I could either, but I find taking the time to retweet items of interest brings in more followers. I’ve tried using HootSuite and TweetDeck, but I don’t tend to stick with them. Silly me.

        I love blogging the best. I’ve put more effort into making my blog something for readers and reserving two months out of the year–Nov and Dec–for promoting my books. They are seasonal titles, so I go on virtual book tours during those months.

    • Cheryl, is your ‘click-on’ website up? I’ve tried to access it a few times but get either a blank screen (Chrome) or a ‘could not connect’ (Explorer).

  7. Another thought – more ‘mindset’ than method.

    Most writers work in their spare time, in the hours around the day job and family. Typically, writing for four hours a day is pretty good. Two hours is a more realistic number, I think.

    If we had eight hours a day to work at being a writer, we’d probably imagine those eight hours spent in writing, research, and communing with other writers.

    But maybe it’s not that way at all. Maybe when you have a book, the work of building a readership becomes the ‘day job’, and writing is STILL a spare-time activity.

    Perhaps with success the time calculus changes, but for the breakout author, it may be worth considering, to allocate time with publicity and promotion as the main effort – the day job.

    Say, 3 to 4 hours spent promoting to every hour spent writing?

  8. Local, in-person appearances feel the most problematic to me, but that could be because I haven’t attempted any yet. I’m not published yet, so it’s easy to think that I don’t have anything to offer. Yet, I have a growing blog about my large family, homeschooling, and faith. If I could just work that one more thing into my schedule, I probably could package myself in a way that would be attractive to those seeking speakers. Speaking has great appeal to me, except for that age-old problem of time.

  9. Jenny Leo says:

    One blog I follow (awriterofhistory.com) has just launched a Reader Interview Series, in which an individual reader is interviewed. Questions include personal background, reading habits and preferences, influences on book purchases, what they like/don’t like about historical fiction, types of stories preferred, books to recommend/not recommend, online book discussion/hang out spots, and (love this!) advice for writers of historical fiction. A recent reader had this advice: “do your research, don’t filter morals of another time through a 21st Century lens, and do not insert sex scenes a la 50 Shades, rather evoke emotional suspense.” Seems to me a series like this could be extremely informative for authors of all genres, as well as a great way of connecting with readers.

  10. Angela Mills says:

    There is a very specific group of readers I could be getting to know by joining forums and reaching our more beyond my blog and Facebook. I will check out a few today!

  11. Hide the treasure of your words where your readers are most likely to find them.

  12. I don’t have an account at Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, although I’ll be getting a Goodreads soon. The other two… Only if I absolutely have to. It goes against my personal beliefs to post my whole life on the internet.

    I just kicked up a blog about two weeks ago, but I haven’t had many visitors, probably because I’m not sure where to go to tell people about it.

    Being unpublished as I am, I haven’t given too much thought to marketing my books yet, instead focusing on improving my writing style and entering contests. (Seven entries in ACFW’s Genesis contest). But I will be turning some focus on ways to market books, and this blog post is a wonderful help!

  13. Thus far, Goodreads and Pinterest have helped me get to know my reader better. I can see their preferences and read their opinions. Now I need to engage with them as individuals more.

  14. Jack Bybee says:

    Thank you for the tips on building a marketing platform. My major problem? The manuscript, The Journal of Rudd, is just about done, and I’m delighted BUT, two new ideas (not quite follow-ons, but not totally devoid either)have blossomed, and are demanding attention (Historic Fiction (very early Southern African history and apartheid.)

    When and how do I find the time to focus on marketing? Do writers not write, agents agent, editors edit, and marketing types market? No more? I want to write.
    Ideas… please?

    Jack Bybee,
    Author: The Journal of Rudd.

  15. Rachelle, I think your advice of engaging with readers is excellent. It’s easier to just make our media use one-sided; however, I know how much I appreciate it when someone responds to my comments.

    Thanks for this reminder. I’ve been a bit lazy on Twitter and will put a bit more effort into it. Pinterest is next (I love pictures!).

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  16. Enjoying reading the comments here, great ideas. Also – as a facebook “Page” owner (to direct people to a blog/website), I want to make sure that people are aware that pages are severely limited by facebook’s algorithms after a short time. In other words, if you are hoping to increase blog readership by using FB as a marketing tool, you will be forced to monetize your page soon after starting it. If you don’t “boost” your posts with paid advertising,you will see your numbers decline to roughly 6-8% of total reach. Twitter is better since it has no filters; it’s just a chronological posting. But you need to post more often. 🙂

    That said, for newbies partial to Facebook, set up an “author” or fan page (as a public profile), rather than a business or community page. They don’t limit posts as much this way.

  17. Linda says:

    I’m not ready to market my book yet, but my writing coach has been helping me to better use social media. My problem has been feeling a bit as though I’ve got ulterior motives whenever I comment or visit FB and Twitter. She’s helped me to take the focus off myself and my writing and put it on others – just the way I did before I had this little book in my back pocket. Great advice from both of you. Thank you so much.

  18. Jack Bybee says:

    Att: Rachel Gardner or any other Books&Such agent type:
    While my ms. (The Journal of Rudd)is complete, I am re-writing, fine tuning and tweaking for a writer’s conference here in Tucson, over Memorial Day.
    I have searched everywhere, including asking AAP and PW and others… where can I find sale statistics (in fact, any statistics) on how well historical fiction is performing? If anyone is able to help, please e-mail me.

    In advance, thank you for your help,

    Jack Bybee,
    Author: The Journal of Rudd
    KimDog’s Tale (Tail)
    (Climbing) Beyond the Edge of the Ledge.