Blogger: Mary Keeley
My precious grandson leaves for basic training in the Marines soon. I took it in stride when he went away to college. That was a normal part of life, and he’d be back home on weekends and over the summer. This is different. More permanent. Did I make the best use of the time I had with him through the years? Does he feel sure of his importance to me? On a different level these are good questions for writers to ask themselves in regard to growing loyal readers.
How can you attract more followers? Once they become followers, how can you keep them coming back and turn them into loyal readers? Is there a simple trick to this?
It’s all about relationship. Relationships don’t happen overnight. They grow steadily over time. If your manuscript is complete and ready to submit to an agent, but you haven’t grown a loyal following that anticipates your next book, you have some catching up to do first. The following tips will help you in establishing your author-reader relationships.
- Tell your followers something that is going on in your life from time to time, but always within the boundaries of professionalism. Your followers will feel honored when you share something about your life with them. These details are the seeds for a growing relationship.
- Ask your followers what they like best about what you write about on your blog or social media. Be strategic: everything you write should be relevant to the books your write in some way. Show respect for their thoughts and appreciation for their feedback.
- Ask them to tell you what they would like to see one of you characters do in a given scene. There is no better way to show you value them as important people in your writing life. If you are brave, ask for constructive criticism.
- Research your target audience’s demographic to understand their concerns and desires and goals. What makes them tick? What motivates them? What inspires them? How can you communicate the saving hope of Christ that will give these particular readers real hope for their lives? That kind of writing always attracts readers in your target audience.
- Give back to your readers. Have a drawing for a book on your blog or social media or newsletter. Just because you want to show how much you value your readers.
- Whenever possible, connect with your readers in person.
- Be yourself. Authenticity communicates honesty, an important factor in any loyal relationship. Being your author self is a combination of individual authenticity and professionalism. This takes time and practice to develop.
The point is to have stimulating give-and-take conversations with followers to transition them into loyal readers. Spend time with them to show that you genuinely like them and care about them. Word of mouth marketing isn’t only for getting the word out about your book. It begins when followers tell their friends about this great writer they follow online. Watch your audience grow.
What approach has worked best to grow your reader following? Do you have tips to add to this list? What have you found to be the greatest challenge for you in growing loyal readers?
First and foremost, Mary, prayers for your grandson. He’s chosen the hardest and highest road. I wish I could go back in time, and walk it with him.
* Authenticity is what works for me. I’m all out of ‘strategic’ resources, and just keeping up with the blogosphere is shredding the physical and mental energy I have left. I can only say what is, in this place, and respond to engagement with all my heart. There is no strength left to build attractive Potemkin villages. I’m a product of what I have been. Some of it’s ugly.
* To wit, a couple of weeks ago sloth and negligence on my part killed one of my most beloved dogs. I’ll not forgive myself in this life, but the lesson of the heartbreak is that I have to harden myself against ‘broken-ness’ and continue to be a cheerful support for my wife (and for the other dogs, who are traumatized by what happened). There is no time, nor room for healing. Action is the only operator, and by my previous career choice, it’s what I do best. Duty is all, and introspection is irrelevant.
* Here lies the truth of James, what Martin Luther called ‘that inconvenient epistle’; faith without works are dead. The true work of faith consists of boxing up one’s feelings, and cowboying up. I’ll pay the full price later.
* Authenticity hurts, but it’s the only thing I have left to give.
And authenticity activates an aphorism (alliteration, anyone?) –
* Better to be disdained for what you are than loved for what you’re not.
I love this, Andrew. True words to live by.
Andrew, authenticity is the foundation of any good relationship, don’t you agree? Authenticity also points to our human frailty. So first of all, since failing those we love, or don’t, is part of that human frailty, don’t condemn yourself for being human. I hope this true-north perspective provides a degree of comfort to you.
“Better to be disdained for what you are than loved for what you’re not.” Good words Christian writers can use as a compass.
Mary, thank you for that genuine and kind true-norther. It is a comfort.
‘…Better to be disdained for what you are not than loved what you’re not…’
This is staying with me…
And by the way, I wish you could go back and walk this path my grandson has chosen too, Andrew. I’m very proud of him, his character, wisdom, and faith, just as we are of you here in this community.
Mary, I am overwhelmed, and so very honoured. May I offer two thoughts for your grandson?
* When the world dials 911, it’s a Marine lance corporal who picks up the phone.
* Second lieutenant is not a rank. It’s a diagnosis. (He will come to learn the truth of this!)
I agree with Andrew about authenticity (and alliteration!). Since I write about developing an authentic and intimate relationship with God, I know I have to live it.
*There’s a mousy doubt that nibbles at the edges of my vision: how to maintain my boundaries while ministering to needy people. Right now, in the narrow circle of our tiny town, I inconvenience myself to be sure that I always use our landline to counsel one very needy woman. She has a reputation for intrusive telephone calls, There is comfort in the you-don’t-know-where-I-live of social media.
*Jesus did it perfectly. I trust that as my circle of followers grows, he will reveal how to give of myself without giving away myself. How to leave space for more books, more posts and more people.
Shirlee, I like what you said about growing in knowing how to give of ourselves without giving away ourselves. Sometimes, this is a tricky balance, especially in up-close-and-personal ministering.
*I trust that, as my6 reach grows, God will show me how to continue to be authentic with my readers.
*Thanks for prompting me to think about this this morning, Shirlee. 🙂
Shirlee, that is a perfect example to illustrate the need for maintaining professional balance in an author-reader relationship. I suspect this balance is especially important for self-help and Christian living authors.
I have tried, and not succeeded, in growing a readership… Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been at it long enough.
Having completed the first draft of a novel, the last few days has gone to combing the web for resources. Hopefully… Just hopefully…
Michael, you have the beginnings of a loyal readership right here.
* And it does take time, but remember that Rouen Cathedral was begun by a single man starting to clear the site of rocks and brush.
Michael, let me know what kind of resources you’re looking for through my website (click my name here, then “Find what’s new” page). I may be able to help you find it quickly.
Michael, don’t let yourself become discouraged. Relationships are strengthened over time. Keep on posting interesting facts and stories that relate to your book in some way, and you’ll attract followers who are also interested in what you write. Those are reliable potential readers. Focus on giving them something fresh each time.
May God bless your grandson, Mary. He’s chosen to defend our country and that’s an honorable profession indeed.
Thanks so much, Lara. He has the makings of an exceptional Marine.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Aww, Mary. I do so very much understand how you feel. I send you hugs and I’ll be praying for you and your family.
When Eldest Son left for his training, for which we had all of 5 days warning, I was a basket case. I took the advice of Kathy Boyd Fellure, and cried in the shower.
Because it is different, and it was. He wasn’t leaving for something that fit into the realm of normal, he was *leaving*.
(And no, blog friends, I won’t be saying where he is.)
As for readership? Oh my! My “Alpha” beta reader, a lovely Acadienne hockey mom named Monique, who also has a very successful Scentsy franchise, has promised that once the book comes out, that she will be making her clients, her family, her social circle, her extended family all over the province, everyone in her office, and all the hockey parents in town buy at least one copy. This woman is a force of nature and honestly, her reach is intense. And? Her husband Francois, who is an attorney, will be in on things. Which is cool, since he was a canonical lawyer based here, and has connections all over the country.
But…yesterday, when I went to meet a local indigenous artist who is making some traditional Maliseet baskets for me to give to some Very Important People at the end of the month?? By the end of that visit, I’d been asked to give local Indigenous artists and craftspeople, and their friends, a talk on Navajo history.
“Do you give talks? We could get a bunch of us here and you could tell us all about your work and your research!”
Each time I delved into more of my research, and the wild things that happened along the way, I’d say “I’m not trying to sound preachy, but how else could this have happened?”
So, they already know I’m an Evangelical Christian, and that wasn’t even blinked at. They know my work, my mission to bring The Long Walk and Bosque Redondo to light, and now they’re handing me their cards and asking me to keep in touch.
I pick up the baskets next Wednesday, so what to do with those old one sheets lying around? My zillions of business cards? Hand them out!!
Also, when the artist started to realize just to whom her work would be given, she started to get very wide eyed. “Well, I’d better make these the best baskets ever!”
It was a fabulous visit that went from me being nervous, and praying for help as I climbed 3 flights of stairs in a century old office building, to me having yet another potential reader base that will only expand by word of mouth, and shared by enthusiastic artists who live and work outside the normal parameters of my daily world.
More and more I am reminded that people want to stop the repetition of prejudice, and it is always who I least expect. Seriously, a of trio Maliseet artists? All women, all really interested in a culture they’d not given much thought to?
At a time when I’m unable to work because of “brain rest”, and when melancholy at ever being able to get things done, God continues to roll back the tide for me, and leave all kinds of treasures in the sand.
Jennifer, I know how well you understand. Thanks for passing along Kathy Boyd Fellure’s tip.
Oh my, your stories are a testament in living color to how an author can grow a following of potential readers simply by eagerly stepping into every little and big opportunity God puts in his or her path. You have put these to good use in developing relationships. Prayer that He will provide opportunities is where it all begins, don’t you agree?
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Oh, I totally agree!!
And being ready for whatever He tosses my way. Talking to total strangers is harder for me than I let it appear to be, but He’s used me in ways I’d NEVER have imagined, so I know I can trust that He’s fully aware that I’m a nervous chicken who dreams of flight.
Wow–that’s so awesome and amazing, Jennifer! God is good. 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I frequently tell people, “I started down this road with an introduction from Kiersti Plog…who’s now Giron, but I’d be still a clueless ninny without her help.”
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I’ll be praying over your grandson. I can only imagine your emotions right now.
*Loyal readers. All I know for certain is what makes me a loyal reader. When I love a book, really love a book … it’s really special when the author connects with me. It’s not a requirement, of course, but it does seal my heart as a devoted fan. It just does. Their next book doesn’t even have to be as great as the first, but because of that relationship, I’m a devoted reader, and I’ll look forward to their next work, to all their ventures. My favorite authors seem genuine and approachable.
Great point, Shelli. Hey everyone, add her method to the list of tips everyone: “Identify what makes you a loyal reader of an author’s book. Follow suit for your own followers.”
And thanks so much for your prayers, Shelli.
Mary, I’ll be praying for your family. There’s a sens of pride and, if I can be honest, fear that goes with a decision for a child/grandchild who enters the Armed Forces. Please tell him thank you from me. And, I’ll be praying for your family as you support him in this new chapter.
*I don’t have any books out yet, so my main readership is on my blog. Growing readership in this place has been slow.
*Here are a few things that seem to be increasing readers:
*At the end of each post, I leave a couple questions. I’m finding that people are sharing their hearts rather than surface answers. And I respond to each comment.
*I link up my posts with other blogs. I have been blessed by the people who have connected with me in those places. It’s more effort to visit their blogs, but I’ve “met” some great people in those places.
*Being part of a series with other writers puts my blog out there to readers who may have never met me. I have just done this for the first time (in the midst of the series now), and I’ve been surprised, in the best of ways, with the connections happening.
*I’m finding, as you shared, that engaging and being authentic with others, making the effort to do this, is helping me meet and engage with people.
Jeanne, your posts must be welcoming and interesting if your followers are sharing their hearts. That is fertile ground for solid author-reader relationships to grow.
Your great tip about linking your posts with other blogs should be added to the list. I hope you gain many more potential readers from your efforts. Being authentic with followers thwarts the potential perception that an author is engaging only to promote himself or herself or to sell a product.
I’m still trying to figure out what makes my target audience tick, and whether I should try to reach out to the readers or their parents, since I write upper-MG books mostly.
Finding something to say is the hardest part to me. Words can sound so hollow at times. Without a relationship with the speaker, why would anyone care to listen? I guess that comes with reputation. Be consistent with your message. So, I couldn’t agree more about asking how we spend our time. Do we use it to build others up or is to spent in selfish ways?
Great food for thought.
Samantha, try following and commenting other blogs directed toward upper MG readers. It will be be helpful to engage on social media platforms that are popular with middle graders. In other words, go where they are. These are the best ways to learn their interests, fears, desires, and goals. Connecting with them on these topics in positive way that inspires hope is the best way to attract them to follow you, Most parents will look for authors who write for their MG readers in this way.
Thanks for the tips! Great advice. 🙂
Anita Mae Draper
Mary, lifting your grandson up for strength in his chosen profession. It takes a special person to accept the emotional, mental, and physical rigors of military life. Many can’t do it. Some won’t. But it’s fulfilling for those who believe in the cause, much like Believers take a stand. As one who served for 20 yrs, I honor his commitment.
Thank you for this post. It’s invaluable.
You’re welcome, Anita. And thank you for your affirmation of him in his chosen path. I honor you for your years of service too.
Shawn D Brink
I agree that relationship is the key. I see many of my readers at various Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions who always stop by my vendor table to chat and find out when my next book will release. No matter how busy I am selling/signing books, I will always make time for my loyal readers.