Remember Why Readers Seek You Out Online

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

At the beginning of this brand new year, I think it will be beneficial for us to be reminded why a reader connects with us beyond the book, especially through social media. We want to establish a relationship and not drive fans away with overdoing the self-promotion. Here’s what I believe readers are looking for when they follow or friend you online:

1) A personal connection. This is first for a reason. I believe that this is what drives most readers to connect with an author online. Think about the posts you like the best–they’re the personal ones, right?  The reader wants to get to know the author better–to meet a kindred spirit “in person.” Most times the reader has enjoyed a book of yours and then chooses to find you on Twitter or Facebook or to sign up for your newsletter. These readers do want to know when your next book is coming out, but more than anything they want to be your friend. They want you to open up to them and share a bit of who you are and also to connect back with them on a personal level. The posts they are looking for are the kind you would put up for your friends and family. Be selective and careful with what you post, of course, but forming a bond of friendship with a reader will help you sell more books in the long run.

2) Freebies. We all love receiving prizes and free books, and this drives many readers to connect with authors online. Lots of readers know that an author is given some promotional copies for giveaways so they’re trying to get one. For most authors extravagant freebies aren’t financially doable, but even basic book giveaways are a good way to get exposure with readers online who might not have read a book of yours yet. I think it’s a good idea to have some sort of giveaway every four months or so to broaden your readership.  Your current readers will advertise the giveaway to their friends/followers so you could gain a larger audience through offering a few autographed copies of a book or some bookmarks.

3) A desire to meet in real life. Authors often fail to realize how important it is to announce book signings and personal appearance events on Facebook or Twitter. Many readers connect with authors because they would love to meet them some day. Be sure to have your UPDATED schedule available at all times online and let your readers know when you’ve added new events. Include upcoming events in your newsletters, too.

4) Writing advice. So many readers are also writing–or dream of writing. Answering writing questions can get old, but these people are part of your audience. Find a way to link these writer-readers to some suggested writing books and tips that you’ve already pulled together on your website.  That way connecting with this portion of your readership can be easy, yet personal. Your notes to these readers can contain some encouraging words and a link to your writing advice page.

So what should you be putting in your online status or newsletter?

1) Mostly personal things. Pictures and updates about YOU! Try to keep it positive too. Complaining and whining are the quickest ways to drive away readers. Even if you are having a bad day try to find some sunshine for your Twitter and Facebook posts.

2) Tips and encouragement for other writers (if you know they’re a significant part of your readership).

3) Schedule updates. Where are you going to be so that these readers can meet you?

4) Some contests/giveaways, showing book covers and release announcements.

Remember to get personal! :)

Can you think of other reasons readers connect with authors online? Why do you?

What causes you to “unfriend” or “unfollow” an author or to unsubscribe from their newsletter?



Advice on connecting with your readers online and with your e-newsletter from literary agent @RachelLKent. Click to tweet.

45 Responses

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  1. I didn’t really connect with writers/authors until I began writing fiction. I followed Beth Moore’s blog, but that was about it.

    Thankfully, the Lord led me to this blog … I didn’t realize what I was missing. I needed encouragement from other writers … I needed to know I was normal regarding the passion for writing, head always in another world.

    I’ve probably only backed away from one writer … and that was when they exhibited flaunting and arrogance.

  2. I, like Shelli, have been able to connect to fellow writers on this blog. The first blog I commented on was Gabrielle Meyer’s. How did I find her? The word persistence in the title of a post was linked on another writer’s blog roll. I read it and typed in the comment section. Gabe responded! Then she friended me on Facebook. She took the time to look at my friends list and saw someone she knew. It ended up being my cousin…three states away in Minnesota (I live in Kansas). This happened in June before I even went to my first writers’ conference.

    Even though I’ve never met Gabrielle (I hear that her personal friends call her Gabe) or talked to her on the phone, I know, based on just a little bit of online interaction, that if I had a quick question about writing and publishing, she would help me. I know the same about Beth Vogt, who through a mutual friend, took the time to meet with me this fall when she was in town for our book club.

    I share these examples for two reasons. (1) to encourage novices like me to comment, and (2) to show the authors out there, that your time and interaction really does make a difference! And thanks to this blog, I have a couple online writing friends in Shelli Littleton and Sheila King who are an encouragement to me. I don’t feel so alone anymore in my quest to learn.

    • Melodie, it means the world that you would call me “friend.” Thank you! You continually encourage me, as well.

    • Melodie, it meant a lot to me too, when someone replied to a comment I posted on their blog. Especially when I first got brave enough to leave a comment! 🙂 I still appreciate and go back to the blogs where the bloggers respond to their commenters. 🙂

      • Jeanne,
        It did take bravery those first few times. It’s so funny thinking back to that first time of hitting post. Thanks for your encouragement! I wanted to try to get back on here today, but duty calls at school. I’m a teacher, so I can’t always get on during the day. So I hope this responds finds you.

      • I remember those days. 🙂 I taught . . . once a long time ago. 🙂 So glad you’re commenting here. 🙂

    • Hi Melodie! Gabe’s indeed as nice in person as she is online.

      • Thank you, Cynthia! I hope we can room together again one day. 🙂 You’re one of my favorites–and you’re as nice and funny in person as you are online, too. 🙂

    • Rachel Kent says:

      What a great example of what a difference a little kindness can make! Great job, Gabrielle! 🙂

    • Wow, Melodie! Thank you for the kind words. I still remember that moment when I realized your cousin goes to my church! What a small world we live in. I’m so happy you commented on my blog and that you’ve joined our writing community. I’ve been blessed by countless writers who have reached out to me, and I only hope I can pass on the kindness to others. I’d be honored to answer any questions you may have! And hopefully one day we can meet in person. 🙂 Let me know if you’re ever in town visiting Elana. 🙂

  3. What a practical post, Rachel! I have a question for you. You mentioned giveaways. Do you recommend this for pre-published writers as well? And would you still do every four months?

    I’ve connected with writers online when I’ve met them at conferences. Like Shelli, I never even dared try to “friend” authors on Facebook before becoming a writer. Now, I don’t friend every writer or author i meet, but those I really like or have connected with on some level, I will send a friend request and follow on Twitter. 🙂 I haven’t unfriended any writers, but I have stopped following a couple of authors who litter the Twitter feed with “Buy this Book!” tweets every few minutes.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I don’t think you need to do giveaways unless you are trying to build your audience. A giveaway can help draw people to you even if you don’t have a book yet, but I don’t think it is necessary.

  4. Great post, Rachel – it has made me think. The hamster needs some coffee and Powerbars, now.

    One thing I’d add, as a subheading under “writing advice” is some background on “the writer’s journey” – how one came to be an author.

    Content’s such an individual thing. I generally forbear to write about myself, except in specific comments on others’ blogs, for a couple of reasons.

    First, my life is very routine. There are a lot of duties to get through, and little time for the singular and special. True, God is in the details, and there is joy in the closeup, but there really isn’t the variety to hold a reader’s interest.

    Second, dealing with illness occupies a lot of time. I’ll comment on it to draw a comparison or moral thesis, and very occasionally – today, in fact, – post on it in my “Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart” blog (which links to my name in these comments). But I don’t want to write a lot about it, certainly not to the degree to which it affects and circumscribes my life. “The Last Lecture” has already been written. I have other places to be.

    That said, there are some things I find really attractive in an author’s online presence, and some that are really awful.

    The most appealing characteristics are warmth and gentle humour, expressed through posts that illustrate human (or animal) foibles with a sympathetic eye. (These also can give nice writing samples that showcase the writer’s powers of observation, and the ability to write good descriptive prose.)

    Responsiveness is high on the list, as well. Don’t invite comments unless you’re willing to answer at least a fair proportion of them, Being THERE amidst one’s fans is important. (A number of bloggers no longer include comments for their posts, ostensibly to keep away spammers. I can understand that, but it turns the exercise into an op-ed piece, and distances the reader. I don’t read these blogs any more.)

    Pictures are nice. But they should be sort of professional. Weird candids can make one look sloppy if overdone.

    On the bad side…nothing drives me away faster than political diatribes. Even if I agree, I really don’t want to read about that stuff.

    Slamming other authors’ work is really low. Even when one is slammed, oneself…the best response is dignified silence.

    Sarcasm sucks, too.

    Narcissism and “too much information” can introduce a “yuck” factor that is really hard to overcome. If you eat a clove of garlic every morning without fail, I may skip stopping by the book signing.

    Oh, and websites that cue up music…not great. Unless it’s something cool, of course, like “Sweet Home Alabama”.

    Two last things – good editing. Posts and status updates should be literate and well-thought-out, without grammatical errors or wandering focus. Putting one’s best foot forward, that.

    And unless one is sending a text message, there is really no need for SMS abbreviations. LOL or IMHO don’t look hip; for one purporting to be an author, they simply look lazy.

  5. Rachel, wonderful tips!

    Sometimes, I’ll sync my blogs with the writing journey or aspects of the process, but most of my posts are encouragement vignettes and Ozarkian-themed. Since I write Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction, I rarely deviate from my brand and I try to create a comfortable, homey atmosphere when folks stop by. There’s waaay too much negativity other places.

    I adore people and I’ve forged forever friendships through online contacts.

    What would cause me to unfriend or unfollow? A constant stream of rants or naughty words. I’m not a prude, but I am a Jesus-lover–and for goodness sake–there are better words to use. Writers/authors should know this.

    Happy Friday to all!

    • I think you do a very good job, Cindy!

      I don’t like rants, either; nor do I greatly favour reposted ‘billboards’. I’d rather hear the writer’s genuine feelings.

      Profanities have no place in the online presence. None at all. Aside from being offensive, they’re an unimaginative form of expression, and say something about the putative writer than said writer may not want to express.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Thank you for encouraging others and being an encouragement to us here, too!

    • I’m with you. I don’t like reading profanity in any venue. Especially not on a Facebook post or in a blog. I know some people express it sometimes. I can deal with that. But when someone uses it every 2-3 words, I tend to stop reading the blog posts, or to hide their presence on my Facebook wall. On Twitter, I unfollow. Immediately.

    • Cynthia, I can hear your voice in this comment. 🙂 You do such a wonderful job being warm and authentic with your online (and in person) interactions. I always know there is a savory meal and morsel of chocolate somewhere in your house at any given time. 🙂

  6. Southpaw says:

    When I seek out an author online, it’s because I want to know what they are working on now and when the next release will be.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Do you subscribe to author newsletters, too? Or just check webpages/Facebook?

      • Southpaw says:

        It depends on the newsletter content and the frequency its sent (once, maybe twice a month is good, more it too much). I do check the pages and read the about and blog pages if they have any. I don’t do Facebook.

  7. Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    Right on the money, Rachel. There has been this huge push to “sell sell sell” your books at writer’s conferences and advice columns in the last few years and I’ve been shaking my head. I read Ally Carter’s Blog because I wanted to find out what she was working on that morning, how long it was until the next book, and how her new kitchen remodel was going. I also go to author websites to find a list of their books so that I can be sure I am ordering the right one from the library. I want a personal connection, and maybe a free book.

  8. Great tips, Rachel! I love this list.

    I’ve followed author blogs before, but as a matter of time management, I don’t really do that anymore. I do enjoy authors who engage readers on social media, such as Facebook. There are some author pages on Facebook that I actually “follow” so that I get notifications when they post something. It keeps me up-to-date on what they’ve got going on without taking up that much time (well, unless Facebook ends up sucking me in!). 🙂

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I hate how Facebook tends to suck us in! I only occasionally look at blogs–even ones I really enjoy–because of time management. There’s just not enough time in a day!

  9. I have two authors whose fan communities I’ve become a part of, and I’d be in them even if I wasn’t a writer. Nalini Singh and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I drove three and a half hours while sleep-deprived to get Nalini’s autograph last year and I’m so excited I get to hear her speak at RWA in July! I also follow Nalini on FB and participate on her author page.

    I want Sherri’s autograph too, on my two favorite books in the Dark-Hunter world. I’m active in the Goodreads group for her fans, follow her on FB, and watch her booksignings and live appearances hoping against hope she’ll come within five hours of me. I will totally drive to Dallas or Houston and back in a day to get her autograph and meet her!

    I want my readers to fall in love with my written world in the same way I’ve fallen in love with Psy-Changeling and Dark-Hunter. It’s a magical feeling.

    Neither of these authors is all about “sell sell sell” either. They’re both NYT’s bestsellers, so that changes the equation a little bit. But they’re very in touch with their fans, share tidbits from their personal lives, and love how much their fans love their worlds. I want to be that kind of author.

  10. Some of my best friendships have begun online in the writing community because of authentic writers who opened up to me. Because of that, I try to offer the same in return to people who contact me. I think this willingness to open up makes our community a warm and welcoming one, which reflects our faith, as well.

  11. S.J. Francis says:

    Thanks, Rachel for such an important and informative post. I always believe that readers want to connect with authors, which is why social media is important. It doesn’t necessarily help writers sell books, but it does bring us closer to our readers, which is what the reader wants.
    S.J. Francis

  12. anks says:

    This is great advice. A lot of it works well for bloggers too I suppose. Readers would read my ramblings often if they knew the person behind the words. The challenge always is though to decide jow much information to divulge on the internet…

  13. Samuel Hall says:

    An excellent topic, and thoughtful responses.

    Sorry about your health issues, Andrew, but I always take time to read your observations. Keep it up.