Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
How to Connect with Your Readers
Part 2 of 2
Continuing the conversation of what writers can learn from Jessica Beinecke about connecting with your audience, here are a few more reasons I believe Jessica has amassed such a following by teaching mainland Chinese students American slang:
3. Her audience feels as though they know her. Jessica creates her videos while sitting at her dining room table in her apartment using her webcam. Her approach is down home. So much so that, when she traveled recently to Beijing, 4,000 of her fans moved their personal heavens and earth to meet her. Some traveled four hours by train. Jessica has made a point of not just teaching American slang but also being accessible to Chinese students. In the 1950s, an editor remarked, “Authors should be heard but not seen.” Well, it’s a brave new, topsy-turvy world in which an author must be seen as well as heard, and not just “heard” through the books he or she writes but also with a voice on the Net. Readers expect authors to be accessible.
4. She understands she isn’t really offering language lessons. Jessica thinks of her videos as “a cross-cultural platform to discuss how similar we all are–but we use different languages.” That’s the biggest a-ha! of them all. She understands that teaching the younger generations of Chinese what a “booger” is accomplishes a much larger goal than expanding their English vocabulary. They feel connected to Americans, as they come to understand our language. Your mission in connecting with your readers online goes beyond getting them to buy your books. If that’s your goal, then you’ll end up offering potential readers ads. But if your desire is to make an inherently deeper connection, then you’ll be more self-revelatory and, well, someone the reader feels as if he or she knows. That engenders loyalty that goes way beyond selling a copy of your latest work.
Now, here are a few specifics that occur to me of how to find out what your readers want from you.
- Don’t be afraid to engage your readers in decision-making. One of my clients was trying to decide between writing historical and romantic suspense. She had been successful at both but had reached a place in her career in which she needed to make a choice. Having no strong opinion one way or the other, she asked me how she could make such a decision. I suggested she ask her readers what they enjoyed reading the most from her. So off my client went, posed the question as a quiz for her readers and discovered they had a strong preference. Since that hadn’t shown up in the sales figures, who knew????
Another client of mine had some ideas for contemporary novels that just wouldn’t go away so she ventured from historical to contemporary–and lost her readers. When she returned to historical, her readers told each other via social media: She’s back! Who knew???? If only she had asked them what they wanted!
- But wait. What if you aren’t cute and 25 years old? Few of us can be animated in the winsome way that comes naturally to Jessica…Wait, what was that adverb? “Naturally.” What’s natural for you? If you’re more of a quiet ponderer, then creating YouTube videos probably isn’t your shtick. But writing blogs and tweeting clarifying quotes from them might be. Or if you’re in your 50s and writing for teens, why not let your characters be your online presence? Fans of your protagonist might be eager to tell your made-up teen what cupcake she should eat for her birthday. Who knew that’s what your readers really wanted?
How do you decide what to reveal about yourself to your readers?
Have you ever regretted something you shared–or felt embarrassed when you read something another writer posted online?
What is a natural way for you to connect?
Have you ever surveyed your readers when you were trying to make a decision? If so, in what ways was it helpful? Would you do it again?