Blogger: Wendy Lawton
If you’ve known me for long I’m sure you’ve heard me whine about writers who spend their social media energy connecting with other writers. I keep ranting “go to your readers, not your writing friends.” But of course we are vitally interested in our colleagues and in our industry. It’s natural to seek out like minded people. Look at any school playground at recess. Two yard duty teachers stand talking to each other, not interacting with the kids. Or at the office, it’s more fun to hang out at the water cooler than make calls to customers.
It’s time for writers to get serious, leave the safety of the water cooler and figure out where to find readers.
Bestselling author Lauraine Snelling is a case in point. For most of her writing career she has written about Norwegians and about North and South Dakota, Minnesota and the Midwest– both historical and contemporary. Lauraine knew from the very beginning where she would find the biggest percentage her readers. She began speaking to Sons of Norway lodges and attended Scandinavian festivals like Skandi-fest in California and Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. She found her readers. Year after year she would go back and word-of-mouth would have sent new readers to her. These days when she attends Hostfest she has three or four booths set up as a Lauraine Snelling bookstore. She brings in books on pallets and sells more than a thousand books each year.
Her publisher helps her by advertising toward her readers. They take out ads in Scandinavian-American cultural newspapers and magazines. They even create an ad for the buses that ferry folks into the festival. Brilliant. One of the best things Lauraine did was identify a niche early on and work to reach that niche audience. The nice thing? Word of mouth spreads way beyond that niche. There are plenty of non-Norwegians and non-Midwesterners who now read Lauraine’s books.
Julie Klassen, also a bestselling novelist, is another case in point. Julie is considered the gold standard of inspirational regency fiction. She was the first to make that category work and, because she was long a fan of that era, she knew how to reach regency readers. Julie spends time following her forever favorite, Jane Austen. She’s a true Janeite and attends Jane Austen events. She’s even had a costume designer create two different regency ballgowns. (In the picture below she’s wearing the blue and gold ballgown.) Julie and her husband are both experienced in the complicated regency dances. When you follow Julie’s online chatter she’ll talk about her trips to England and how she’s discovered the settings for her books– all things readers love to hear.
So how about you? How do you find your readers? Following are a few questions to ask:
What are some of the elements in my books that will connect with a specific group of readers? List those elements.
Where do those particular readers hang out? For instance if you are writing about hope for those who suffer from chronic pain, are there blogs that address this? If there are could you become a frequent visitor/ commenter? As you comment, those who need your book will begin to recognize your name. Perhaps after being a contributing part of that community for some time you mention your book when it is appropriate. (See the important elements here? You give first, become known and then– and only then– do you mention your book.)
Can you speak to potential readers? (Every time you speak give a door prize so that you can collect those potential readers’ names.)
Are there interest groups for your setting or your topic that you can join? Think of how many Scottish fan sites there are, for example.
Are there interest groups for the era in which you write?
Are there authors whose followers may be your very readers? For years I hung out with fans of Maud Hart Lovelace books (the Betsy-Tacy books). Many on that listserv were also authors and the huge community enthusiastically celebrated each publication by one of our members.
Now it’s your turn. Where to find readers? How have you found your target readers whether you are published or not? Do you hang out with them? Name three places you might encounter new readers and tell us how you might be able to connect with those readers. Let’s be creative!
Each author needs to know where to find his readers. @wendylawton offers strategy. Click to Tweet
Too many authors hang with other writers instead of readers says @wendylawton. Click to Tweet