So you want to start selling your stories, do you? That's fantastic!
Whether you want to build a full-blown career as a novelist or just bring in a few extra bucks on the side, growing your readership is pivotal to making sales. In fact, selling your stories usually goes a bit like this:
- Publish a book.
- Tell your friends and family.
- Realize you actually have to market this thing.
- FREAK OUT.
Sound familiar? Allow me to take a bit of the freak-out edge off for you today. Okay?
As I said, growing your readership truly is a quintessential element of long-term, successful book marketing. Generally speaking, the more readers you have, the more books you'll sell.
But this isn't always the case.
Growing a readership can actually be a rather nuanced affair. It takes time, dedication, and a whole lot of trial and error to master successful growth, but I promise it can be done.
The same tactics and principles that helped me build She's Novel from zero to 8,000 readers in just one year can help you grow your readership, too! So without any further ado, let's get crackin'.
Before we dive into how to grow your readership, we need to talk about the key to growing an effective readership. What do I mean by effective? We're talking about a readership that actually purchases your books because they love you and your stories so darn much.
How do you build such a readership? By focusing on quality over quantity.
Let's face it: quality over quantity is pretty good advice for most things in life, right? And building your readership is certainly no different. After all...
10,000 social media followers and website subscribers won't mean a thing if
not a single one of them actually cares about your work.
That's not a very effective readership, right? But you don't need to fall into this trap.
By employing honest, genuine tactics when growing your readership, you will make more than just pocket change. Guaranteed.
And these honest, genuine tactics all stem from one principle: Readers are people, not numbers on your sales chart. The second you care more about cinching the sale than treating readers with dignity, you've already lost.
Have you ever borne the brunt of an author's social media assault? Then you know exactly what I'm talking about. They're trying to sell you their latest book, and they're practically screaming at you to buy it with links and buttons and ads galore.
Worse yet, you probably don't even know who they are.
No matter how pretty the design or how intriguing the sales copy, there was no way you were going to click on that ad. Why? Because it just seemed skeezy, and you hate feeling like a dollar sign.
Well, guess what? Your future readers are going to feel the same way if you try to shove your book down their throat. And that's no bueno, right?
Genuine interactions breed trust, and trust nurtures love. When you gain that love, sales naturally roll right on in. Why? Because when your readers love you, they can't wait to get their hands on your latest work!
That's why building trust is absolutely pivotal to growing an amazing readership.
So how do you build that trust? Here are four keys to employ as you interact and grow:
- Connect. First things first, you can't expect people to come crawling to you. If you want to build a readership, you need to reach out and begin connecting. We'll talk about how to do this in the next section of this post, but I can promise you this:
Making the effort to connect with potential readers is the perfect way to put your best foot forward...it's the first step in your marketing journey!
- Engage. Remember, you want to treat your readers like people...and even better? Like friends. Friends reach out. Ask questions. Follow through. Share the love. Care.
Friends show genuine interest in one another. So showing genuine interest in your readers is a great way to not only gain their trust, but to make some pretty awesome friends.
- Offer Quality. There's that word again. Just as you want to build a quality readership, you want to offer quality work in return.
From social media posts to the very books you write, everything you put in front of your readers' eyes needs to be quality. In other words, you should always serve the reader.
This could mean any number of things–offering tips, answering questions, sharing sneak peeks, building conversation, etc. But above all else, remember this: self-indulgence has no place in building a readership.
If your readers won't enjoy what you have to share, don't share it. End of story.
- Be Personal. Speaking of sneak peeks, a great way to build trust with your readers is to allow them inside your world. No, not by posting endless selfies and cat videos. I'm talking about sharing your writing journey.
Show how you write, share your favorite books and writing tips, talk about what went in to creating your latest book. Humanize yourself so you look less like a profile picture and more like a person!
Pretty good keys, right? If you can employ these four tactics while building your readership, you're going to see steady, quality growth.
Now let's talk about what you really want to know: how to actually start growing!
We'll talk about each of these points in full detail in their own blog post soon, but let's break down the basics today. Ready to get started?
1. Your Author Website. If you want to grow your readership, the first thing you need is an author website...even if you haven't published yet. Why? Because you want all of your information in one place.
Interested readers shouldn't have to fight to find out more about you and your books. Having an author website is like having a headquarters or an information center. It's a place to send people who want to know more about what you're doing.
We will definitely talk about building your author website in the future, but for now, I recommend setting up a simple site.
With Squarespace, which is what I use for She's Novel and my author website, you can easily create a site that suits your needs. I recommend starting with an about and contact page–as well as a page for each of your novels–then adding a blog and/or email list when you have the time to maintain it.
Squarespace makes designing your site super easy (no coding knowledge needed) and you can get your own .com (aka domain name) and hosting for $96 bucks a year. Not too shabby!
(P.S. I'm not getting paid by Squarespace in any way. I just really like them.)
2. Social Media. If an author website is where you send your readers, then social media is where you meet them. Online, at least.
There are plenty of social media sites you can use to grow your readership: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Goodreads, forums...even Pinterest!
The key to using social media well is to start small. Choose one or two of your favorite social media sites and begin rocking the heck out of those sites. Really work to make a splash among the writing and reading communities there.
I know social media can be time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be. Just twenty minutes a day can make a huge difference!
Below I've listed a few ways to begin using popular social media sites to grow your readership. Again, we'll cover each of these in full detail down the line.
Twitter: Tweet a few times a day using popular hashtags like #amwriting, #amreading, and genre-related tags (i.e. #YALit or #Suspense). Feel free to share your writing progress, reading or writing tips, your favorite stories or characters, lines from your manuscript, etc.
Don't forget to follow fellow writers and readers and begin interacting. You can find me on Twitter @shesnovel and join in the #StorySocial chat every Wednesday night to begin plugging in.
Facebook: Join 5 - 10 writing or reading groups. Begin interacting in these groups, sharing advice or inside looks at your writing according to each group's guidelines. Again, engaging with fellow readers and writers is key. Make sure to refer people back to your website.
You may also want to set up a Facebook fan page for your work and encourage those you meet to "like" it. You can find my Facebook page here, and don't forget to join the new She's Novel Facebook group, Your Write Dream.
Instagram. Share shots of your work, your favorite quotes, pictures of your favorite novels, etc. Seek out fellow readers and writers to follow, and make sure to utilize captions. Share insights and ask questions to get the conversation flowing.
Don't forget that hashtags are king on Instagram. Make sure to learn popular reading and writing hashtags and use them in your captions.
After getting serious about my hashtag use back at the beginning of March, I was able to grow my Instagram following by 200 followers in just a month and a half, without doing any special giveaways or Instagram parties. Pretty cool, right?
Youtube: Or Booktube, as readers and writers like to call it. Utilizing Youtube is a great way to humanize yourself. Allowing viewers to get to know you and your work better through quick videos is also an awesome strategy for gaining new readers.
But what should you talk about in videos? Share book reviews, looks at your literary favorites (books, characters, authors, etc.), give inside peeks at your writing process, write or edit live, or read from your upcoming novel.
Don't forget to subscribe to other writers' and readers' channels so you can get plugged in to the community and begin interacting. You can find She's Novel on Youtube over at #NovelTalk!
Goodreads: Goodreads is largely used for tracking and reviewing books, but it also has some community elements–such as groups, friending and following, and private messages–that make growing a readership possible.
The best thing about Goodreads? Literally, the only people on the site are readers, so your audience is right there waiting for you. Begin participating in the community and building your profile to grow your readership.
3. Email List. Once you've created your author website and mastered your social media schedule, you may want to introduce a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter on your site.
A reader might be interested enough in your work to visit your author website, but if you don't have a direct way to keep in touch with them, they might forget about you before your book is published.
Creating a sign-up form and emailing your list on a regular basis is a great way to remind your readership that 1) you exist and 2) you are awesome.
In these newsletters, you can give behind-the-scenes looks at your writing, update them on your story's progress, share your favorite books or authors, or recommend new novels for them to read.
You can also offer a free short story or chapter from your book as an incentive to get readers to sign up for your list.
4. In-Person. Many of us spend the majority of our time in front of our computers and notebooks, but if you like to get out and join writing groups, go to literary conferences, or attend readings, don't be afraid to work on growing your readership there.
Make friends, exchange contact info (have business cards ready!), give away a free sample of your writing, and talk about collaborations. Get involved!
Growing your readership in person will look very different depending on what event you're attending, but remember, being personal and available is the best way to get started.
So these are the four main ways you can begin growing your readership. There are obviously dozens of alternative strategies–as well as more to talk about concerning today's tactics–but I hope you've enjoyed this beginner's look inside the wonderful world of book marketing.
Don't worry if you have big questions about how to use each of the platforms we talked about today. They'll each receive their own blog posts soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions you think I could answer in a few paragraphs, don't be afraid to leave them in the comments below.
You can also ask them in our new Facebook group, Your Write Dream. Just make sure to sign up for the Novel Newsletter first, as the group is exclusive to the amazing She's Novel community.
Sound good? I can't wait to see you there, friend. Now let's go tackle our readerships!
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!