by Megan Haskell
Imagine, if you will…
The One-Night Stand
Phew! That was great. I mean, OMG, I couldn’t stop. Too bad she left before I could get her digits. I would have loved even more!
This is the last thing you want a reader to think when they turn the final page of your book. You, author, are looking for a long-term reader relationship. You want her coming back, again and again. You don’t want him to forget you, or turn around one day and say, “I think I read that book by that author once. It was good, but I never heard from her again, so I haven’t read anything since.”
But how do we keep our work in the forefront of our readers’ minds? How do we make sure they never forget us?
Let’s start with the basics.
If there’s one thing every author needs, it’s a basic website and a mailing list. Why? So that you have contact info, and you’re not relying on someone else’s platform to make your sales. How is a reader supposed to remember you if you’re not around for them to find?
There are lots of easy options out there, for even the most techno-phobic. Personally, I use Squarespace for my website — with a personal domain that they host — and MailChimp for my mailing list. I highly recommend both services as reasonably intuitive, cost effective, and visually attractive. But there are lots of options out there to consider:
Mailing List Providers:
Once you have the website and mailing list, then you can really start heating things up.
Breakfast in Bed
Before you leave your new partner, make sure you give them your info and something to remember you by. For example, in the front (before the dedication) and back of my books, I include a link to my website, with an offer for a free short story if the reader signs up for my mailing list. I know other authors offer a free full-length novel for signing up to their list. Still others give their first book away for free to draw in new readers, then offer book 2 for free to new list subscribers.
Why would they do this? I mean, that’s two potential sales for each reader.
Except it’s not, because if the reader doesn’t know anything about you, they’re unlikely to pick up Book 1 in the first place. Even if they do, and they love your work, they might never sign up for your list. And then how will you reach them when you have a new book ready? You won’t. You’ll be forced to rely on fickle Amazon algorithms, advertisements, or luck-of-the-draw merchandising to find them and announce your new release.
If you want her to call you back, you’d better make it memorable. Like a single flower in a bud vase on the breakfast tray, the presentation should be stunning. An image of the freebie cover with stand out text draws more positive attention than a simple link to your website. Don’t let the reader ignore what you have to offer!
You have your reader interested. He’s called you back, given you his email, and you’ve opened the lines of communication.
What do you do now?
First — and this is critical — make sure you deliver on your offer. Don’t disappoint from day one with bad links or failed emails. After that, it’s time to get to know each other.
Start out simple and small. Tell your reader a little about yourself. Who are you, writer? What inspired you to write? What’s happened on your personal journey that made you want to become a writer? Make sure you ask questions, too. Find out who their favorite characters are, and why. What were their favorite scenes?
Next, give them another small token of your appreciation. I have deleted scenes that I offer my readers after they’ve finished my first book, but you might consider free excerpts of your favorite scenes, artwork that you’ve commissioned or created yourself, an entry into a giveaway for a signed paperback, a short story or flash fiction related to your book, background information, character bios, maps, behind the scenes research…be creative! Be generous. Don’t ask for anything until you’ve given of yourself first.
After a few emails, it’s time to ask your reader for another date. You’re ready to request a review or pitch the next book in your series. Be polite, not pushy, but make sure they’re aware of what you have to offer. Stroke their ego. Explain how important they are to you and to other readers. Be honest, but don’t be afraid to sell.
Just don’t sell something in every email.
Building a Relationship
Regardless of whether or not your subscriber took action on your “ask,” keep in touch and give more than you receive. Your mailing list subscribers are the foundation of your audience, and the best means by which you can ensure you have a career as a writer, no matter what happens in the industry.
I like to touch base about once a month, plus any time I have a sale or a new release. My regular monthly newsletters include an update about my work and any upcoming events or exciting news, an excerpt from my work in progress, a giveaway of a free signed paperback to one lucky subscriber, and a reminder of the extras I offer to all subscribers (deleted scenes) or any recent requests I’ve made (reviews, surveys, etc.)
With this process, I’ve identified a network of True Fans who engage with my work and my process. I’ve had readers offer free services, buy signed paperbacks, and promote my books through their social media networks on their own initiative. My list is still relatively small, and I’m always trying to find ways to grow and expand, but my primary focus is to foster those core relationships. They’re the readers who keep me motivated!
So don’t leave your readers panting breathless in bed by themselves. Give them your info, let them get to know you a little, and you’ll reap the reward for years to come.
How have you fostered your reader relationships?
Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! I’m the author of the Amazon best selling series,The Sanyare Chronicles, and Program Director of O.C. Writers. You can find me on my website at www.meganhaskell.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
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