Thursday, March 03, 2016

Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Reader Retention Plan? Part One

By Jami Gold, @JamiGold

Part of the Indie Authors Series

In this Indie Publishing Paths series, we’ve covered many of the main questions to consider as we explore our self-publishing options. There’s no “one right way” to self-publish and be successful, so we get to decide which path will work best for us.

The previous posts in this series have covered the steps we should go through to understand our options. We first need to figure out our goals and priorities. Then once we’re ready to put our book up for sale, we need to decide on:

After spending all that thinking-time to find the best path to our success, we want to push ourselves along that path. Making the right decisions for our situation points us in the right direction, and now we want to help that journey along. *smile*

How Our Goals Can Affect How We Progress

Let’s take a look at two goals and how they might affect our next step: maximizing income vs. maximizing readership. Imagine a spectrum where some authors don’t care about readership at one end, and some who don’t care about income at the other end, while most authors fall somewhere in the middle by caring about both income and readership to some extent.

At one extreme end, the authors who prioritize income over all else might sell pirated or plagiarized work. Or they might churn out a bunch of short and quick ebooks in different non-fiction categories (potentially under different names so their poor reputation doesn’t follow them) and hope to hit a bestseller list before the bad reviews come in.

At the other end, authors might give all their work away for free on Amazon, or they might post their writing on their blog or a site like WattPad. Their measure of success is gathering readers. Period.

However, most authors will fall somewhere between those ends. They prioritize readers and income. They usually want to hold onto their readers because a committed readership is not only fun, but will also help them earn more income. At the same time, more income will enable them to continue writing—and attracting readers.

Many of the options we’ve already covered have discussed the income side of things, but now let’s dig into the readership side of the equation. Some of these concepts below might seem like a “Duh…” but sometimes it helps to stop and think about why we do what we do so we can brainstorm ways to be more effective.

Why Is It Important to Hold onto Our Readership (Even If We Prioritize Income More)?

It takes a lot of work to get our writing in front of a reader. Publishers—big and small—fold, go bankrupt, or are bought out because they struggle with attracting readers to their authors’ work. The situation for self-published authors is even harder, as we don’t have a publisher’s expertise, contacts, or money behind us, helping spread the word or driving promotions.

So once we get a reader’s attention, we don’t want to let go. We want that reader who’s checking out our cover to click and read more. We want that reader who’s reading our free Look Inside sample to buy the whole thing. And we want that reader who just finished our book to read our next book or sign up to hear when we have more available for them to buy.

Every time a reader enjoys our book but doesn’t do anything else, we’ll need to work to get their attention again in the future. We want that reader to stick with us the first time because that will make the next sale easier.

How Can We Hold onto Readers?

Obviously, we have to write a great book, one that engages readers enough that they want to read more from us. *smile*

But there’s more we can do. We can…:
  • lead readers to purchase our next book
  • direct them to our newsletter to hear about future releases
  • entice them with extra content on our website
  • engage the reader in different ways, such as encouraging them to connect with us on social media and/or to leave a review
  • Etc., etc.

Those examples are roughly in order of most effective for additional income to least effective. It’s no surprise that engaging our readers enough that they buy our other books is the best option for hanging onto readers and increasing our income.

As I mentioned last time, a freebie won’t help if we don’t have other books available that we can promote to readers. We want to use that page right after “The End” to sell the reader something else where we can make money. That brings us to our options for how to lead readers to our other books.

How Can We Lead Readers to Our Other Books?

With ebooks, there are a couple of different ways to let readers know about our other books. We can include…:
  • an “Also By” page in our frontmatter (the pages before the story starts), with links to all of our other books
  • an excerpt to another book (such as the next book in the series) in the backmatter (the pages after “The End”), with a “To Continue Reading” link
  • a cover and/or cover and back-cover blurb for another book(s) in the backmatter, with a “Grab Your Copy Here” link
  • a listing of our books (such as listing the rest of the series) in the backmatter, with buy links for each

For each of those ideas of where we can link to our books, those links could be retailer-specific buy links or links to more about our book on our website (where we’d have retailer-specific buy links). There are pros and cons to those two options that we’ll get into next month, along with several other tips.

Join me next month when we delve into a few tricks for using links in our front or backmatter. Until then, let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

After escaping Area 51 armed only with a ukulele, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | GooglePlay | Kobo | Additional Retailers

About Pure Sacrifice, part of the Mythos Legacy series:

A shapeshifting unicorn desperate to save his race...

The last guardian of his kind, Markos Ambrostead must keep the chosen Virgin hidden and untainted. But when an attacker breaches his protective magic, he’s forced to reveal himself to defend her life.

A tenacious woman who refuses to be ignored...

Celia Hawkins wishes the world would get a clue and stop treating her like she’s invisible. Only one man notices her, or is that her imagination? After narrowly escaping an attempted rape, she demands answers from her mysterious rescuer—starting with why he’s been following her.

Rules were made to be broken...

Markos can’t risk being tempted by the Virgin, yet emboldened by his attention, Celia’s determined to become his friend. Maybe more. Maybe much more. Now he must hold onto his crumbling willpower to maintain her purity—or his tribe will become extinct.

Amazon | iTunes | Google Play | B&N | Kobo | Additional Retailers


  1. Ok, so....what if you're not planning on not going the eBook/Print route? What if you're just planning to publish on your site? Can you talk about how to hold onto readers in that regard?

    1. Great question, Evolet! In that case, the most important thing would probably be to create a way to have your readers notified when you post a new entry on your site.

      Depending on how your site is set up, this might be through an automated New Post newsletter (if each entry is like a blog post) or through a newsletter you send out whenever you post new work (if you have works on pages or if you have other topics on your blog too).

      So instead of focusing on buy links, you'd focus on newsletter signup links. I'd recommend having newsletter signup forms all over your site. :)

      You could have a special page just for newsletter stuff (called a landing page) that you could link to. You could have a signup form in the sidebar on every page. You could have a signup form at the beginning and end of every entry of new content. Etc., etc.

      For the wording of that form, you'd say stuff like "Make sure you don't miss the next update" or "Want to read more? Get every update as they post!" (Or whatever fits your voice/brand. ;) )

      The point is just to make it clear what you're asking them to sign up for and why.

      At the end of the latest entry if you're doing multi-part stories, you could add in something alluding to any cliffhangers. That would act like the equivalent of a blurb or excerpt for stoking interest in the next section.

      Then you'd want to make navigation clear and easy for them to get to the next section of any multi-part works. Also a Table of Contents with links to all your work would be like a listing of books you've done.

      Does that help? :)

    2. It does! Thanks so much!

  2. Great article! Thanks, Jami!

  3. Ok, I don't really have anything helpful to say today, haha. Well, I always prioritize the readers, but the income part leads to the readership part. What I mean is, that if I'm giving my work out for free, people may not take me nor my work that seriously, or they may think it's "not a real book", because "you have to pay for real books". This is not just an attitude online readers may take, however. Even for people I meet in-person, many of them unfortunately still believe that if you're not selling your books, you (and your stories too) are not "legit". If you tell them that you ARE selling them, then they immediately see you as a "different specimen" and start to see your books as serious stuff, lol.

    So I care most about gaining readers, yet some readers won't be interested in my books if they aren't priced above $0!! Which impels me to charge them even though I don't actually care that much about the money, lol. Isn't that a funny situation?

    1. Hi Serena,

      That IS an interesting conundrum. LOL! You can always do sales promos too, to catch those readers who don't want to pay. Maybe that would be the best of both worlds? ;)

    2. Haha yeah sales promos could be a good solution, thanks for the idea. :D

  4. Before deciding how to "connect" with your audience, you must first define what you mean by "connect".

    Some folks just want to read—and this group is divided into:
    1. those who want to read X (some specific thing, character type, worldview, etc.)
    2. those who want to read not-X (some specific thing, character type, worldview, etc.)
    3. those who just want to be entertained
    4. those who just want to think

    Well, to be read, you have to be available to be read. The current demographics of the generation that's my primary audience = one reason I use Wattpad so heavily.

    Then there are readers who want to connect with a person, be it an author or a character who feels like a friend or who they admire/respect. Wattpad gives me opportunities to advise and encourage others. More than one person has said I'm the reason they've resumed (or started) writing, themselves.

    I have fans that I consider friends. I am a fan of some folks that I consider friends.

    I want all those types of connections. Not everyone does, and the methods they use reflect that.

    1. Oh, transition missing: You retain readers by getting them to "connect" with either your writing in a particular book or series, or with you as an author. :)

    2. Ack! Sorry, Carradee. I didn't notice this comment until now, but really, you said it all so well. :) Thanks for sharing your insights!

  5. Excellent post. Looking forward to part 2. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles