Part of the Indie Author Series
In last month's post, I talked about the pre-release steps you can take to find your audience. Today, I'm tackling finding your audience after your book's launch.
Lessons to learn from non-fiction writers
As you've probably already noticed, it's easier to find articles on this topic for non-fiction writers because their book's subject helps direct them on where to find their audience. Plus, there are clear strategies one can take to build a platform. The challenge is slightly different for us, but I think it'll be helpful to understand a little why it's easier (not easy, but relatively easier) for them so that we can find the right approach.
Why is it easier for them? Non-fiction writers can go to where their audience is, since humans are great at organizing around shared interests and goals. If their non-fiction book is about grooming long-haired dogs, they can search out forums and blogs and podcasts on the subject. They can also set themselves up as subject matter experts by creating their own platform through the internet and through speaking engagements.
Think beyond sales
I think most writers worry about finding their audience because they're staring at the barely moving needle on their sales dashboard. So most will go about it by thinking the solution is to blast their book anywhere and everywhere on social media. That will make people buy it, right? Or they think that's the only way, and they hate even the thought of it, so they bypass looking at it in any other angle. Instead, they hope that if they put their best book out there, the writing will speak for itself and the audience will eventually come.
But I encourage you to think about building relationships instead of trying to drive sales. Sales will eventually come from the relationships you build. I'm absolutely convinced that it was the relationships I built over the nearly ten years before I was published that helped me have a very strong debut for an unknown indie. I had writer friends who let their readers know I had published without me even asking.
Where to build relationships
By passive, I don't mean no work will be required. I just mean it won't be you actively selling your book, but rather you becoming a part of a community, with the long-term possibility that you might garner some sales as an outcome of the relationships you build.
Does your fiction book center around a subject people are passionate about? Maybe your main character is a pet groomer, then you can go to the same watering hole the non-fiction writer goes to and interact. But don't just barge in and pimp your book. Create those relationships. But I'm assuming if your book was centered around a hobby/interest, you're already doing that, so let's move onto where most of us land...
If we've done our pre-release homework then we know there is an audience for our book--people who love our genre or subgenre. The problem is we're just one of a multitude of authors in the same genre, all of us wanting to get noticed. So one strategy would be to seek active places where those readers congregate. I say active, because it can be easy to find blogs on our genre or subgenre, but it could be that they're just another voice that no one's hearing. See if anyone's commenting on their posts. Check their Alexa rating. These will be good indicators as to whether they are influencers. If all looks good, then participate or approach them. But don't approach from the perspective of what they can do for you, but rather what you can give them. Maybe you can do a guest post and do a giveaway. Become a part of the community.
Personally I don't spend most of my time doing this. If it's something you'd be doing anyway because you love talking about xyz with other like-minded folk, then go for it. But don't force yourself to do it because you're told it's a way to find your audience.
The most important thing to keep in mind is: be authentic.
Your Mailing List
It seems very old school, but a mailing list is gold. Your ability to communicate with them will not disappear if Facebook does something funky or--gasp--goes belly up. Or whatever other place you hang out in. Policies can change, websites can be shut down. Who knows. But you're at their whim. An example would be those authors who became an active part of the Shelfari community and interacted and participated in that microcosm of the internet. Amazon shut it down this past year.
And don't make the mistake of dismissing a good mailing list because you hate emails. Readers love hearing from their favorite authors. They wouldn't sign up if they didn't want to hear from you. So, make sure you not only have a mailing list, but also a strategy for how to keep it healthy by building a relationship with the people on your list. I have a series of emails that I send to new subscribers and this series is something I set up and then it runs automatically. Many newsletter providers have this functionality. I use MailChimp and they call it Automation. So day one they get a welcome email, then several days later, they get another email, then seven days later another, etc. And each of these are geared to letting us get to know each other better. I share my fave reads in one and ask for theirs, in another I share photos of my writing spaces and chat about them a bit and then ask if they have a fave place to read, etc. It doesn't matter, just as long as its authentic and you're encouraging a dialogue with your readers. My TBR pile has grown now with recommendations from folks on my lists 😃 This way they're not just thrown in cold into my regular monthly emails.
My point is, build a relationship with those on your list. It will pay off later.
But what if you can't find people to interact with?
By now you might feel frustrated, because you might not be able to find a community to interact with (or the idea gives you hives) and you haven't found enough readers through your book sales to have a good mailing list. You can counteract this in at least two ways:
- Set out lures
- Create your own communities
I'll cover the first one here and save the second for Part 3.
Set out lures
There are a number of methods indies have employed to lure readers. Though that might be a poor word choice as it sounds underhanded and sinister. All I really mean is to make an enticing enough offer for someone to give you a second look.
There are some well-trodden lures indies use, so I won't go into detail here, but I'll just list them so you know what I meant and then I'll move on to other ideas:
- First in series free
- First in series at 99 cents
- Periodic drop in sale price of first book in series (price pulsing)
- Doing giveaways
The hope is that a new reader will take a chance on a person they've never heard of through these methods. However, there are a growing number of authors who are doing this a little differently and it's tied into relationship building. If a mailing list is gold, why not leverage lures to grow yours?
Nick Stephenson has a free book outlining this method called Reader Magnets: Build Your Author Platform and Sell more Books on Kindle. It's also what Facebook ad guru and thriller writer Mark Dawson advocates in his video courses and podcasts. The idea is to create a lure (or reader magnet to use Stephenson's terminology) and in exchange a reader joins your mailing list. But, as I noted above, you then build a relationship with these readers and convert them into fans and super fans.
Stephenson's lure is a free book on Amazon, where most readers congregate. But since he can't collect readers to his list other than the link to join his mailing list at the back of his book (like we all do, or should be doing), he creates another lure in the back of his books. Dawson uses Facebook ads to giveaway a starter library of his books in exchange for their email.
Since I don't have a large enough backlist to do Stephenson's exact method, I've tried other methods, including Dawson's.
Back in February, I put my debut novel up on Instafreebie and made it a public giveaway. I also did the free trial of the Pro version so that downloaders had the option of joining my list (I didn't require it). Through their own list and reach, I instantly started getting subscribers. Since these were readers who had never heard of me, I couldn't just put them into my list cold, or do the normal welcoming sequence which assumes a familiarity with at least one of my books, so I created a new sequence geared specifically to help them get to know me and my books (and for me to get to know them). I'm ending it in a few days, making it a four-month long experiment, and have netted 345 readers who have the highest open and click rate of any of my lists, including my regular newsletter! Some have left reviews, some have joined my ARC team and some have become super fans. I haven't yet had time to do a complete analysis to see if it was worth the cost (after the trial period, it was $20/month) or exactly what actions they took (did they go on to buy my next book, etc). If I knew I could continue to gain roughly 85 high-quality readers for only $20/month, I'd keep doing it, but it does start slowing down unless you actively promote, which I was not. I was relying solely on their reach since the whole point for me was to find readers outside of my sphere. I switched back to free, but I will absolutely turn it back on when I'm ready to do another giveaway with them.
This spring I also did a 90-day giveaway which I advertised solely on Facebook. However, I didn't want to do some big prize that even non-readers would want, so mine was geared to readers who might like my book. I write time travel romance, and so I did a giveaway of Season 1 & 2 of Outlander on DVD, a Kindle e-ink reader preloaded with time travel romances from fellow authors, and 3 paperback copies of my debut. I also made it so that everyone who entered automatically got my debut as an ebook. I chose a non-tablet Kindle so I wouldn't get tablet-hunters--only a reader would what the style of Kindle in my giveaway. The copies I loaded onto the Kindle were donated by fellow time travel romance authors so that they might also gain new readers.
During that 90 days I netted 1006 new subscribers (with 36 unsubscribes) and had lots of people replying back with their fave reads or telling me they enjoyed my book, etc. I even gained a new member of my street team from this list. The open rate is less than my newsletter list, but still above industry average. I plan on sending them a survey so I can get a better feel for its effectiveness before I do another, but my gut tells me it was worth it.
These readers also had a special automation sequence they were sent before they got my monthly emails.
This week I started doing Mark Dawson's method by advertising my debut as free to targeted folks on Facebook who'd be most likely to enjoy it. The methodology is the same here--they are being put through a special get-to-know-me sequence of emails.
See if you know of any coordinated newsletter campaigns. E.B. Brown does one called Mega Mailing List Promo which accepts multiple genres, but is probably best for romance writers. There are others though, and you can find them by haunting forums like kboards. The idea is to pay a nominal fee to list your book which goes toward a big reader prize. Readers enter by doing tasks on Rafflecopter. Most writers ask people to join their list. I've done it twice and both times netted between 100 and 120 new subscribers. Their open rates are slightly less than my Instafreebie folks at 55%. I put them through their own welcoming sequence too.
Think outside the box
Where else do readers hang out where you can put out your "lure" and gain a new fan? Another place I want to try is Wattpad. I've had the first couple of chapters of my debut up there since 2014 but I'm not doing anything to bring them into my fold. I have sales links up there, but that's it. Maybe they go on to buying my book but who knows. I think I'm going to try and put a link on the last free chapter and let them know they can get the rest for free by joining my list.
When brainstorming keep in mind that you want to find potential fans. This is important. Because the point is not to grow the biggest list. Big lists are expensive and if they're not actively engaged, it won't do you any good come release day. So create a lure with your target reader in mind. What do they want.
These are just some ideas of how to find your audience. My reader magnet (lure) methods I've employed this spring have definitely made a difference as I gear up next week for my first release in a year. Last time I had only a handful of ARC readers. This time I have almost 95 and the bulk came from the invite I had in one of my welcome emails to new readers. When I released Must Love Chainmail July of last year, I had 80 folks on my newsletter list. Next week when I announce my new release, I'll be sending it to just shy of 2100 readers who have been getting to know me this spring, emailing with me, and reading my books.
Next month, in Part 3, I'll talk about ways to create your own communities to find your audience.
How do you build relationships? Are you actively growing your mailing list? What methods have you used to grow yours?
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About Must Love Kilts: A Time Travel Romance
Releasing July 6, 2016
The Jacobite Rebellion--not the best time to get drunk, hook up with a guy, and lose your sister.
A drunken bet...
When computer game designer Traci Campbell gets too close and personal with a bottle of Glenfiddich while vacationing in Scotland, she whisks her kilt-obsessed sister back to 1689 to prove hot guys in kilts are a myth. Hello, hundred bucks! But all bets are off when she meets Iain, the charming playboy in a to-die-for kilt.
Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name...
Iain MacCowan regularly falls in love at the drop of his kilt. The mysterious red-haired lass with the odd accent is no different. But when his new love is discovered to be a Campbell, the most distrusted name in the Highlands, his dalliance endangers his clan's rebellion against King William.
It’s all hijinks in the Highlands until your sister disappears...
Traci thinks men are only good for one thing--thank you, Iain!--but when she awakens once again in Ye Olde Scotland and her sister is gone, she must depend on the last person she wants to spend more time with. He wants to win a heart, she wants to keep hers, but can these two realize they're meant for each other before the Jacobite rebellion pulls them apart?