Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding Your Audience, Part 3: Create Your Own Community

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

Surround your book with readers who want to know more about books like yours.

In part one of this series on Finding Your Audience, I talked about the pre-release steps you can take to find your audience. In part two, I tackled one aspect you can do to find your audience after you're published: building relationships and creating reader lures. In that article I mentioned that I'd tackle the second part of building relationships in this articlecreate your own community.

Sometimes it can be tough finding your "reader tribe" already in existence, so one thing you can do is create this tribe.

Band Together with Fellow Authors in your Genre

Before I was published, I only knew one other time travel romance author--Jessi Gage--and that was because we were in a workshop together that then created a community with graduates afterward. She was generous with sharing her self-publishing experience when I was tackling whether to accept one of the small press offers I had or go indie. But from 2014 when I debuted my time travel romance until this past fall, she was the only colleague I knew in my genre.

Then some really amazing things happened this past year that changed the landscape. It started with a Facebook party I organized in October of 2015 for the one-year anniversary of my debut book. Like many who create and organize these parties, I invited about a dozen other time travel romance authors to take half-hour slots. For some it was their first time hosting, so I created a secret Facebook group beforehand to post some tips and help organize the party and the giveaways. After the party ended, in which we bonded and had a fabulous time, I felt like it'd be a shame to have our temporary community disbanded. So I asked the others if they'd be interested in renaming and repurposing the group. We did so, calling it the Time Travel Romance Authors Alliance, and opened it up to more authors in our subgenre. It's now become a tight-knit, wonderful group where we share industry news and tips, and also cross promo each other. If another wants to organize a Facebook party, they can put out a call, for instance. We share promo results and talk shop. When one of us has a newsletter to go out, we'll ask if anyone has a new release or sale to promo and we'll get that info to include.

So if you don't have a forum or group of just authors in your subgenre, I urge you to create one and invite your fellow authors. But be strict about promo and also who's included. We made a decision to only include those writing adult time travel romances (so no YA and no time travels that weren't also a romance), but no erotica. I think this is vital so that it doesn't devolve into one of those Facebook groups where people just do drive-by promos and also so that our cross promotion efforts and our sharing of promo results and industry news stays relevant. We've also now restricted it to invite-only so that we can continue to feel comfortable sharing numbers and dollars and news.

Now I've gotten to know other authors in my subgenre and we meetup when we're at the same conference, etc.

The tangible benefits have been:
  • Having my audio release and my new release shared in some of their newsletters
  • When I opened up my ARC team, one of the authors put out a call in her reader fan group because we both found out (because of our previous promo efforts) that we share fans.
  • Getting to know some wonderful authors
  • Sharing news about sales and promo efforts that can be different if learned from someone not in your genre.
  • Finding out that Bookbub had segmented their list to have a time travel romance list.
  • Having content to share in my monthly newsletters for those times when I don't have a release (I now always include sales or new releases for at least two of fellow authors) so that I can have something of value to give my subscribers in each newsletter
  • Learning about Facebook parties to sign up for
  • and more
I can see down the road that other opportunities will arise as the group evolves.

But two big things came out of it that I want to share and discuss in this post
  • Facebook Reader's Group
  • A group website

Create a Multi-Author Reader Group

I'm firmly of the mindset that a rising tide floats all ships. I believe there are more than enough readers to go around. When I don't have a release, my fans will want to keep reading other time travel romances, etc. In the author group I covered above, one of our authors--Tamara Gill--suggested creating a Facebook group for our readers to join. She'd seen it work well for another subgenre where there are avid readers--Western romances. This got immediate buy-in and Peggy Henderson was also a member of Pioneer Hearts, so she got permission from their admins to model ours on theirs. Over Christmas, we created the Hearts Through Time reader group and we're approaching 400 members. We put the link in our back matter for our books. Some of us also include it in our new subscriber emails. Whenever we have Facebook parties, we post a link.

But to keep it worthwhile, we're strict on promo there too. We have specific rules on when a book can be promoted, and you also have to be mostly contributing non-promo posts to foster relationships with the readers before you can post something promotional. We have had to delete promo posts to keep this reader space fun and engaging. Readers are getting to know us, and since we're each drawing in our readers, each of us benefits by having more potential readers.

We post fun historical articles we come across or share photos from our research trips (both Bethany Claire and I had trips to Scotland since the group started and we shared our trip with them). We do giveaways sometimes too. Now readers are starting to feel comfortable enough to ask us questions. A recent one, which is getting a lot of engagement still, was asking us what brought us to writing time travel romance. Another reader shared how many time travel romances she had on her kindle and other readers wanted to know all the titles, so she shared her list. We are lucky to write in a subgenre where there are lots of fans always hungry for another trip back in time, and now they have a "home" on the web in which they get to interact with a lot of their fave authors.

We're thinking that by next year, we might have enough engaged readers that we could do a small meet-and-greet at one of the reader conventions for our readers.

Create a Group Website

This also isn't a new concept, but it can help and doesn't have to be very involved. Because of how well the reader group was going, I thought maybe we could have a website that was simply a list of our books. I planned to buy some domain names that would help in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by having them be search terms. When I floated that, some wanted to make it into a blog. I had reservations because I'd been a part of a multi-author blog before that eventually fizzled because we couldn't find time to write posts.

We decided to give it a go anyway and hope it will play out a little differently this time for a number of reasons:
  1. Instead of 6-7 authors being responsible for all of the posts, we're spreading it out over about 36 authors.
  2. We're establishing a yearly fee to be on the roster of authors, but that cost can be offset depending on how many non-promo posts are published.
  3. We created a MailChimp account for our group and have a monthly newsletter of just new releases, so that will stay relevant even if the blog posts fizzle out.
  4. We created a great catalog of books tagged in various ways which will always be helpful in steering readers to the kinds of books they want regardless of the health of the blog section.
  5. We're encouraging readers to post guest posts
So, with that in mind, we created the Hearts Through Time website and launched it in early May! To help with SEO, we also bought the domain and pointed it the new site as well. We also have a dedicated subscriber list of just over 100 who signed up to only get new release info in their inbox once a month. That list is not shared by the participating authors. We've all seen increased sales and have found new fans as a result of our web presence and newsletter blasts.

One of the things we did with the newsletter list is put in links to any perma-free books our authors have in their Welcome Email.

I know that the website has definitely resulted in sales for us, because I can see them in the Amazon affiliate report. But I'm sure that's only a fraction, because the readers could have easily been interacting with one of us on the group and popped over to their favorite vendor later to purchase. But it's the relationships we're building that truly matter. I asked the readers last night what they like about the group and if they found new authors, and here are just some of their responses:
"It's great Angela. Getting insights into how the books are written...the processes you all go through. And yeah finding out new authors and being introduced to new books has been fabulous. Though my list of books waiting on my Kindle has grown to ridiculous proportions. No idea when I'll get to read them all but loving it."

"Yes I have found 4 new authors I love so far & working on a few others. The free books they provided was like a worm on the hook for me. I think I have BOUGHT at least 20 books due to their hook. Thank you for starting this group. Keep them coming."

"I really am enjoying this site. I have found quite a few new authors along with books :) I love how the authors share info on research etc. I also like that these authors are normal down to earth people with a gift to write. Thank you for this site!"
Almost all echoed the same theme -- they've purchased books by new-to-them authors and they love interacting with us!

It's harder on our end to see its effect. What I need to do at some point is pull out the affiliate report and share that with the group. But as L.L. Muir shared last night: "I don't know how many readers it's brought to my door, but it brought a bunch of your asses right into my heart. You can quote me on that. :)"

Final Thoughts

If you haven't sought out a groups like this, I'd encourage you to. And if one doesn't exist, create one. In fact, I'd create one anyway if the other group isn't quite run the same. For instance, there is already in existence a Time Travel Romance and Fiction Facebook group, but there's no corresponding secret authors group where we can share tips and news and coordinate promo. Plus, the group has loose promo rules and so it's pretty much one of the drive-by promo groups that litter Facebook. There's no discussion there or attempt to be a place for fans of the genre to interact with authors.

And you have to be strict with the group. We had several times where authors in our alliance weren't used to it being anything other than a new place to do a drive-by post when we first created the group. It was hard to contact them about it, but we did, politely and gently, and they completely understood. It was worth it, because now the readers have been able to engage with us for a half a year now in a group that's mostly NOT promo and so they feel comfortable being there and interacting.

I'd also encourage you to narrow your focus. If you write contemporary romance, that would be too big of a pool. But if you write in the subgenre of sports romance, that would be narrow enough where cross promo as well as marketing strategies you share would be more relevant and effective.

What about you? Do you have a group like this? How have you found its effectiveness? Are there other aspects of finding your audience that I haven't covered in these three posts that you'd like me to tackle?  

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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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?


  1. Hahaha- the quote about bringing readers in the door...! This is a great post, and a good kick for me to act on some of the research I've done into other historical fiction authors writing about Scots...thank you, Angela :)

  2. Thank you for the step-by-step. Geriatric, degenerate writers like me need this kind of info.

    1. You're welcome! And you're underestimating yourself!