By Amy Collins
Are you trying to build a “fan base?” Well stop. Seriously. There is a better way.
While it is highly advisable that authors spend time every day connecting and interacting with readers, it is time for us to stop trying to cultivate “raving fans.”
Why am I not a big proponent of the idea of “creating fans?” I think that connecting with readers and building a relationship with people who enjoy your writing takes less time, less effort and has a LOT more integrity than jumping through hoops to build a “fan base.” I am not a “fan” of my favorite authors; I am one of their readers. It is a more personal and valuable relationship.
I would like to suggest that we, as authors, try to develop a reader base instead of a fan base. That is the point of this month’s DO THIS NOT THAT.
Newsletters and social media are two of the best ways to reach out to your readers and to connect with new readers. I spoke with Steena Holmes from Lake Union Press this week and she was kind enough to share with me the ups and downs she has experienced while learning to connect with her readers.
Steena has sold millions of copies of her books over the years and she has a HUGE “fan base” that any author would envy. But that base was built by learning how to interact with readers and use the newsletter and social media tools at her disposal.
What She Did
At one point, Steena decided that her readership was large and engaged enough that she could move her fan discussion group from Facebook onto her website.
She rightly reasoned that the conversations on her site would be more valuable to her than they would be on Facebook. She could gather more data from the readers, offer more perks, and have a more personal connection on a site that she managed.
Not many people followed her from Facebook to her own site. A few deeply connected folks did jump over, but most of her readers opted to stay on Facebook and not add an additional page to their list of places to hangout.
Steena was correct in thinking that driving people to her page would benefit BOTH her AND the readers, but folks are not easily moved from where they are most comfortable. (An object at rest…) Have YOU ever tried to get a group of people to move from one location to another? It takes a great deal of organization and motivation. So, people stayed on Facebook and Steena’s page community never truly lifted off.
What She Did Then
Smart and quick to see what benefitted her readers, Steena moved back to the social media forums where her readers were most comfortable. BUT she did not stop there.
She developed a series of practices that allowed her readers to stay where they preferred AND gave them opportunities to stop by her site and give their contact information, answer questions that formed some of Steena’s future offerings. Getting folks to her website and benefitting from her readers input there WAS still possible, Steena just had to go about it a little differently.
Here are some of her ideas:
- She asked people questions about what they wanted to read/see next and linked a button from her website to click on to answer.
This gave her readers the very legitimate feeling that she wanted their input AND drove them to her website to leave the answer which gave them a chance to (perhaps) sign up for her newsletter.
This practice gave her the ability to connect with readers on the platform they preferred and still offer them legitimate reasons to check out her site and partake of her offerings.
- Speaking of her newsletter? Steena learned very early on that a newsletter that does nothing but advertise books and announce sales is NOT a valuable resource for readers.
The newsletter she produces is a TON of entertaining items, reader tips, and other items that entertain and inform her subscribers.
She also found that if she only promoted her books when they were on sale that she was training her readers to only buy her books when they were discounted.
What We Can All Learn from This
- Try new things and offer every idea you can to your readers.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment but be sure to listen to your readers.
- Pay attention to what they are saying by their actions and give them what they want.
By doing this you will grow and nurture your reader base ad relationships. This is far better than chasing after fans.