The big challenge for authors is finding readers. In 2011, over 4 million books were published, counting the estimated number of self-published works. So it’s kind of hard to get noticed unless you are Dan Brown or George RR Martin.
From my own experience, finding readers is tougher than it seems. People I was sure would be interested in my book didn’t jump at the first opportunity to buy it. Others I never would have guessed would be interested became fans.
Still, some authors manage to connect with people who end up becoming fans. How do they do it? From all that I’ve read of others’ success, I’ve come up with a few things that seem to work.
1. They concentrate on connecting with people, rather than making a sale
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve followed on Twitter who immediately direct message me back with a request. If it’s not “check out my website,” it’s “like my Facebook page.” Why should I? I don’t know them. I’m much more likely to do either of these things if we’ve had some conversation, if I’ve gotten a sense of who this person is.
So the point is to think about what your potential readers would be interested in hearing: some comment on a common interest you have, a question, or an answer to one of their questions. Taking a plunge into the world of social media is like moving to a new town and having make friends. It works a lot better if you reach out to others and engage with them, rather than demand their help.
2. They stick to a few social media outlets, and do them well
Between twitter, Facebook, Google plus, goodreads, kindle boards, Pintrest, twoo, and linked in, not to mention your email, socializing online can act like a giant vacuum sucking up your time. Those who spread themselves too thin don’t do a good job engaging (yes, I’m looking in the mirror here). The way to mange it is pick a few places to get involved, and be a consistent good contributor to the online conversation.
3. They don’t overlook face to face encounters
I personally have done well with the few book signings and speaking engagements I’ve done, and am planning to do more. This is not just a great way to gain exposure for you and your work, but the interaction with people who are interested in your work is priceless. When they tell you why they want to read your book, or what they liked about, or ask you questions, you’ve just learned some great insight into how to slant your sales pitch or what topics you should cover in your blog. You may also find a whole new group of people interested in your work that you didn’t anticipate.
The key is to focus on engaging with potential readers as human beings, rather than potential prospects. Concentrate on a few places to find and connect with people, and contribute to the conversation. It’s a slow growth strategy, but has paid off well for many.