So … you’ve written and just indie-published your book and now all you have to do is find fans, right?
You’re probably going to be disappointed in what I say next, because I’m not going to offer a magic way to get a ton more readers.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works, and anyone who tells you different is either trying to sell you something, or scamming you.
Readers are only gained a few at a time, even if you experience a sudden and serendipitous burst of exposure. I know this for a fact.
I’ve written and published six books. I’ve won five awards for them. I’ve been interviewed by local media (newspaper & TV). I even got a particularly nice Kirkus Review.
All things considered, I do all right. But are people falling all over themselves to send me money for my books? In a word … no.
There are not enough people who know my name.
Unless you’re Stephen King, whose name is familiar enough he could probably sell his weekly grocery list, finding readers takes time. Name recognition is seldom an overnight thing.
Gathering your fans is long-term strategy.
Believe it or not, it starts with your other books. Writing more books is the way to find readers, and writing good books is almost always the best way to turn casual readers into true fans.
I run into new authors all the time who say, “But I don’t want to write more books. I want readers for the book I already have.”
I can sympathize. Writing a good book can be difficult. The last thing I wanted to hear after completing my first novel was it’s time to turn around and do it all again.
But here’s the painful truth: Marketing your book is harder than writing it, and your chance of making enough to live on from one book is next to nothing anyway. Your footprint is simply too small. You’ll get lost in the noise.
If you write another book (and another, and another), your drawing power multiplies with each release. Each book becomes a little funnel scooping a few more people toward you.
After enough books and time (with no promises as to how many or how much), you’re likely to cast a net wide enough your ideal readers will find it hard to miss you.
But if you have nothing else to offer? Well, then what reason is there for readers to stick around?
People may not be talking about your books in line at major retailers yet, but hopefully they are discussing them somewhere. If they are, you’ll start to gain fans automatically.
Why? Word-of-mouth is a money machine.
It may only churn pennies at the start, but if it’s out there working for you … at all … it builds with every new release.
I’ve written about this before. Word-of-mouth is huge. In the trade, word-of-mouth is called earned media (you can check some of my earlier posts by clicking this link).
Ask yourself the last time an ad persuaded you to buy and read a book. Now ask yourself the last time you got a book recommendation from someone you know.
Easy answer, isn’t it?
Reading takes a lot of time, and accepting a word-of-mouth book recommendation is therefore an act of trust. Most people get book suggestions they believe from friends and family. A writer has to be good enough at his craft for his books to move readers to feel something they want others to feel.
If you write well enough to do that, then … and this is important … you need to take your book(s) public. Getting your name known is the biggest part of the battle. How do you go about that?
There are lots of groups looking for speakers. Check out your local Humanities Councils; Arts Councils; Book Clubs; Libraries; Schools. By writing more and actively extending your craft as a speaker, you deepen the emotional connection with readers.
Plus, you will have a captive audience at each venue and several minutes to do nothing but sell your books. The people who hear you speak (assuming you don’t bore them silly) will talk about you to their friends. Earned media at it’s best.
That’s it? Yes and no. Everyone knows that social networks are also important. Of course, some folks would have you believe there is some sort of magic power in the latest big online thing.
Well, you should know there are folks out there looking for people who believe in that magic. Why? Because they know a ton of wanna-be writers will buy bogus quick-fix solutions all day long.
If your email spam folder is anything like mine, you know there’s course-after-course out there promising to teach you how to use social media networks to make your fortune. But if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know how I feel about that.
It’s total bullshit. There is no Easy Button.
Let me tell you what online social networks are: they’re networks of people. Who are being social. Online. That’s it.
It’s important to be social, but the minute you start to think you should build your business’s lead generation around something like Twitter, stop and ask yourself if that’s remotely intelligent.
Yes, you should use Twitter and the other social networks, but don’t depend on them. Over time, I’ve built a significant following for this blog, and I have lots of Twitter followers. But if Twitter vanishes tomorrow the sky won’t fall.
I’ll keep on telling stories, just as storytellers have been doing forever, and simply find another way to connect with people who might like my work.
Definitely take advantage of modern tools … they are this century’s equivalent of afternoon tea socials … but don’t overthink it, because it’s not a magic bullet.
Use social media to be social. And remember, you will grow your truest fan base by staying authentic.
Oh yes … and by writing good books.
I hope to be busy enjoying time with my family and friends over the holidays. That’s also my sincere wish for you, too. Happy Holidays!
My books have all garnered some terrific reviews and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.
Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.