C. Hope Clark, editor of FundsforWriters.com and author is back on the blog today to share about the question we all ask, how do I connect with readers? Read her advice below and be sure to check out FundsforWriters.com for more publishing advice.
The title sounds rather pretentious, once I reread it. Who am I to say how I connect with readers? Shouldn’t this be a question answered by the reader himself?
Actually, both the author and the reader ought to feel this conduit to a connection. It’s a two-way street. Like greeting a friend on the sidewalk, you recognize each other, smile and enjoy the fact you experienced a moment. It’s symbiotic.
An author hungers for readers and fans. The energy that comes from entertaining someone with his words is an immense high and grossly gratifying. At the same time, readers crave an author they can depend on for a good story. That regularity and consistency means they don’t have to second guess whether they wasted their time reading, or their money purchasing the product.
But there are so many writers and so many readers that it’s a melee of noise and competition. Who’s a reader to trust? How’s a writer to be heard?
1) Be Genuine
Authors often feel the need to present as a professional and distance their private lives from the public. I find this logic flawed. A reader wants to know an author is a real person and cares about the reader. These days, it isn’t just about the story; it’s also about who wrote the story. Why can’t an author put himself out there as a human being? Neil Gaiman does this as well as any author in the business, but I can name fifty others who don’t.
2) Be Reachable
If the author doesn’t have time to touch the reader, the reader might find the author not worth his time either. Until an author reaches six-figure sales, his mailbox filling with hundreds of personalized fan messages a day, he can take the time to respond to fans. And if he reaches such heights that the volume exceeds his abilities, then he needs to do something FOR the fan base that doesn’t require individual response. Video, podcast, freebie downloads, twitter chats, Skype presentations, contests, giveaways. He cannot hide behind the computer all the time and only spit out books.
3) Be Consistent
If an author uses social media, he must do so religiously. If he blogs, the same. If he writes a book each year, then maintain the course. Whatever he does to reach the public must be such that the public can rely on its continuance. He shouldn’t ever put himself in a situation where the public becomes accustomed to what he does, and he doesn’t show up. There are too many writers out there for a fan base to flip over to, and away from him.
4) Be a Personality
An author isn’t just an author. He has hobbies, likes, funny history, beliefs and quirks, and he needs to share those. I raise chickens. I’ve had poems written for me about my rooster, a chicken apron given to me as a gift. My dachshunds snare attention as well. When my old doxie Dixie died, my Facebook exploded with condolences as I cried buckets at how thankful I was that people cared. And when my puppy Roo showed up a year later to replace Dixie, that same following blossomed with congratulations. Then Winnie came along, and during one evening as she hid under the sofa woofing at Roo, with Roo too fat to reach the new pup, I took a video of the exchange and posted it. Fans adored the moment.
Just be careful in terms of politics, religion, and highly controversial topics. My Southern roots run deep, and I share those thoughts at times, but my politics has deep roots, too. Those I do not share. Topics that lend themselves to polar differences are not wise to mention, unless that’s a brand. For instance, Rush Limbaugh has a strong following, and equally as strong enemies. Unless I only want to channel my work to one faction or the other, I don’t express my feelings about his work.
5) Have a Life
I quit counting the number of times someone greeted me with “I hear you like a good bourbon.” Yeah, I do, and I’m liable to share one with you if we meet at a conference. Just ask. My husband might come along, the Federal agent. Yeah, I milk it, and of course, he enjoys bragging like anyone who’s ever worn a badge. My love of Edisto Beach, the color green, my grandson, the military, gardening, animal rescues and wildlife. An author is allowed to share those pieces of his life. After all, when you make friends don’t you share common interests? The same works here. Become a friend to a reader, not just a book seller.
6) Find Time
Spend at least 25 percent of writing time at marketing, promotion, and reader connection. If a writer doesn’t have the time to reach out to people, he has no business in the business. Spectacular opportunity awaits for a writer to become a memorable part of a person’s life. Everyone has a book in his past that made a difference. Imagine your book as that book for someone. Now imagine how stupendous that experience would be if you thanked the reader or autographed the book or set aside minutes to compose a heartfelt email that reader may print off and tuck behind the cover.
7) Consider Yourself Blessed and Show It
Many thousands of writers want to work full-time at their craft. It’s a bucket-list dream. Millions strive to publish, and sell more than a hundred copies. However, if you are into this business, full-time or part-time, and you have a book under your belt, count yourself darn lucky. Be excited. And whether you just released your first or twenty-first novel, be equally excited, and equally grateful, and equally thrilled that you are doing what you love.
You will have bad days. I’ve sat in my study and cried. I’ve wondered what the heck I was doing trying to make this business work, my latest meltdown barely two weeks ago. That’s when I step away from the keyboard, do a crossword, till the garden or sink my feet into the cool water of the lake outside my door. I find a way to stop the spiral.
Then sometime later, that night or the next day, I return to the computer, less upset, still maybe a bit vulnerable, and I open emails. Because there, somewhere amidst the inheritance notices from Nigeria and the magazine ads will be a thank-you message from a reader. I always smile. Sometime I tear up. But each and every time I return to the craft, feeling overly blessed that readers enjoy what I do. And I thank that person from the bottom of my heart.
Like greeting a friend on the sidewalk, we recognize each other, smile and enjoy the fact we experienced a moment. It’s symbiotic.
About C. Hope Clark:
C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Murder on Edisto, the first in The Edisto Island Mysteries. She’s also author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mysteries and editor of FundsforWriters.com, chosen by Writer’s Digest as one of its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com