We all know that, as authors, our no.1 priority after writing books should be to nurture our readers and fans. Sure, we have to run our author business and take care of the never-ending marketing, but we wouldn’t get anywhere if we didn’t look after our audience. After all, they are the people we’re writing for and who provide us with a means to make a living from our passion.
To be able to look after our readers, to give them the books they love to read, to foster relationships that will stay with us through our writing career, we need to get to know them better. As authors, we have many tools at our disposal to do this. Our blog, our social media platforms, and our mailing list.
Of the three, our mailing list is our strongest and most effective asset to communicate with our readers and find out more about them. If you haven’t got a mailing list yet, go set one up NOW. The one regret I have in my writing career thus far is that I didn’t start mine until two years after I started publishing.
Now some of you who are reading this are probably thinking, ‘Hey, I know who my reader is so I don’t need to do this stuff.’
Yeah, we all think we know who our readers are and why they started buying our books.
I always imagined my typical reader to be a woman in her mid 40s-60s, a high school/university graduate, in full-time employment or retired, a homeowner, on a median income, someone who liked shopping online, loved reading complex thrillers, and probably counted James Patterson, Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Clive Cussler among her favorite authors. And I believed the reason she first bought my book was because of my book covers, since everyone under the sun in the publishing industry tells you, ‘Your cover has to be THE bomb! It’s the number one reason a reader will click on your book and buy it!! It needs to be a combo of The Bourne Ultimatum, James Bond, Jack Reacher, and Star Lord!!!’
Okay, first off, never trust someone who puts three exclamation marks at the end of a sentence. Second, it wasn’t until I started surveying my mailing list in 2016 that I discovered how very wrong I was about many of the above assumptions.
Not only does surveying your mailing list help define your ideal reader and why they dig your stories, it is also a tremendous tool for marketing your books. By identifying the characteristics of the people who are your fans, you can fine-tune your marketing to reach similar readers. It’s a big world out there, with plenty more people who want to read your books. You just need to get their eyeballs on your stories and brand.
So, what kind of questions should you be asking your fans? Here are some examples of the stuff you could ask in a survey:
- Country of residence
- How they found out about you?
- What made them download/buy your book(s)?
- What format do they like to read?
- Their preferred ereader
- Their favorite authors (3-5 max)
- The last great book they read
- What do they want to see in your newsletter?
- How frequently they want to hear from you?
- Whether they want to read more in your series?
- What else they’d like to see you write?
- What do they think your books are worth?
- Have they followed you on social media/BookBub/Amazon?
- On which social media platform they would like to engage with you?
As to the survey tools available for authors to use, here are some popular ones:
Some of these are paid and some are free. Go take a good look at them. Here are two articles comparing their pros and cons.
Finally, you can take a peek at my current newsletter below. I’m a Typeform fan and love how well they integrate with Zapier and MailChimp. My survey is in the last of five automated emails that go out to my new subscribers over a period of a month. By the time they get this, they would have received a free box set, four exclusive pdfs containing confidential data about the characters in the series, and the chance to join my advance review team.
In addition to all the above freebies, I also offer an incentive for filling the survey: the chance to win a signed paperback. I download my Typeform data once a month and pick a winner randomly from the previous month’s entries. Not every author offers an incentive for their newsletter survey and you could start by just asking your readers to fill out the form. If your numbers are poor, you could try offering an incentive and see what happens with uptake. I know my numbers improved with the offer of a signed paperback. Some authors give out Amazon gift cards, which are easier to deliver electronically, or book swag.
If you’re not surveying your mailing list yet, you should be. It’s an easy, cheap, and fun way to research your target reader, engage with your existing fans, and gather data to aid your future marketing strategies. So, hop to it!