Ask the Authors: Building a Reader Platform

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In today’s segment of Ask the Authors, panel members discuss building a reader platform, and branding ourselves and our writing to make our books stand out above the multitude of books, putting ours into the readers hands. In her article 10 Obvious Truths Writers Always Forget, Stacey Anderson Laatsch says that although a good marketing plan may speed things up a bit, “An audience grown organically over time will follow you and read more of your work than one manipulated with aggressive ads or hollow social media campaigns.” But in my experience, things don’t happen unless you make them happen. You can’t grow your reader following if readers don’t know you are there. You must make your work visible if you want to be found. There are many angles from which to approach these tasks. Let’s see how our panel members handle them.

What methods have you tried for gaining a reader following?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I’ve tried building up my newsletter, but that didn’t work.  I’ve also tried sending to bloggers, but most of them don’t answer.  Reaching out personally to reviewers has helped, and so has joining review groups on Facebook.

Carol Riggs: Just trying to make genuine relationship connections (mostly on Twitter), rather than focusing on numbers. I had a blog at one point, but it started taking away from my writing time because I enjoyed visiting other people’s blogs and there were a ton of them. So I pretty much retired the blog. I also make connections at the Oregon SCBWI conferences by networking with other YA writers. (SCBWI = Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)

Janet Garber: Book fairs, library talks, person-to-person, mailing list, blog/website, radio interviews, newspaper interviews,  guest blogging or interviews, writing articles in professional magazines, open mic events, attendance at professional conferences.

Cynthia Vespia: I’m on Twitter and Instagram @originalcynergy. My FB and YouTube pages are /originalcyncontent.

Chris Barili: Write good stories. I gain far more followers through my stories than I do through any other means. People who’ve read something in an antho, or Hell’s Butcher, or Smothered.

Chris DiBella: I’ll bring bookmarks with me everywhere I go (concerts, zoo, beach, bookstores) and just give them to anyone I see with a book in their hand. Maybe they read the bookmark and are intrigued to buy one of the books on there. If I’m friendly with them, maybe that will persuade them to give me a shot. I’m not even ashamed to admit I’ve piggybacked on friends’ social media accounts and added their fans as followers or friends. If it’s in the same genre, it makes sense to have a presorted list of potential book readers to reach out to.

logo wheel coverTim Baker: I’ve tried just about everything. Some examples, aside from the standard internet self-promotion: Leaving bookmarks in novels of my genre at bookstores, leaving books in airports, stamping my website address on money, tee shirts, mugs, and putting my logo and website address on the spare tire cover of my Jeep!

 

What’s the most effective way you’ve found to build followers?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I enjoy reaching out personally to talk to reviewers and readers.  I like to think that builds a personal repertoire.

Carol Riggs: Honestly, I don’t try that hard; it’s not like I have that as a goal or anything, although maybe I should. I love using Twitter the most, because I can connect with people who love to read and write. Having said that, I think the most effective way to build followers is to be yourself, and make genuine connections rather than constantly saying, “Buy my book!” Anything else can be pushy and shallow.

Janet Garber: I’ve been hard at work finishing my second novel about a young couple living in Paris in the 1970’s. I have not been as active lately promoting Dream Job as I should be. I’m considering an audiotape and perhaps hiring someone to place ads for me. I’m still on a learning curve re marketing.

Cynthia Vespia: To be honest, that is constantly a work in progress for me. I’m currently on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube. I also have my own website where I do a monthly blog and newsletter. All I can say is that no matter what platform you use to always have fresh content that attracts viewership. My favorite way to gain followers is to do public events like book signings and conventions.

Chris Barili: Giveaways, conventions, leaving bookmarks around town, newsletter, instafreebie, book signings at Barnes and Noble, a website, and Facebook/Twitter accounts.

Chris DiBella: I primarily use Facebook to interact with and build my followers (although I’ve cut down my usage on there significantly lately). I don’t like joining (or being added to) author groups because it’s usually only 99% other authors in the group who aren’t interested in reading anything and they’re just there to post about their own books. I’m guilty of not being more active to build my follower list, but the people that do read my books seem to generally really like them and look forward to the next ones.

Tim Baker: At the risk of sounding pompous…the best way I’ve found to build a following is to write good books, and keep writing them. What you will find is that when people like your work they tell other people about it – which is the best way to gain followers. All of the other marketing and promoting is good, but word of mouth is still the best.

In this digital world we live in, it seems the trick is to navigate through the social media maze to find effective ways to make your book stand out above the mountain of books available. Narrowing things down into a specific niche may increase your odds of success, but most genre writers must compete with multitudes. So what works and what doesn’t. Let’s Ask the Authors.

Do you utilize giveaways or book events on social media? Which ones have been effective for you?  

Jordan Elizabeth: In the past, I did Facebook Release Parties.  The first ones had great success, but over the years the participation dwindled.  I’ve stopped doing them, as only a few close friends would attend.

Carol Riggs: Oh yes, I love doing giveaways and book events on social media. One giveaway I used to love doing was the Goodreads giveaways, but alas, now they are charging money for those giveaways. While it’s nice they’re now including ebooks and that helps distribute ARCs, I’m sad that it’s no longer a free way to bring awareness of my book to a reading platform site. I tried Facebook ads but didn’t have any luck with it. My publishers have had BookBub ads for my books (which authors can use without having to have a publisher), and had great success with them.

Cynthia Vespia: I have done a few book giveaways and joined some book events on FB. I’ve also done giveaways on Goodreads. TBH, there hasn’t been much return from doing the giveaways. The events have supplied me with a few more followers, and they can be fun depending on how active the audience is, but it is hit or miss sometimes.

Chris Barili: I tried a couple of book events. Blog tours and page takeovers. That kind of thing. No luck. What I did find successful was a contest I had with my friend Amity Green. We both did full-court press ad and publicity campaigns and made it known we were competing against one another. That resulted in the largest sales period I’ve ever had, and got me a number of followers.

Chris DiBella: I don’t like book giveaways on sites like Goodreads. You always get a million people signing up for it just to get something free, and who knows if they’re ever going to read it or if they’re your targeted fan anyway…so I stay away from this route. I occasionally do an Amazon free promo over a four-day weekend, but even though a few thousand copies might go out, who knows when or if it will get read. But I guess if it reaches the person, it’s worth it. Amazon has been the most effective by far, and I typically see a small spike in sales of my other books following the giveaway.

Tim Baker: I have done several giveaways. The Goodreads giveaways didn’t do much at all for me, but I have found that when I make a kindle book free and spread the word on social media I give away hundreds of books, which in turn raises my name in the Amazon search algorithms, which in turn drives up sales.

Author Jordan Elizabeth Hollack

Author Jordan Elizabeth – Book Signing

Do you utilize in person book events or giveaways? Do you feel these face to face events are more effective for gaining followers that social media events?  

Jordan Elizabeth: Face-to-face is my preference.  I love to meet people and explain what my books are about.  I do a lot of local book signings and other events in the area.

Carol Riggs: I did in-person book signings mostly for my debut book, and since I didn’t have a lot of friends in the cities I did the signings in, the events weren’t always well attended. However, I did also do a literacy event in Eugene, Oregon, this last December 2017 that supported literacy with a percentage of my sales, as well as provided me an opportunity for meeting people. I think authors need to realize it’s not always about how many books you’ve sold; it’s about engaging readers face to face and making a personal connection.

Janet Garber: For me, face to face encounters are a lot of fun and generate some sales.

Cynthia Vespia: I’m not sure if face-to-face events get me more followers but they are a lot more fun. I’ve done book signings at libraries, bookstores, and conventions. What I like best is meeting people face-to-face. Writing is isolating, so getting interaction with readers like that is the equivalent of an actor doing a play in front of a live audience.

Chris Barili: Again, the best way to find followers is to write a good story. If you meet them face to face, then they read your book and it sucks, guess what. They’re not following you. But AFTER writing a good book, face-to-face is probably the next most effective way to gain followers. It makes a difference when someone has seen your face, shaken your hand, and so on. Maybe gotten a book signed by you. You’ve earned some loyalty from them.

Chris DiBella: I’ve been known to just show up at local bookstores and ask the owner if it’s cool if I just stand out front and give away my book to people coming in. I tell them I’m not taking any money away from the bookstore and that I’m not charging anything, but rather just trying to get my book in the hands of potential readers. I rarely have a bookstore say no. Then, I ask people leaving store what their favorite genres to read are. If they say action/adventure, I give them a signed copy of one of my books. If they like it, they can pay for the next one, and it helps to get my name out there. Face-to-face is always better because if your personable with people, they’re more likely to buy your book if they can put a face to the name. This could have a reverse effect, however, if you’re an asshole…..so it’s a safer bet to just be nice to people.

Tim Baker:I don’t give books away at live events, usually. Once in a while I’ll offer a “buy two get one free” but for the most part, at live events I’m strictly selling. And yes – live face-to-face events definitely help gain followers. People enjoy meeting authors and talking about books, writing, reading, etc.

red-quill

Red Quill & Ink logo – Writing to be Read

What are some effective methods for branding yourself and your work?  

Jordan Elizabeth LogoJordan Elizabeth: I like to keep my writing consistent so readers know when to expect when they dive in.  Early last year I came up with an author logo that I hope will draw more attention to my books as a brand.

Follow-up: Is there a story as to how you chose the image for your logo? Why did you chose this for the Jordan Elizabeth signature?

Jordan Elizabeth: The story is kind of boring…  I have an illustrator friend, Aaron Siddall.  I asked him to come up with something for me and he showed me this as his first try.  I loved it, so he didn’t offer other suggestions.

In November 2018, Aaron and I will be releasing a steampunk novel from CHBB.  I wrote the story and he is illustrating.  It was supposed to be published by Oloris Press, but sadly they went out of business.
Carol Riggs: I make sure the images match across all platforms of social media. Same header, same font, same author photo. I try to keep the color schemes similar or exactly alike. Getting a professional author photo made is a must. You don’t want a casual backyard shot; show you’re serious.

Janet Garber: My book was available to critics on netgalley, but I did not find that helpful. Reviews are important and I have sought those out.

Cynthia Vespia: What I’ve been trying to do is narrow down my genre of writing. Because I cross a lot of different genres (fantasy, magic, superhero, urban) I wound up with speculative fiction. The reason it is important to narrow down is because this way you can target your audience better. I’ve also played with taglines for my writing and I have my own logo which represents my brand. Put something out there that people will remember.
Follow-up: Would you share the story behind your logo?

oclogobutton copyCynthia Vespia: The story is that it’s a play on my name and the biblical story of Adam and Eve where they are in the Garden of Eden and the snake encourages Eve to bite the forbidden fruit. AKA “The Original Sin”

This is why I have a snake surrounding an apple and it reads “Original Cyn”
Margareth Stewart: Holding workshops and talks, either online or at a place, submitting to blogs and other online media, asking for reviews, posting comments and advice in websites, and submitting to magazines and other forms of publications. It is constant, non-stop arduous work that we all hope it will pay-off one day. I have been thinking a little different lately, that we have to write for fun, to enjoy it – if by any chance it pays off, good – and if it does not, at least we had a great time.
Chris Barili: Write good stories. I hate to beat a dead horse, but your primary branding should be that your fiction is good, and that people want to read it. I think the whole “branding” thing is taken too literally sometimes, and people want to be branded as a fantasy writer or a science fiction writer or whatever genre they prefer. Just write good stories with a unique and effective voice. That’s step one in your branding. If you want great examples of writers who use social media to promote their brand, look at Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry and best selling author Brad Thor. They took opposite approaches. Maberry establishes his brand as an accepting, laid-back guy who doesn’t talk about his work much, keeping himself on the good side of most people. Meanwhile, Thor brands himself a hardcore conservative, often to the point of being exclusive, intentionally alienating a portion of the population he knows won’t buy his books anyway.
Chris DiBella: I recently ordered some custom-made shirts that say “I’m Your Next Favorite Author”. It has my web page and a little catch phrase on the back and it’s a good conversation starter. The one I made for my wife says, “My Husband Is Your Next Favorite Author”.  Every little thing helps.

 

 

 

Blind Dog Books

Blindogg Books

Tim Baker: Blindogg Books is my own publishing company. I publish my own books of course and have published 2 that weren’t mine. With technology the way it is and the power of the internet it is very easy to become your own publisher.

 

 

Do you have a website or blog that you drive traffic to? How effective do you think they are? 

Jordan Elizabeth: My website is JordanElizabethBooks.com.  I would say it is 10% effective.  The only people who view it are those who want to order signed copies.  I would say the publishers’ websites are more popular and effective.

Carol Riggs: Yes, I have a website; I used to have a blog but it’s pretty much retired now. I post chapter samples of all my books as well as purchasing links on my website. I’m not sure exactly how effective these things are, but a thorough and professional-looking website is a must for an author. A website must be easy to navigate and not too cluttered. An author photo must be included, as well as contact links, social media links, purchase links, book covers, and book summaries.

My website: http://www.carolriggs.com/

Janet Garber:  I have a website, http://www.janetgarber.com and an attached blog.

Cynthia Vespia: I have a website at www.CynthiaVespia.com where I will blog tips, news, and fun stories. I also have some free reads on the blog as well.

Margareth Stewart: 

I have a Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMargarethStewart.

There I post all things related to my publishing life, books, novels, things I write, what I read, topics for writers: writing tips, residency open calls, and so on. I am sure this is important not only in building a career, but to being in contact with fellows alike. I am not quite impressed by authors and people who have a large amount of followers – much to the opposite; I like to discover new authors and new voices, either for the future or from the past. I am so much into independent bookstores, self-published and indie authors, forgotten voices and old manuscripts, initiatives that makes us grow and worry less about fame. In a society of celebrities and best-seller authors, I guess I took the unpaved road (lol).

Chris Barili: authorchrisbarili.com is my website, and while it’s not terrible effective at bringing people in, it’s very effective at relaying news to people already following me.

Chris DiBella: Anywhere I have a social media presence, my website address can be found, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. I even put my web address and email address in my books to help encourage interaction.

You can learn more about me and get all of my books at www.chrisdibella.com or on my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-DiBella/e/B078LLFD7R/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1522969486&sr=8-1

 

Tim Baker: I have a website and a blog. The website (www.blindoggbooks.com) is under renovation at the moment. My blog is https://blindoggbooks.wordpress.com.

I think the blog is effective because the content changes regularly. I usually gain a new follower or two every time I post something new. My website is pretty static so it doesn’t do much for me – but it does give people a place to buy my books.

Art Rosch was unable to weigh in this week, but asked that his links be included here.

Novelist and Memoirist, literary fiction, science fiction, poetry and essays
Arthur Rosch Books

Blogger
Write Out Of My Head

Confessions Of An Honest Man
The Gods Of The Gift, science fantasy
The Road Has Eyes: A Memoir of travel in an RV

 There  doesn’t seem to be any one tried and true method of gaining a following. Tim Baker’s advice to rely on our writing abilities to craft quality stories is a good basis to build off of. You must start with a quality product in any business, and we verified last week that writing is a business and we must approach it as such. But from there we still have to find ways to stand out at the top on the mountain of books avaiable in a digital era. Next week, we’ll look at ways to get readers to actually purchase and read our books, when our panel members discuss book marketing and promotion on Ask the Authors, so please be sure to drop by.

If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members.

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One Comment on “Ask the Authors: Building a Reader Platform”

  1. […] the seventh segment of Ask the Authors, our author panel discusses the many ways there are to Building an Reader Platform.  Most of our panel members prefer face-to-face events, over online activities, but it seems they […]


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