Building Meaningful Relationships With Your Readers

I’ve had this post sitting in the draft folder for a year, and I’ve been waiting for the right time to use it.  Recently, I came across this great post “5 Mistakes Authors Make on Social Media” by Michael Cristiano, and I knew this was the right time to make the post below public.

My recommendation is to read the post given at the link above and then read what I have below.

building-relationships-with-readers-post
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1.   Guess what, everyone?  I just wrote this fantastic thriller about a group a survivors who need to wade their way through the apocalypse while trying to find a cure for the virus that turns everyone into zombies.  Check it out on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks!   (This is either posted for the gazillionth time on the author’s social media page–or worse–posted on someone else’s page without their approval.)

or how about…

2.  Space Invasion has received a 4.5 star average out of 23 reviews on Amazon.  Check out why it’s so hot!  (Amazon link provided)

or how about…

3.  I know you guys are talking about romances, but I want to tell you about this fantasy I wrote which won the This Book is the Best Ever 2016 Award.  I know it’s not what you were asking for, but it is so well written that you will love it anyway.  Here’s the link!

or how about…

4.  That story about your kid is so funny.  It reminds me of the scene I wrote in my book, Alison’s Fake Fiancé,  when her toddler went into the store and ran into a large display and knocked everything over.  Here’s the link!

***

What do all of the approaches above have in common?  They’re a hard sell.  And honestly, I don’t think they work.  We are saturated with ads in one form or another.  (All of the above are ads.  They just weren’t ads someone paid for.)  I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring ads of all kinds.  I don’t really “see” them when they’re there.

A better approach, in my opinion, would be to build relationships with readers instead of selling to them.  It requires a slow build.  It takes a lot of time.  And it probably won’t mean a massive amount of sales in a short period of time.  But I think it can be a very rewarding approach longterm because the readers you meet become real people instead of just numbers, and I enjoy getting to know who is reading and enjoying my work.

Alright, so let’s get to the nitty gritty of this post.

I like to start with this in mind: treat others as you want them to treat you.

I can tell when an author is engaged with me as a person vs when they’re just trying to sell me a book.  I’m inclined to read and buy books by authors who take the time to get to know me and care about me.  Early on (2010), an author was really nice to me, but the moment I read and reviewed her book, she stopped replying to my comments on her posts.  I still remember how that made me feel.  I felt like I’d been used, and I never want anyone else to feel that way.

Be yourself.  Hang out on places that interest you.  Have a good time.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Let’s say you’re shy.  Instead of initiating conversations, why not comment in the threads other people have started?  Let others lead and add whatever you can.  After a while, you’ll be more comfortable with some of the people you’re talking to, and you’ll open up.  But let it be a gradual process.

I do think Facebook could be effective for this.  I know Facebook isn’t as effective as it used to be, but it’s still a good way to engage with people who read books.  Just be sure when you are engaging, you’re not out promoting your books.  Be real.  Build friendships.  You can even create a Facebook group to chat with your readers.

You don’t need to be on Facebook.  Pick whatever social media site or sites you enjoy and spend your time and attention over there getting to know people.

I know what some of you are thinking.  “But if I don’t tell people I have a book to sell, how will they find it?”

Make sure your name links to your page on that social media.  Facebook and Twitter highlight your name.  This will take people to your page on that site.  Your page is where you link to your website in your profile.  On your website, you will have your books.  That is how people will find your books.

Another way they can find out is by asking you.  But let them do the asking.  Or, someone else might mention it in passing and arouse the person’s curiosity.  This needs to be someone you didn’t tell to do it.  No gaming the system, guys.  It needs to be honest and real.

Do I have friends who never read my books?  Yep.  There are some awesome people who haven’t read anything I’ve written who have been a huge blessing in my life.  So don’t limit your conversations only to those people that you believe will buy your books.  Be open to everyone.  Just like any friendship, it takes time to develop and involves being sincere.

Does this method take time?

Definitely.  I know it’s hard to wait in our instant gratification culture (at least in the United States where I live).  But anything worth doing often takes time.  When you went through school, you didn’t jump from kindergarten to high school.  You had to go through years to get there.  When you go to college, you don’t get your degree in one semester.  It takes time, effort, and dedication.  But when you take time to do these things, the reward makes all the work worth it.

And honestly, I’ve been far more blessed by people who read my books than they’ll ever be by me.  There were times I wanted to quit (such as this morning, believe it or not), but they were there to encourage me to keep going.  I would have given up long ago if it hadn’t been for them.  Money is just one factor to being an author.  The emotional support you get from your readers is a lot more valuable, in my opinion.  But yes, I do understand we need money in order to eat.  Like my mom used to say, “You can’t eat love.” But I think being your real self with others can lead to a solid foundation that can help you as you look for effective marketing techniques in the long run.  Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

6 Comments

  1. Such a great article! This reminds me of a scene I wrote in my vampire book…Okay, I couldn’t help it 😉 Seriously though, it is a great article!

    1. LOL That was great! 😀

  2. Ron Fritsch says:

    Thanks for another post I couldn’t agree with more. I’m convinced the hard-sell approach doesn’t work. Three cheers for the Golden Rule.

    1. I have yet to see any evidence that the hard-sell approach works. It might gain a couple of sales, but I don’t think it yields a readership that is willing to come back and buy more books in the future. I often hear that our names become our brand. If we’re around long enough, people start to associate us and our work with a certain feeling, and this feeling leads to our brand. That’s why it’s not a good idea to go online and complain all the time. Sure, everyone has a bad day, but if that’s all you’re ever posting about, that’s what people start to associate with you. I think if all an author does is post things about their books, it eventually turns people off.

  3. I have mixed feelings. It’s so hard to know what to do. On one hand, you should definitely be real and treasure those friendships with the readers. As an author, I’m very hesitant to market. But as a reader, I find it’s helpful to see a post about someone’s book that I didn’t know about. I’ve found some good reading material that way. And sometimes I don’t know someone is an author if they don’t tell me. I think the big problem is the constant spamming. I know one author who, for a while, posted about her book multiple times a day. Constantly. It drove me nuts. That’s when I don’t want to buy from someone. But, if I see a link or ad every once in awhile, it doesn’t bother me. I feel like there has to be a balance. And the scale needs to tip heavily on the side of being yourself instead of the marketing side. I just feel like a LITTLE marketing isn’t a bad thing. Products are marketed all the time. Our books are products. I think the best time to market a little is when we have a new release out. It’s just so hard to know how much is too much. I would rather err on the side of not enough. It just gets a little discouraging when you ARE yourself, and you have friends on FB who seem to genuinely like you…but they don’t buy your books.But we just have to keep being ourselves, being kind, and showing a genuine liking for our readers and even non-readers. Because in the end, how we treat others is more important than book sales.

    Wow, I think I just wrote War and Peace. LOL

    1. You know me. I do share the information on my blog and Facebook when I have a new release. I don’t know if you see those on Facebook, though. Facebook is harder to reach people unless they’re in your group. And I do have an email list which I send out when I have a new release. So I do believe in letting people know about one’s books. As you said, the main thing is the balance. I’m sure there might be a good ratio of promoting vs sharing, but I hesitate to say there’s a hard and fast rule. Someone who doesn’t have books coming out all the time needs to bring up past books more than someone who seems to be publishing something new all the time.

      I think most people on Facebook and who follow our blogs are other writers, and writers are horrible to market to. They are swamped with their own books they’re trying to write. That’s why I like Facebook groups. They help you narrow your audience, and your new post will go directly to their inbox where they can see it. It’s too easy to miss things on the timeline. I keep forgetting some of my old high school and college friends are on my friend’s list because I never see their posts. Twitter is useless. There might be one or two people over there who read my books, but most of the time, it’s other authors who pitch their books or it’s someone who is trying to sell a product to authors. I don’t think Pinterest is much different, and so far, I have yet to see how Google + or You Tube can encourage readers to check out authors, either. Wattpad is very limited. Most readers over there are only interested in free books, but there are a few who will buy them. In my opinion, Facebook groups are the best in social media, followed by the blog.

      Some authors offer a free book in exchange for readers signing up for their email list. I heard Book Funnel makes this process an easy one since they handle the deliver of the ebook. I haven’t done that, but some authors swear by it. Some authors also require readers to sign up for their email list in order to enter the giveaway. Some also have a pop-up window on their blog that encourages people to sign up for an email list. (Email list can also be their newsletter. I just happen to divide mine up.) I’m not sure how effective any of those techniques are since I haven’t done them.

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