“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”
To me, as a reader, this is what reading and writing is all about – to be drawn into books and to be able to connect with authors – feel their inspiration in each of the stories they write. For authors, books are a way of reaching and serving an audience – and hopefully, to gain a following and sell many books, become successful. How to make it happen, to grab your momentum and become a bestselling author? Don’t we all want to be another Frank McCourt or J.K. Rowling?
“I just wrote the book and was amazed and astounded that it became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize. It still hasn’t sunk in.”
– Frank McCourt
Readers & Writers’ Perspectives
I recently realised that readers and writers each have their own perspective. As a reader, I prefer my authors to dive deep into themselves and create something wonderful. Something that makes me chuckle, brings me to tears or urges me to avoid the dark. ‘My’ authors are those who put talent and creativeness above mere money-making. ‘My’ authors write because they have to because it is a part of them without which they would not be whole. ‘My’ authors reach me and many others, with their writings and that is pretty awesome!
It even goes so far that when one of ‘my’ authors receives praise, I am proud myself! And want to shout out about it! #authorcrush
Is this a realistic point of view? Is it not merely an ideal without any foundation in real life as authors, like us humans, cannot live on air alone? Perhaps it is time to look at this from another angle.
Author Justin Carroll (Hemlock Jones & the Angel of Death) says: “I don’t think Rowling would have settled for just writing for herself. I don’t think King or McEwan or even Murakami make their art for no one. They want to be read and to succeed at what they do. I think that’s a powerful drive for a writer. Or for any artist. Or anyone at all actually! Money is not necessarily the inspiration for authors or the ideas they have. But their drive to keep writing – to continue after dozens of rejections. To refuse to settle for just four people reading their book. That’s a desire to succeed, a desire to win at writing, to have lots of people read and enjoy what they write.”
Now that made me think! And of course, this is true. We all dream of doing what we love but even if we do, we want that acknowledgement – the positive influence on our lives by doing what we do best.
“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”
– John Cheever
So how can authors become successful? There are so many answers to that question but for now, let’s talk about engagement. About connecting to and with your readers and fellow authors.
What Not to Do
Do not make the mistake of disregarding those, that already follow you and only seek out new readers for your book(s). Do not think that pushing for Amazon reviews is ok because you will reach a higher sales number. Do not post abundant ‘buy now’ messages all over social media. Do not make all your appearances about selling and marketing figures.
How to build and grow your readership
Most importantly, be there. Connect. Respond. Talk about other things – for instance, where your books are set and why. Why your protagonist’s character is flawed (trust me, a flawed character goes well with readers – no one wants a perfect character because they are impossible to relate to – unless you are perfect, of course, but then again, you would not be reading this because you would not need to. Everything is already perfect. Right?).
Find your own readership both on- and offline. Your hometown is the perfect place to start – give interviews in your local newspaper and send them press released for upcoming publications. Visit your library and talk to readers. Think outside the box – an author event does not need to take place in a bookshop – many authors love to write in a coffee shop so perhaps yours offers an opportunity? – Remember this is to start building your readership. Start low but aim high!
Make use of Social Media
“I think social media is really cool in the sense that I don’t think that a writer like me would have found a readership if maybe Instagram wasn’t there.”
– Rupi Kaur
As I stated above with the author website, it is all about making the most use of social media. To avoid becoming all consumed by it, schedule your ‘appearances’ on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. For instance, schedule 15 minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening for Twitter. In that time, you (re)tweet to and from your following and check out the latest. The same goes for Facebook – use your Facebook Author Page to that end! Also important, attach images to your posts in order to make them visually attractive.
Have an author website, not only as a showcase for your books but also to blog on it. Share your thoughts on a regular basis, whether it is about research for your books or a haphazardous idea for an article. Some authors are reluctant to share personal information and that is fine, use other topics that you can somehow relate to your books. For instance, if your detective lives in London, you could post about the places in London, where scenes from your books take place. Or, if your book covers a certain topic, use related articles in newspapers concerning that topic to talk about – and refer to your book.
Connect, Comment, Respond
One of the main factors to becoming successful as an author is building a relationship with your following, your readers. Be consistent in your efforts and go the extra mile to respond to questions and reviews. Trust me, as a blogger, I know how wonderful it is to have an author react to your review. A good review can make your day as an author, likewise, a response from an author makes our days! We love it when authors connect to us. We do. Interaction is the key.
To quote Tony J. Forder, whose latest book, ‘The Scent of Guilt‘ has recently been published, “for me, it is about engaging with them all – bloggers, readers and fellow authors. When you rely on social media for so much of your publicity, you have to spend time cultivating support. That means giving as well as receiving, so making sure that you thank reviewers, those who share posts, retweeters, as well as sending out random posts in support. You have to pay it forward. It genuinely does feel like a real team effort. And what’s more, it’s enjoyable. I have got to know so many warm and generous people over this past year, and not only has it taken me by surprise, but I also know that my relative successes could not have happened without them.”
Take your Time
In conclusion, think long-term and do not feel discouraged when things do not go as fast as you would like it. Your book was not written in a week – you know that it cost you time and lots of effort. The same goes for building your following. As to social media: Use it! It’s there whether you like it or not so turn it into an advantage – connect with others in the bookish world, be supportive of other authors (you are NOT rivals!) and you will notice they, in turn, will do the same for you.
How do you build your readership? Share your advice!