By Marilyn Baron
How do you generate and maintain that precious commodity – reader loyalty?
At the May 21 Georgia Romance Writer’s meeting, dynamic duo, New York Times bestseller Dianna Love (www.AuthorDiannaLove.com), who co-writes thrillers and urban fantasies with #1 NYT bestseller Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Contributing Editor for Publisher’s Weekly, Barbara Vey (www.BeyondHerBook.com), intrepid reporter, romance ambassador, avid reader and beloved and influential blogger of the popular Beyond Her Book blog, shared their secrets about reader loyalty. Their advice was as good as gold and just as hot a commodity. Here are some of the highlights:
- Reader loyalty comes before you write the book. Once readers learn about you, you’ll have a built-in audience.
- Readers read books. They love books. They love to talk about books. Give them a reason to read your book. Talk about the book.
- What do you like to read? Try to be a reader. You were a reader before you started writing.
- Readers get their reading lists from book blurbs.
“It’s not always convenient to be an author,” says Vey. “You’re going to meet people everywhere, so when you walk out the door, you’re on. You never know if you’re going to be talking to your future readers.”
Vey advises authors not to write off any segment of the population. “Don’t assume someone wouldn’t want to read romance,” she says.
“Get out there and sell yourselves,” Vey adds. “You are a business. You are a commodity, so start thinking about yourself that way if you want to be successful. The more people out there who know your name, the better. If they see your name, they’ll remember it. Use your real writing name on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media and buy your domain name. When a reader goes to a bookstore and sees all the thousands of books, they’ll say, ‘I recognize that name.’ Authors, carry your bookmark or a copy of your book.”
“Brand yourself,” says Vey, who notes that ‘Barbara Vey’ is a brand.
- Creating and maintaining a Web site, refreshing and rebuilding it every couple of years may take time, but readers go straight to your Web site.
- Don’t do 100 blog tours. Pick a big blog, like Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, Romance Bandits, or Seekerville, and guest blog. Look at a site first. Does the site get traffic? When someone interviews you, show up and post a reply. Guest bloggers should be available to answer questions.
- Give away books and you’ll get so much more in return.
- What readers want and writers think they want are different. Readers want consistency. They want a good story. You make a promise to them. They don’t want to feel like they’ve read it before. They want a new twist.
Dianna Love: “We’re going to do it one reader at a time. It’s less expensive to keep a reader than to get a new reader.”
What builds reader loyalty? It’s that connection to your readers.
“Find that common ground with the reader—the reader connection,” says Vey. “Readers and writers have to form this community, and when they do, they will follow you to the ends of the earth.”
Dianna Love: What do you like about signings? If you’re going to spend time meeting readers, make it worth the time. Enjoy what you do. Readers will know if you enjoy meeting them. Readers find it fascinating to see their favorite authors stopping by. If a reader does something positive, say thank you for doing it. Get to know authors near you. Thank other authors for putting your book out there.
Barbara Vey: If you’re writing a blog for writers, that’s fine, but don’t expect readers to come. If you’re writing it for readers, make it for readers. Say something embarrassing that they’ll identify with. Find that common ground that make people want to seek you out. Post photos of your kids, food. Do giveaways, free stuff—that drives traffic. Include a sentence about what you’re doing.
Barbara Vey receives this feedback from her followers: “You know why I love your blog, because you write to everybody. You talk like you’re talking in real life.”
“Always be positive and polite,” says Vey. “I will not post anything that’s negative or anything that attacks an author. It’s a difficult business. We should all be supportive of each other. Do not engage if someone says something negative about you.”
- Use Twitter. Retweet. Use Facebook.
- Keep in touch with readers. Your Facebook page is a place where readers and authors can get together. Announce your release date.
This excellent advice was corroborated at a seminar at the 2011 RWA annual conference I attended in New York called “Tweet It, Blog It, Face It: Self-Promoting with Social Media,” with Liz Edelstein and Megan Frampton.
- Set up a Facebook Fan Page (Best social networking tool). (I heard that more than once)
- “Twitter is like a blink. Facebook is like a stare.”
In another session (Spotlight on Kensington), attendees learned what to do when they are ready to market their books:
- Get quotes from recognizable name authors for your book jacket.
- Define your goal. There are no shortcuts.
- Surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you.
Understand your consumer. Determine who you are trying to reach and offer something of value to them. If you’re writing women’s fiction and your book features a character that quilts, reach out to the quilting community. If your romance features a heroine who runs a cupcake shop, offer recipes on your Web site or blog. Share some aspect of yourself you don’t mind sharing.
- Hand out chocolates, romance trading cards, postcards or bookmarks at your signing.
- If you’re going on a family vacation you might e-mail your fans on your Facebook page and tell them where you’re going to be on a specific date and invite them to talk with you and bring your books to sign.
- Treat your career as a small business.
- Upgrading your Web site (and keeping it up-to-date) is the best marketing tool.
Some great advice we can all use. Do you have any advice you’d like to share about maintaining reader loyalty?