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Dianna Love and Barbara Vey: Sharing the Secrets of Reader Loyalty

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.”

Reader Events/Signings

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.

Blogging

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.”

Social Networking

  • 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?

 

Laura Russell - August 5, 2011 - 5:07 am

Appreciate the helpful advice. Thanks.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 6:24 am

Thanks, Laura and we appreciate you visiting the blog.

Christine - August 5, 2011 - 7:14 am

This blog is wonderful, Marilyn. I’m printing out the advice!! I love Dianna & Barbara because they always are gracious, fun, and generous.

I totally agree with the advice that if someone comments on your guest blog, you should respond. I know of authors who don’t do that at all! Not a smart move, for sure.

And yes, we are always “on” whenever we go out in public. I tell people I am a writer, and people ask for my name so I give it even though I’m not published. Let them look for my books at the local B&N. Maybe a publisher will get a request for one of my books LOL.

:-)

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 7:26 am

Christine,

Thanks for commenting. You have a great blog so you know how important it is to answer your readers. I remember Barbara saying in her presentation that she always carries books around with her wherever she goes to get people interested in great romance novels. And she advises people to carry their own books around and that many don’t take advantage of opportunities that may arise.

Christine - August 5, 2011 - 7:40 am

Barbara is a wonderful Romance fiction advocate. I love her!

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 7:44 am

I agree. I think Dianna calls Barbara the Romance Ambassador. Or Ambassador of Romance.

Pam Asberry - August 5, 2011 - 8:29 am

Great summary, Marilyn. I loved that meeting and took all their advice to heart. Now, to get published…

Sia Huff - August 5, 2011 - 8:38 am

Your journalism skills are showing. Great recap, Marilyn.
Dianna and Barbara are the best. Thanks for adding the RWA Nationals class I didn’t get to attend. And thanks for the valuable infomation.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 8:59 am

Pam,
Thank you. As Christine said, this advice can also apply to blog readers. And you can use it when you get published.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 9:01 am

Sia,
Yes, I was a journalism major and I always tend to fall back on those skills. I’m glad you found the information useful. There was so much more to learn from nationals that I couldn’t put in this blog. But it is interesting that so much of what Barbara and Dianne said was repeated at nationals.

Terry Wright - August 5, 2011 - 9:40 am

Hi Marilyn, Great job hosting this blog. Self promotion is a daunting task which often makes a writer sound a bit egotistical, but that’s what it takes to develop your ‘brand’. I commend you on your efforts and wish you all the best.

Dianna Love - August 5, 2011 - 9:43 am

Marilyn –
Thank you for sharing our talk with others. You and the rest of the PFHTs are great examples of connecting with readers. I’m currently on the road with Sherrilyn Kenyon touring for her new book RETRIBUTION and every stop is different. You’d think the signings would all be the same, but it’s the readers that make the event and they’re different and interesting to meet so the events are never the same.

But every stop is a pleasure to have that chance to spend one-on-one time with a reader who shares our passion for books. And when you listen to them, they share their stories as well.

We’re always saying this is a business, which it is, but at the heart of this business are people who love books. Always remember that and you’ll do just fine as an author, plus your life will be all the richer for the times you get to spend with other readers.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments about our talk and warm words. You know I love this group!! Jumping off before I lose what internet connection I have. :)

Isis Nocturne - August 5, 2011 - 10:41 am

Thanks for posting this, Marilyn, and thanks to Barbara and Dianna for sharing! I love all three of you! :) Great advice!

Nicki Salcedo - August 5, 2011 - 11:25 am

Great recap of a wonderful meeting with Dianna and Barbara!

Susan - August 5, 2011 - 12:22 pm

Marilyn,
They did a great job and I took a lot of note then but even a few from you. Thanks for the reminders.

Katherine Bone - August 5, 2011 - 12:22 pm

Marily, thanks for hosting this post!

I’m reminded today that I need to be a bit more personal in my approach to blogging. I had the opportunity to sit with Barbara the night before a luncheon a few months ago and she said the same thing. I’ve been trying to focus more on reaching out to readers, even though I’m not published yet. One often worries about how much personal information to divulge when blogging. I guess that’s been my problem. Can you go a little bit more into detail about that?

Thanks!

Katherine Bone - August 5, 2011 - 12:24 pm

Oops! Sorry for hitting send before I realized I’d misspelled your name, Marilyn.

LouisaCornell - August 5, 2011 - 12:56 pm

What a great summary of a very important topic! I don’t know Barbara, but I will be checking out BeyondHerBook !! I know and adore Dianna! She always gives such fabulous advice and always has time to chat with us AYUP authors!

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 1:50 pm

Terry,
Thank you.A brand is important but it means nothing without loyal readers.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 1:51 pm

Thanks Nicki and Susan. I think everyone who attended got a lot out of that meeting.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 2:26 pm

Dianna,
How wonderful that you would take the time to visit the blog and share your wisdom. You truly love readers and are a joy to watch at a signing. You are genuine and people can tell that you’re sincerely interested in them. We appreciate everything you do for our blog, the chapter and readers and writers everywhere. You remind me of my mother. You never met a stranger.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 2:33 pm

Isis,
Thanks for coming to visit the blog. Dianna and Barbara are wonderful and so are you! I’m glad you liked the advice.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 2:36 pm

Louisa,
If you love Dianna you will love Barbara and you’ll love her blog. She puts it all out there. She is very funny and a warm person and she really puts people at ease. They are both wonderful.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 2:45 pm

Katherine,

Barbara would really be the best person to answer your question. I hope she comes on to comment but reading her blog gives you an idea of how she connects with readers. She connects with them as people first. When I blog, I usually blog about something funny that happened to me, maybe something embarrasing but a topic that people can relate to. Blogs give readers a chance to get to know your personality, your likes and dislikes. Think about what you might like to know about another writer that makes them more human, approachable. I think humor goes a long way in helping people connect with each other. As long as you stay away from your home address or something like that, I don’t think there are many topics that are off limits. I did a blog about surgery that I had, about remodeling my laundry room, etc. People talk about their pets, things that bug them, anything you might tell a good friend. I think the more human you can make your blog or site, the better. Thanks for visiting our blog. I hope this helps.

Linsey Lanier - August 5, 2011 - 3:01 pm

Barbara Vey is definitely a brand. So is Dianna Love. That was one terrific meeting, having the two of them together. Thanks, Marilyn, for reminding us of these timeless tips.

“Twitter is like a blink. Facebook is like a stare.” Love it. I also like what Dianna said, “the heart of this business are people who love books.”

If I keep repeating all the terrific quotes here, my comment will be as long as the article! I’m with Christine. This post goes in my keeper file.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 3:16 pm

Linsey,
Yes I loved that twitter facebook quote too. That stuck in my mind. I’m glad you liked the post and thanks for commenting.

Carol Burnside - August 5, 2011 - 4:15 pm

Marilyn, I miss GRW meetings!!! So, BIG thanks for posting this and giving me a recap. Excellent post.

Shanon Grey - August 5, 2011 - 4:45 pm

I was lucky to be at that meeting. I got to sit at their table and was in reader/writer heaven!! They are the best and they live what they say! Thanks for posting this.

Maxine Davis - August 5, 2011 - 4:46 pm

Marilyn,
Great post and it’s about 2 great people. Love Dianna’s books, Barbara’s blog and your books, Marilyn

Sandra Elzie - August 5, 2011 - 4:50 pm

Hi,
I’m a little late getting here today, but wanted to leave a note that I loved your article. The GRW meeting with the two fantastic ladies was great and I picked up a few more pearls of wisdom to put in my bag as I listened to them.

Thank you for being such a great note-taker and for sharing them with us.

Sandy

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 4:57 pm

Carol,

I’m glad it was useful to you.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 4:59 pm

Shanon,
Yes, I remember you were sitting at their table. I really learned a lot from that presentation. Thank you for commenting.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 5:00 pm

Maxine,
Thank you. That’s really sweet and Barbara and Dianna are great. Their blog/books reflect that.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 5:01 pm

Sandy,
Thanks very much. They really had a lot of good advice and I’m happy to share it.

Katherine Bone - August 5, 2011 - 7:30 pm

Marilyn, thanks for giving me your perspective. Going by your advice, it sounds like I’ve done a much better job of blogging lately. Your post has reminded me how important it is to connect with people on a personal level. Developing a reader base is like making a friend. That’s a wonderful way of looking at blogging. ;)

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 9:21 pm

Katherine,
If you want to see the type of blogs any of the Petit Fours write, just click on any of our pictures and our recent blogs will come up. I rarely blog about writing, but more of my personal experiences, and they seem to get more responses. Once I did a post about my cousin in Ohio who started her own pastry business. That was a popular topic.

Sharon Wray - August 5, 2011 - 9:25 pm

I’m definitely printing out this blog for reference. What wonderful advice! Thank you for posting this, Marilyn. And thank you to Barbara and Dianna for their insight.

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 10:08 pm

Sharon,
I’m so glad you found this helpful. Thank you very much for visiting our blog.We hope you will come back often.

Dianna Love - August 5, 2011 - 10:23 pm

Marilyn – Happy to stop by here any time I can and love all of you. Thank you for the kind words. I really do like to meet people. :)

Marilyn Baron - August 5, 2011 - 10:29 pm

Dianna,
Do you have any more to add about how personal one should get on a blog. That was a question Katherine asked.

Tami Brothers - August 6, 2011 - 8:18 am

Great post Marilyn! I wasn’t able to make that meeting and was very bummed. This is an awesome recap. Both these ladies are fablous and very generous with their time and attention. This information will definitely be put to good use. :)

Thanks!!

Tami

Marilyn Baron - August 6, 2011 - 8:24 am

Thanks, Tami. I’m glad you found the information useful.

Barbara Vey - August 9, 2011 - 8:07 am

I’m so sorry to get on here so late, but I was spending time with a very ill friend, so no computer.

Marilyn thanks so much for the great write up. You made me sound so much smarter than I am. :)

Katherine, I think how much personal information you give out is up to you. I think any time you can connect to a reader you’re on to something. Talking about your pets is always well received. Funny things kids say (whether your own or someone elses). Places you visited, things you notice when you’re out and about. I always get a lot of comments when I write about stopping for coffee at Paneras and what I see there.

It doesn’t have to be about personal problems your family is having or writing about them at all except in a general way like, “Took the kids for ice cream cones and the youngest dropped his on my new blouse (chocolate, of course)” This way you’re not giving names or where you were, but more an incident that people can identify with.

I hope that helps. The key is to be comfortable with what you say. If you are not comfortable…don’t say it.

Again, thanks Marilyn for the great write up and thanks to everyone for stopping by and commenting.

Marilyn Baron - August 9, 2011 - 6:02 pm

Barbara,

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by the blog and answer Katherine’s questions. You are a very smart woman, no doubt about it. Thanks again for all the wonderful insights.

Katherine Bone - August 9, 2011 - 6:18 pm

Barbara, I pray your friend is doing much better now. :wink:

Thank you for answering my post. You’ve always been so gracious to all your fans and readers, and therefore greatly appreciated by all. Your words of encouragement to writers and your connection to readers make all the difference in the world to someone trying to break into the business. Thank you!

I’ll be praying for your friend.

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