Growing Your Audience One Fan at a Time

The last two Thursdays I’ve been addressing a huge concern of many writers, and that’s the challenge of how to grow an audience of readers who love your books. I shared the top three things I feel are essential and that’s 1) write a great book, 2) find the perfect niche, and 3) grow your fans one at a time.

The #1 bit of advice successful authors give me and blog about is “focus on your mailing list.” Last week I talked at length about the benefits of a mailing list of faithful readers—or at least interested readers who may turn into devoted fans. And I shared some of the strategies that seem to be working for many authors.

Writers can find countless blog posts on marketing, promoting, and ways to get discovered, from contacting Amazon reviewers to doing costly giveaways to blasting every social media channel out there. But you might agree that we can spend eight hours a day on all this and not get any traction.

I spent four years, when self-publishing began taking off, trying every strategy under the sun, and found little success. With my traditionally published novels, I spent a good five figures on a publicity firm and in mailing costs, sending out advance reader copies and trying to get noticeable reviews for my books.

As I mentioned, from time to time I spend some money on ads, usually going for a broad spread across numerous sites in the hopes the ubiquitous (my hope) exposure will generate a flood of sales. But apart from Bookbub I’ve never seen much in the way of results. Usually the sales fail to cover the cost of my ads.

If you have some money to spend, hiring a book-marketing expert may help. If anything, delegating all that work and planning and executing will free you up to do what you really want to do—write. Coordinating a successful book launch takes a lot of time, and I’ll admit—I usually have no patience to plan one. Sure, I could make the time, but this isn’t the kind of activity I enjoy. And since I don’t have a lot of extra money lying around, I usually do very little to launch a book.

And because of that, the results I get, I’m sure, are far from what I’d see if I planned and executed a savvy book launch.

If you already have a following—and that growing mailing list—you may not need to do much more than announce your upcoming release, do a bit of promoting online, maybe plan to discount your book the first week, and ensure you have done your homework so that your product page, cover design, keywords, and other essentials are targeting your niche genre as best as possible.

It all swings back around, though, to those “musts” the top-selling authors list. Cranking out great books on a regular basis. Giving away the first book in a series or one of your collection for free. Writing books that target a very specific audience.

We can get so overwhelmed by all the many ways we can use our time to promote and market. Yet, we can’t afford to ignore this, because if we do, it’s highly unlikely anyone will notice our books. You might get lucky and win a contest or award, but I’ve won some top awards and that didn’t ensure lasting high sales. Events like that are often blips of success on the screen.

So, to me, what really matters at the end of the day or month or year is finding ways of sparking interest in my books and nurturing and pleasing those readers. And that’s best done via my mailing list.

Before I move off this topic and onto the next concern that readers have wanted more help on, I’d like to hear from you.

What has worked, and not worked, in your attempt to grow your audience? If you’ve seen success, what #1 suggestion would you give other authors to see similar success? Please share in the comments!

Here are a few great posts featured on Live Write Thrive that may help you grow that audience:

6 Ways You Can Prepare Yourself and Your Manuscript for Success

15 Tips for Aspiring Authors from 5 Successful Writers

How Goodreads Can Help Writers Grow Their Readership

How Writers Can Use Strategic Blogging to Find Readers

How Targeting Genre Can Make the Difference in Your Writing Career

I’ll be sure to share more posts on how you can grow your audience, and your requests for this has prompted me to reach out to successful authors and see what they’ve been doing. Be sure to read all the posts this year on productivity. If you can ramp up your productivity, that’s going to go a long way toward this goal of putting out lots of great books for that growing audience to read!

Featured photo: Annie Spratt

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  1. When do you know the right time to start a mailing list? I am just starting out working on my first novel. I have a long way to go. I am still plotting and having begun to write yet. Due to my review blog, I do have followers that I would like to include on a mailing list, but I don’t have anything to offer yet. Do I wait until my book is complete or start before that when I am about to publish?

    1. As soon as you can. I just bought a URL for a novel I’m writing, anticipating a lot of interest in it and wanting to start capturing emails. So I will be putting up this website in a month or so, long before the book is done, all to capture emails and start drumming up interest in the release. You can share your cover designs, sample chapters–lots of things in your emails, and if you don’t have anything free to give away yet, consider maybe writing a related short story that features the characters in your book (I know authors that do this) as a freebie to get them on your list (lead magnet).

  2. I’m all written and blogged. I’ve just started the ‘one at a time’principle with people who I think will appreciate the esoteric fiction genre. I also think the short story thing is a brilliant idea. I did something like that recently which made me a monthly winner on Webook. I took a character’s name only, but built a short story around her.

  3. I’d initially decided (during February) to pull back from promotion, but as taking down all my writing stuff & revising plans gathered momentum, it’s evolved into a full-throttle shutdown of all my writing. And wow, I’d had so many plans for 2017, writing 3 novels by mid-2018, making them all Free, then various book funnel strategies etc etc endless etc. But it felt so great shoving it all over the cliff and just start living again free & clear, I’m thrilled to have packed it all away, maybe I’ll never go back to that personal Hell of writing & publishing. I’m amazed now I stuck at it for so long.

    I’ve had little success with building a mailing list, frankly, but hypothetically it’s the only strategy that makes sense.

    I recently read a detailed launch plan that involves much work on social media. It’s worth looking at if only to see how deep that rabbit hole goes. You could spend a lifetime doing this sort of stuff. But anyway, here’s that approach.

    1, write 10 blog posts about the “best books in (your genre)”. 2, then review those books on youtube with a video review. Then post that on Amazon (author page I assume). 3, do a book giveaway with one of those 10 best books (the one closest to your launch book). 4, set up your book on preorder. Do you feel your eyes starting to glaze over? 5, break your book into 20 teasers & read small sections on youtube posts, plus make dozens of ‘image quotes’ using the strongest lines from your book combined with an arresting image, then share on Pinterest, Twitter, FB. And so on.
    You get the idea. I might actually enjoy experimenting with a lot of that, but for now I just want to do nothing writing-related for a long long time.

    I set up 3 Free ebooks with magnet book offers inside in mid-February, and after a few weeks there’s been 100 or so downloads of the 3 Free ebooks, and zero sign-ups for any of the 3 magnet books. So the mailing list isn’t growing.

    My emotional conclusion is I really need distance from all this. Take care, everyone, and good luck.

    1. I hear your pain! I have spent years trying so many things, finally throwing my hands up. That’s why I wrote those posts on how I’ve been growing my audience. I do feel the gradual build of a mailing list, in the long run, is best. Because you do have fans making a tribe of sorts, and those are the ones who will spread the word about your books. Even skipping the YouTube and the guest posts and all that, you can just offer a free book via social media, put the link in all your books, then keep trying to get Bookbub ads. If I could do one Bookbub ad a month (my ultimate goal), I would be set for life. I ran one free book with them last June for five days, and ended up making close to $20 in six weeks, almost all from page reads (of the other books in the series). So having a big series, promoting on FB and other places, and bringing people into your mailing list is a more streamlined and easier approach, I think. But really, we need to write! So I make sure I constrain my time for all that promotion.

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