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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Staying Connected with Readers

Things have been quite hectic since my last post. I must do better with my posting frequency, but alas, sometimes I'm just plain tired! It's hard work to write, promote, market, and sell a book. But in order to have a successful career as a published author and stay relevant on the minds of readers, that's what writers nowadays must do--this applies to indie authors as well as those signed with a traditional publisher.

My fourth novel, BREAKING ALL MY RULES, was released February 26! Talk about excited! All three of my originally self-published novels have been re-released, but this book is my first "original" new release since August 2010. That's 2 1/2 years, which is practically a lifetime in today's fast-moving world of publishing. During that long stretch of time I worried about how I would stay relevant. Even though my publisher, Kensington (Dafina Books) re-released my first three novels, introducing my work to a broader audience who were discovering my books for the first time, I still had loyal readers who were looking for something new. I was concerned about how I would stay on the radar, especially in the face of what seemed like a thousand new authors emerging on the scene every day. I knew I had to do two very important things during that 2 1/2 year stretch in between a new book; 1) Trust in God and 2) Develop a plan!

I had the trust in God part taken care of, but the develop a plan part took careful thought and action. I decided to go back to my old school, grassroots strategy and apply it to the here and now.

After publishing three novels, I'd built a solid base of loyal readers, and thanks to the re-releases I was gaining new ones. Social media, which was in its infancy when I published my first book, now came in handy and helped me to further implement my strategy on a much larger scale. My plan was very simple--engage and communicate with readers several times a week using both technology and good ol' fashion face-to-face contact. I posted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest each day. For those who weren't on the social networks I sent out regular e-newsletters to keep them in the loop. I also made sure my website was up to date in all areas so readers would know what I was working on and where I would be (through my events page) throughout the year. In addition to those activities I made sure I regularly reached out to book clubs. Book clubs are so important because they are the lifeline of an author's career! (more on this in another post!)

I stuck to my plan and was able to stay connected with my established reader base while engaging and growing my audience. The key is consistency. You have to be willing to put time and effort into your career in order to stay relevant. Here are a few tips for staying connected with readers.

1. Reach out to local book clubs and send them a copy of your book
2. Have fun with social media. Don't just advertise your book, advertise you! Let readers get to know the person behind the book.
3. ALWAYS have bookmarks, postcards, or other promotional materials on-hand to share with prospective readers (I keep them in my handbag).
4. Take a sign-up sheet with you when you participate at book events. This will help you capture names and email addresses as you build your reader database.
5. When sending out e-blasts/newsletters, ask readers to help you spread the word by forwarding your message to at least 10 of their friends. Small things make a big impact.
6. Attend as many events as you can (literary conferences and workshops, festivals, community events, etc). Exposure is important. 90% of success involves showing up!
7. ALWAYS conduct yourself in a professional manner, whether through social media or human contact. A good attitude will go a very long way!
8. If you have the mailing address of your readers don't just send out promotional materials. Mail them a greeting card during the holidays. Thoughtful gestures count!

Authors: Please let me know what kinds of things you do to stay connected with your readers?
Readers: Let me know what kinds of communication you prefer or would like to see from authors?

Until next time

Trice Hickman
www.tricehickman.com