Connecting with your Audience

You hear a lot, these days, about the things an author needs to do to be successful. One of the big ones, touted all around, is to “build your base”. This means, in essence, to build up a loyal group of fans that will buy your work, and drive sales of any new book or stories that you put out. There’s a ton of articles about how to do this, and I honestly haven’t read a lot of them. Right now, I’m concerned with making my fiction better and worthy of reading. Once I think it is at that level, then I’ll find people who want to read it. And I also want to keep those people once I find them. Today, I’m going to talk about building your fan-base from the audience’s perspective, and things that authors have done that connected with me.

You know that, a little over a week ago, I went and saw Brandon Sanderson, as well as Cinda Williams Chima and several other authors. I was already a fan of both Sanderson and Chima, but after meeting them in person, I’m an even bigger fan, because they connected with me at the festival.

Doing book signings and panels is important. I definitely feel more enthusiastic about Chima’s latest book, even more so because I bought it, even if I didn’t read it, before the release date. I was already a fan of hers, but I’m now an even bigger fan, and she is definitely on my “buy in hardcover” list, which is a very short list right now, given my back-log of books to read. (MASSIVE. 60+ at last count, and that’s not counting sequels.)

The other authors did a good job of connecting as well. I enjoyed meeting and getting my books signed by all of them, even if I didn’t get much time with them due to long lines, and the fact that I kinda wanted to get in and out by that point too. However, they sold me books, and I have them signed and personalized. I’m now following two of them on Twitter, and will likely follow the others once I read their books, and will almost definitely buy sequels. Their books will also be shelved prominently, as I am proud of the signatures I’ve collected. I’m sure that every single author who was a guest at the festival increased both their books sales and their fan-base as a result.

Including Sanderson. Sanderson took the time between his panels to talk to his fans, signing their books and chatting until his next panel. He was incredibly nice to everyone, and me in particular. (I still can’t believe this happened, and have to keep pinching myself when I think about it.) He had the longest line of fans at the convention, and stayed, as I heard, until well after closing to sign every single book and talk to every single person in line. He made a special effort to do so, and I’m sure he connected with many fans who have never met him before.

In particular… Me. Before the convention, I was an avid fan. Now, you could probably call me a rabid fan. I’m currently considering where to get the money to spend $50+ to buy the physical edition of Legion, so that I have physical copies of all of his books, the complete collection. This is despite the fact that I have Legion on audio, I can get the e-book for $3, and it’s 88 pages long. Sanderson, by connecting with me, made that conversion.

And he does this to many of his fans. I see comments occasionally about how to run your Twitter and blog–people say it should be all about you being interesting, not you selling your books. Brandon runs his by talking about his books, his signings, interviews, and other such things. But he does it well. It’s not spammy, and it’s useful information that fans like to know. He’s not doing it to gain new fans. He does it to keep the fans he already has, and make them into even bigger fans. He also replies sometimes to Tweets, answering questions, and his assistant replies to the ones he doesn’t have time to address himself.

I think this kind of thing is one of the best ways to run your feed. It doesn’t take as much effort as some of the others I’ve seen, and it’s quite effective.

I’m going to talk about what one more author has done to connect with me, and then I’ll sign off.

Brian McClellan.

Before his book even came out, I was planning to buy it purely because Sanderson was recommending it. Not long before it came out, he hosted a contest and I won a signed book-plate. Because of that, I went out and bought the book on release day. I was not disappointed; I loved the book. McClellan is on my very short list of authors to buy books on release day/week from. (Sanderson, McClellan, Lafferty, Sanderson, Rothfuss, and Sanderson.)

I followed him on Twitter, and while I don’t really care about all of his tweets (Beekeeping is cool. Food, *shrug*), I follow him for comments on progress writing and other opportunities.

During the interim between his first and second books, McClellan has been writing and releasing short stories set in the world of his novels. I reviewed one a few weeks ago, and it’s out now. If you have a chance, you should go read it.

He put out a call on Twitter for beta readers when he wrote each one, and I responded the second time. He sent me the story in rough draft form, and I read through it. Today, I finally scraped together my pennies and bought the Amazon version (I’d already been given a review copy, but I’m a fan of his, so I’ll buy his stories, even if I already have a free copy. That’s what fan-bases do for you.). On the last page, he lists his beta-readers, and my name was on that list.

By taking me into consideration, and remembering to include and thank me, McClellan bumped himself up my list of favorite authors to near the top.

(Now go write book 3, please. 🙂 )

It’s the little gestures. Taking time to reply to one of my comments on Twitter, or to sign my books. Time to send me a book plate, or to include my name in the thanks. These are the things that convert me from a fan to an uber fan, and make me want to buy your books even more, as well as recommend them to a friend, because among a sea of great books, here’s a great book by an awesome person. Connecting with your fan-base in this way is important, and I’m so happy that the authors I mentioned above took the time to connect with me.

(Last note: I would not be a fan of any of these authors if they did not write awesome books. That is the most important thing. All of this other stuff is secondary. I’m just saying, it helps, and can make the difference between a top author and a mid-list author, both of whom write incredible books.)

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