In part 1 of this book marketing series, we talked about how to find your ideal audience—what steps you can take to figure out who your dream reader is, where they hang out, and how you can reach out to them.
Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to put a few of those tips into action, starting to reach out to potential new fans and attract them to your writing.
But there’s a difference between knowing where your audience hangs out, reaching out to them, and actually engaging with them.
Think of it this way: the people who put take-out menus in your mailbox know where you live, and they have reached out to you. But do you save and cherish those menus, relying on them for comfort or support, telling friends about them, and writing raving reviews about them online?
The menus reach you, but they don’t engage you. They don’t make you a fan.
The real secret to building a lasting author platform is to connect.
Let’s take a deep dive into how to make that happen.
1. Create Your Author Brand
Before anyone can—or will—connect with you, they have to want to.
Basically, they have to decide that you’re a person worth connecting with.
And that means knowing what you stand for—who you are.
This is why it’s crucial to have a clear sense of yourself as a person and as an author. What do I mean by this?
- What are your values?
- What are your goals?
- What service do you want to provide your readers? How do you want to help them?
- How are your services aligned with your values and goals?
- How do you prefer to communicate? Are you more casual and chatty, or more professional and formal? What social media platforms do you like?
- Do you prefer to collaborate or inform—that is, do you want to have a conversation or give someone tips and directions?
All of these very personal factors add up to your unique author brand.
For instance, two people who both write books about natural wellness (and who have similar goals of helping readers live healthier lives that rely on fewer pharmaceuticals) could have very different brands.
One might be very lighthearted, using metaphors and puns in his writing, continually engaging with fans on Twitter and Snapchat, and teaching followers how to research and develop their own solutions to health problems.
The other might be more serious, using technical language to explain how natural healing works with the body and providing concrete steps that direct the reader to do something (rather than guiding them to figure out how to do it on their own). She may not like the casual environment of fast-paced social media and prefer to use email or blogging to contact her fans.
There’s room out there for both authors to succeed, because they’ll appeal to very different target readers who still have the same end goal—being healthier.
Consistency Is Key
Whenever you communicate with your readers, whether it’s in a DM or a blog post or your next book, stay true to your author brand, your unique message, and your values and goals.
Brands are built on consistency. People like knowing what to expect when they invest time or money in something, and they’ll like knowing what you’re going to provide, whether that’s funny musings on dog behavior or serious insights into stock picking.
Is It Ever Okay to Change Brand?
Some authors, particularly novelists, are afraid to set up a brand—they worry that it means they’ll be restricted to writing in that style, that genre, that voice forever.
This is why a lot of fiction writers pick pen names—they write horror novels under one name and light romances under another to avoid confusing their audiences.
That’s totally fine!
But it’s also okay to pivot or expand your author brand if that’s what feels authentic to you.
Say you’ve been writing funny books about life as a single parent, but you’re really feeling the urge to do something more serious, perhaps a guide to helping kids deal with divorce.
Be open and transparent about this shift in your writing, letting your audience in on the thought processes behind your transformation. In doing so, you make them part of the transformation.
Sure, you may not please the readers who only wanted funny, uplifting stories—but you’ll appeal to even more people who relate to you as a well-rounded human and who have been on similar journeys. You’re still being consistent, clear, and true to your values—and that will be rewarded by your audience.
Once you take the time to figure out who you are, how you communicate, and what you represent as an author, you’ll be able to better identify with those ideal readers you envisioned in our last post—and, more importantly, you’ll be better able to connect with the real readers you set out to serve.
2. Provide Value
And that right there is the true key to connecting with your audience: serving them.
The entire point of writing a book is to serve someone’s needs.
You can have all the knowledge, insight, and creativity in the world, but it’s locked away inside you unless you share it. And writing a book is one of the best ways to share that knowledge with a broad audience.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction—you’re still serving a need. With fiction, the need is to get away, to escape from real life for a little while by diving into another life or another world. With nonfiction, the need is a little more clearly defined: you’re providing your reader with a solution to a concrete problem, whether that’s how to grow vegetables in the back yard or how to travel the world on $25 a day.
Once you’ve identified a need that you can fill, written a book that addresses that need, and begun to reach out to the audience experiencing that need, you’re well on your way to establishing a great author platform.
But you still need to provide value at every turn.
In every communication, in every tweet or snap or email blast or blog post, provide value.
What does your reader want? How can you help them? What can you offer today, in this moment, that moves them just a little further on their journey or towards achieving their goals?
Give them that.
Don’t think about how to get them to buy your book. If you provide value freely, with no expectation beyond the satisfaction of helping people meet their needs, people will flock to you naturally. They’ll want to follow you online, read your posts and emails, and yes, buy your book…all because you’ve proven that you understand them, consider their needs important, and offered ways to help them.
3. Establish Trust
As you provide more and more value to your readers, you’ll begin earning their trust.
They’ll try out the ideas you suggest, find that they work, and that their lives are getting better, little by little, as they interact with you.
They’ll start connecting with how you communicate ideas and become engrossed by the worlds you build, or the characters you create.
They’ll develop a unique relationship with you, in that they’ll understand what you as a unique person have to contribute to their unique experience of the world.
And that, my friends, is where fan bases come from.
Create your unique voice. Identify a need you can fill for certain people, then relentlessly provide ways to serve the needs of those people. Do what you say you’re going to do—provide value and results. Be clear and consistent.
You’ll soon attract people who respect and trust you because of the insights and opportunities you offer.
Trust builds loyalty, and loyal fans tell other people…who may, in turn, become fans.
It’s a beautiful snowball effect.
4. Build Authority
As you provide value and establish trust with your readers, you’ll also start building authority.
The more you do what you say you’ll do—the more you fill readers’ needs in the ways they want them filled—the more credibility you’ll develop.
People will begin to see you as an expert in your area, someone who’s thought through what they’re doing, can explain why they’re the best person to solve that need, desire or problem, and can provide real value in that area.
They’ll appreciate what you offer and how you offer it to them, and they’ll tell other people about that.
This social proof is critical for developing audience engagement, and a growing, sustainable writer platform.
Humans are social creatures—we rely on groups to survive and thrive. And because of that, we trust the judgment of others in our group.
Which shampoo brand are you more likely to buy: the one that advertises on TV that it’ll give you thicker, shinier hair, or the one that your friend raves about every time you go out together?
I’ll bet it’s the one your friend likes…because someone you trust has recommended it, and because you can see how happy they are with the results.
It’s the same with books and author brands—people are more likely to choose the one that others before them have tried and enjoyed.
This effect is more powerful when we actually know the person doing the recommending, but it holds true with more anonymous reports, too. That’s why Amazon reviews are so important, and so powerful—they provide social proof that other people have tried and liked your book, making potential readers much more likely to try it themselves.
All of these areas tie together to create a powerful base to market your work and grow audience engagement and involvement.
The key is to be clear, consistent, and driven—always provide value for your readers and always keep their needs at the front of your mind when you’re communicating with them.
Establish who you want to be and who you want to help, figure out how you can provide that help, and then provide it on every occasion.
Do this, and you won’t just reach an audience—you’ll connect with them, and they’ll engage with you.
About the Author
Kate Sullivan is the managing editor of TCK Publishing, an independent publisher specializing in helping authors achieve personal and professional success.
When she’s not editing a book or writing a blog post, she’s thinking about how to help authors connect with their fans and build the platform of their dreams.
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