Marketing 101: Loving & Taking Care of Our Readers

Marketing is part of the job description of the modern author. Whether we’ve gone with self-publishing, small indie press, or the traditional route, all authors must market to one degree or another.

Obviously, if we choose to self-pub or go with a smaller press, we’ll need to shoulder the bulk of marketing and publicity. With a larger traditional publisher, authors will have the publisher’s sales team working for them, getting their books into brick-and-mortar stores, advertising with distributors, and sending it out to major reviewers.

Whatever the route, we have to market. But often the thought of marketing sends us creative-writer-types into convulsions. We like crafting words and telling stories. But knocking on doors and selling books to complete strangers? We’d rather be stripped to the waist, have our head and hands shoved into a pillory, and endure a public whipping.

Well, maybe not. But I had to throw in a teaser for the pillory beating in The Preacher’s Bride (after all, this is a post about marketing!). *Wink*

There are a LOT of creative things writers can do to market their books: giveaways, contests, countdowns, book signings, etc. We should be responsible and seek out innovative strategies. Why wouldn’t we want to do all we can to help make our book stand out?

But there comes a point when marketing begins to feel like overkill, like we’re tooting our own horn. Again. And again. In fact, if you’re like me, when you see authors who keep talking about themselves and their books over and over and over, it gets annoying.

I don’t want to be one of those annoying authors. Do you?

How can we avoid turning our marketing and promotion efforts into a litany to ourselves? Here are three ways:

1. Connect With Readers: Pay attention to what they’re saying on our blogs, facebook, and twitter. Be available. Make sure do the best we can to answer personal emails and messages.

2. Engage Readers: Don’t stand on the sidelines. Instead jump into social media conversations. Ask questions on Facebook or Twitter. Discover what people think or how they feel about issues.

3. Care For Readers: Find ways to let them know we appreciate them. Offer encouragement. Be real and open so they feel comfortable sharing their concerns and problems with us.

In one word: LOVE. Yes, love your readers.

I was recently having a phone conversation with Founder/Senior Designer, Kelli Standish of PulsePoint Design. We were brainstorming website marketing ideas for The Doctor’s Lady (releasing Sept. 1). She gave me a number of fantastic ideas—strategies I plan to implement in the days leading up to my book’s release.

However, in the middle of all our planning she said something profound and very key: “If you love your readers, they’ll promote the heck out of you.”

I’m sure we can all think of an author we’ve met online (or in person), one we’ve grown to admire and respect because of how personable and kind they are. I know it makes a huge impact on me when an author is down-to-earth, chats with me, retweets something I say, leaves a comment on my blog, etc.

I may have already liked that particular author. But my admiration rises even higher when they take the extra effort to connect with me. In fact, I recently wanted to help James Scott Bell get the news out about his newest e-book, Writing Fiction For All Your Worth, simply because he’s connected with me online in such a genuine way.

On the reverse side, our admiration for authors diminishes when they act too busy for us, don’t respond to something we say, or only chat within a certain circle of author friends.

My point is that if we as writers grow to appreciate other writers/authors who connect with us, imagine how much that means to our readers when we make an effort to relate to them.

Marketing 101: Start by loving the readers we already have (including followers on social media sites). We may want more. But first we have learn to take care of those that are already sitting in our stadium. We need to figure out ways to bless and encourage the audience that’s before us.

When we’re loving and taking care of the readers and followers we have, they’ll WANT to support us. They may even go out of their way to help us and shout out the news about our books. They’ll be excited to promote for us, essentially taking a large part of “self” out of self-promotion.

We won’t need to toot our own horns so loudly because our readers will do the tooting for us.

What do you think? Have you supported authors because you’ve learned to like and appreciate them? Is “loving your readers” a good strategy? Or do you think it’s lame? If so, what do you think can work better?

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