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Marketing 101: Loving & Taking Care of Our Readers

Monday, April 25, 2011

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?

53 comments:

  1. Definitely not lame!! It also gets to the heart of what I'm most looking forward to about being published - connecting with my readers. I want to know who they are and show them how much I appreciate them.

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  2. I have a blog, and I'm trying to come up with posts that are directed toward readers, not just writers. It's a tough assignment for me, because all I think about for much of my day is writing. Your blog is a good one. I'm learning from you. Thanks.

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  3. I agree. Connecting with your friends online in a friendly way is definitely the way to go!

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  4. A definite and a must and it's fun to connect with our readers too. :O) Happy Easter!

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  5. Great thoughts here, Jody.

    I was just talking to Keli Gwyn about this the other day. I loved it a few months ago when I gave her a shout out on Twitter and dozens (maybe more) of her fans followed suit. It lit me up inside to see that happen. That is the heart of promotion for me. Word of mouth at its best.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. Love is never lame. If you love someone, really love them, they will do anything for you. When you pour out your heart in your writing, and then share it with the world and they love your work, all you really have to do it truly love them back. How could anyone NOT do that?

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  7. The best thing about reading this post, Jody, is the fact that you are living proof that loving thy readers really works. I don't think marketing would be very fun at all without the aspect of connecting with readers.

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  8. I agree. Loving your readers and showing them your appreciation is the best way for an author to gain readership.

    I think it works much the same for an unknown/unpublished like me. It's still all about meeting others, supporting their goals as you'd like yours to be, and learning from what they offer.

    I'd like to think that the more people I communicate with, the more likely they would be to give the book a chance.

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  9. Good morning, everyone! Am enjoying the great comments so far this morning!

    I agree with you, Stacy. EVERY writer no matter where they're at can start loving and taking care of their followers (on blogs and twitter and facebook). MANY of those followers will one day be future readers!

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  10. I agree with everything you said, and do most, if not all of them. However, it is hard for authors to be all things to all people at all times. There is only so much of us to go around. :)

    So on the flip side, I hope the readers who know me, you or others, understand the demands placed upon us and that we sometimes fall down in a quick turn around response and may get overly enthusiastic about an upcoming release we need to promote.

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  11. Loving your readers is definitely not a lame idea - these are the people who will support you in your writing career. For those of us that blog, trying to steer some of our blog posts towards readers as well as writers is certainly one way to try to make contact with those readers. But I very much agree with you that I don't want to be one of those 'annoying' authors. I've seen them on Twitter etc. and I know how fast I mentally turn them off. It's worth the effort not to be that kind of author.

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  12. So true! It's amazing how much the life of an author has changed in so little time. This must be what it felt like for authors when we went from hand-written books to the printing press, or something like it. Which is why I've tried to embrace the changes from the start. You can't stop progress. It's frightening and yet exciting to live through this.

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  13. Thanks for another great post!

    I agree with you completely, and this topic resonates for me as I'm just learning how to navigate the release of my debut novel.

    All I know is, there are some online behaviors that are simply not me, and I won't do them no matter what people tell me about internet marketing. I appreciate your example of getting the word out about your book without ever coming across as narcissistic. I'm going to do my best to follow suit. :-)

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  14. Awesome tips, Jody! I think these principles apply to good old everyday life, too, not just the writing world.

    Hope you had a beautiful and blessed Easter!

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  15. I think you've stated the simple truth plainly. Our books are a way to love people and give them hope.

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  16. Your comment on how writers feel about marketing was spot on. Okay, most writers, I don't want to create a stereotype here.

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  17. I DO tend to promote authors with whom I have interacted either online or in-person. That personal touch makes all the difference for me as both a reader and a writer.

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  18. Excellent post! So NOT lame, and something we writers need to remember...

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  19. Another home run. Going to bookmark this one and refer to it frequently; thanks for the excellent tips - and sharing the love.

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  20. Not lame at all. I think loving your readers is what it's all about. Great post.

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  21. I try to go out of my way to promote those authors that I feel either a personal connection to, or that show me they care about the people that are reading their books.

    Knowing this, I try to be active in getting back with people as they post. Great things can come from a little acknowledgement of your readers. Great post!

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  22. So true, Jody! There are authors I've met and developed friendships with online that I would walk through fire to promote. There are also a few I've felt "unnecessary" to, like I was just another admirer. Great post!

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  23. It's so much more fun to promote authors who I have a personal connection with. Maybe I've met them at a writers conference. Maybe we've connected via Twitter or Facebook or through their blog. It's one thing to love the stories an author writes--it's something else all together to feel a heart-connection to an author.

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  24. But how do you truly love your readers? I would much rather have a mental/intellectual connection with an author.

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  25. I so agree with you, Jody. And to have all that love coming back - how cool is that?!

    I rarely email authors from a reader's point of view but I did email Tess Gerritsen a while ago because I was curious about why she'd selected a particular plot point. She sent me a thoughtful reply outlining her rationale and I was just delighted. I've read more of her books since, as a result.

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  26. Wow, this is such a great post! You do an amazing job of connecting with your readers and followers, which is appreciate. And I was amazed when I sent a tweet to James Scott Bell and he responded. That guy is one of a kind, and I will happily promote anything he does.

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  27. Quote:"We’d rather be stripped to the waist, have our head and hands shoved into a pillory, and endure a public whipping." LOL, something like that.

    Great post and I agree with you. I would like to add the word "respect" regarding the readers, not only love them.

    Thank you for the interesting post :)

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  28. Thanks for this Jody. I am stilling trying to figure out how to blog-love my readers. My time to visit their sites has diminished, so I'm going to be reading everything you have to say about it.

    There's parent conferences, marriage conferences, but what about love-your-reader conferences? I'd be all over that one!

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  29. Jody, this post resonates deep in my soul. I've made so many wonderful friends online and strive to let them know how much they mean to me, but at times I feel like my attempts are lame. Just today I had to apologize to three different people for dropping the ball, and that grieves me terribly.

    I need to go through your blog archives and brush up on some of your sage counsel because you're a shining example of an author who loves and respects her readers and her writer friends.

    Wendy's kind words in her comment today were just what I needed to hear. You're both the best!

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  30. Jill asked: But how do you truly love your readers?

    My answer: Jill, thanks for asking tough,thought-provoking questions. Here's the principle I use to the best of my ability: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I really think it's about seeing it in a new mindframe--not about what we can get from social media, but what we can give. Sounds trite, I know. But thinking in that way helps me keep it all in perspective.

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  31. I think you are right. I have supported authors b/c I get to know a little about them, love their work, etc. The ones who are real, like you, :) will always get my support. Good post.
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  32. Spot on, Jody! Scripture tells us that if we understand all mysteries (marketing techniques), but have not love (caring about our readers), we are nothing.

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  33. I love your blog and you are so right! Marketing is key but you also have to genuinely care about other people. It shows through what you say...

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  34. I agree completely. If you're not loving your readers, they'll see it. Sure, if you're the best and most author in the world, you can get by with a few personality quirks that some might find off-putting, but in this day and age no new author can take the chance of alienating their audience.

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  35. Great post Jody and you are the finest example on here of genuineness. Love the way you gave an excerpt too :)

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  36. Great post, Jody (and thanks for the nice mention).

    When I teach networking I stress that the #1 rule is reciprocity. You don't ask for something for nothing. You provide value to other people first. And that includes your readers. Appreciation of their patronage is a value.

    I was at a book signing some time ago, sitting next to a NYT bestselling author who seemed like he wanted to be anyplace but there. His line was of modest size (enough, however, for me to keep pilfering). But a few chairs away was a man with a huge line who gave each reader eye contact, a good word, and the occasional laugh. His name was, and still is, Harlan Coben. The results speak for themselves.

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  37. Exceptional post Jody! Today it is almost imperative to be an internet marketer nowadays. You need to know SEO, Social Media marketing, strategy and more. At the very core of every strategy from effectively using twitter to growing your blog it's about community. It's all about being social. If you're someone people want to chat with then you'll continue to grow. If you sound like distant spam it's like a death knell. You plateau.

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  38. I always learn something when I stop by your blog. And you're so right. We do need to love those we connect with on our social media sites.

    I have a question for you. How do you have the time to write wonderful blog posts, books, and be a mother and wife? Do you sleep? Do you have a strict schedule? Okay, that was more than one question, but I have to know how you do it all. You're amazing.

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  39. Hi Kathi! You're so sweet! I'm not sure that I'm amazing so much as slightly crazy! :-)

    No seriously, I really do keep a pretty strict schedule. Or maybe it's just that I'm really self-disciplined and organized with my time. I'm not really sure! But somehow I manage to get done what needs doing!

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  40. I just discovered your blog, Jody, and I must say it couldn't have been more timely. Soon I'll be self ePublishing my first novel, and so the process of self marketing will begin. I never really thought about "loving" your readers (or "potential" readers as the case may be) in those terms before, but it makes perfect sense. As with any type of marketing, word of mouth is the best advertising.

    I'm hoping to be creative and do some of the marketing strategies you mentioned, along with some others of my own creation, so I can only hope I don't turn out to be one of the annoying types.

    Fortunately, I have lots of Facebook friends, a large family, Twitter (kind of new there), and a website, so many of the "necessities" are in place. Now, if I can only avoid the pillory!

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  41. YES! You love to read, you love to write, so engage those readers. I tell the authors I media train to get out there and talk/type to as many people as possible. Facebook, Twitter, guest blogs, book club sites, bookstores, events such as the Festival of Books here in L.A. this weekend. Share---and enjoy.

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  42. I think the best thing about being published will be connecting to my readers. I'm looking forward to making sure I touch their heart - through my books - through my blog and through my interest in them as PEOPLE not just readers.
    This is a special posting - thanks, Jody.
    Joyfully working toward those readers of my own.

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  43. Thanks for stopping by today, everyone! Appreciate you adding to the discussion!

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  44. Love the idea of connecting genuinely with readers and potential readers online. I just would love to know how people who do this well, do it without letting the social media part take over their life? Do have any tips about how you are able to balance this? Do you have time management strategies that you use?

    Thanks for this post, Jody, it is definitely a great perspective.

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  45. Hi Kristie,
    That's a great question! As I stare at my very full in-box this morning, I can completely relate! Every day I struggle to know how much to put toward "marketing" and relating with readers, so that I still have quality time left for my actual writing. I have written a few posts about time management. Probably the one most related is "When Social Media Becomes a Time Suck."

    I'll definitely save your question and try to address it more fully in a future post! Have a great weekend!

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  46. Good suggestions, I'm blogging about it tomorrow.

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  47. I have been following your blog for some time now, but this is my first comment.

    I just wanted to say that every time I'm struggling with some aspect of writing and marketing I always seem to find you've addressed it in your latest post in a personable, yet professional way.

    Thank you so much for showing us how it's done!

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  48. Thanks for commenting Rahma! I'm so glad to hear that my posts resonate! :-)

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  49. I hadn't thought of loving my readers as a strategy, but I suppose it is, albeit not a deliberate one. I especially like the idea since it moves me away from the kind of promotion that would otherwise feel like nothing more than egotistical horn blowing.

    For now, my readers are those who read my articles and blog posts, and I'm blessed by and very appreciative of their encouragement and support (including yours, Jody). That kind of friendship just naturally elicits a reciprocal response.

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  50. Stumbled on your comments just at the right time. I started my writing on a very supportive website and enjoyed the way people interacted on that. I used to beta read fanfiction for others, they did it for me. It worked. Now I'm out in the wider world of social media and having to market a book I've found all this 'straight out trumpet blowing' very offputting - when I do it and when I see others repeatedly doing it. You've made me realise I have to go back to basics and not be afraid to reach across to other writers and say 'hi there, how are you?'.
    Your comment about loving your readers is so true. I find doing talks the most satisfying part of all this - you actually get to meet the people you're trying to connect with through your writing.
    So, lovely blog, and 'hey, how are you?'

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  51. Glad the post got you thinking, Hazel!! Love when that happens. And thank you for your kind words about my blog! I wish you all the best as you reach out to your readers! :-)

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  53. You made such great points, Judy. Marketing his/her book may be one of the toughest parts of being a modern author. But with the use of modern age platforms, such as the social media, books or any other goods can gain market value in a very short time.

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