8 Ways Writers Can Be More Reader-Friendly

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

During the early social media explosion about six years ago authors were everywhere doing everything on social media. I think the frenzy led to a lot of burnout. As a result, I've noticed that many authors who were once really active on social media have grown silent with perhaps an occasional tweet or FB comment. But overall, many authors have been content to return to their writing caves.

In addition to burnout, I've also seen a very strong philosophical shift in author's attitudes regarding social media. The popular consensus is that writers should focus on increasing their output of salable works. Many believe that, "Books sell more books." In other words, instead of "wasting" time on social media trying to market books, writers can better spend their energy by writing more books, pricing the books strategically, and then using those books as a marketing tool.

This "increased output" strategy may have worked well at first, but now the market is extremely flooded with free or cheap books by everyone and their brother hoping to hook in new readers.

While I agree that our main focus needs to be on creating content, I also think social media remains an important tool. Yes, it can help with marketing to a degree. For example with my latest release, An Uncertain Choice, my fabulous Launch Team spread SO much buzz around release day that my book hit several Amazon best seller lists.

However, I think writers all too-often fall into the trap of thinking that social media is primarily for marketing and thus if it doesn't "work" to sell books, why bother?

Perhaps writers who are participating in social media mainly to promote their books have it backwards. I'd like to propose that social media isn't so much about marketing as it is about relating with readers.

In fact, I have to be honest. I'd much rather interact with readers on social media just for the fun of it, than to try to sell my books to everyone I meet. It's much more rewarding to relate to people than to jam a product down someone's throat. Don't misunderstand me. Social media can help spread book buzz (as I did for me recently). But that can't be our primary focus.

Instead, we need a paradigm shift. We need to think of social media as the place where readers can interact with us and our books on a deeper level.

Thus as I plan my website pages and book releases, I'm constantly thinking of ways that I can relate better with my readers. What kinds of things can I institute that would be fun for them?

Here are 8 ways writers can be more reader-friendly:

1. Have a "My Wonderful Readers" slide show for reader photos. I adore when readers take a picture of themselves with my book (or with their pets)! I let readers know that I'd love to display their picture and that they can send me the picture or tag me on Facebook. (I post the pictures on a special "My Fabulous Readers" board on Pinterest too.)

2. Display special artwork on "My Reader's Creations" on your website. Sometimes readers create graphics with quotes, draw pictures, or come up with something else creative. I make sure to give those creations special treatment on my website because I know how much time readers took to make them.

3. Make discussion questions readily available on your website. For An Uncertain Choice, I have a special 27 page Discussion Guide that I've made available for as a free download. I even have a large graphic that makes it easy to locate.

4. Have a "Readers' Board" on Pinterest. I've created a special public board for my latest book, An Uncertain Choice where readers can pin their favorite medieval pictures or post their ideas for what the characters look like. So far readers have had a lot of fun sharing pictures there.

5. Have a "Story Board" on Pinterest. I've designed story boards that give a summary of my story in a picture format so that readers can browse the boards either before or after reading for a little more information about the book.

6. Put an "Authorgraph" widget on your website. Each of my books' pages has a spot that readers can click if they'd like me to "sign" their e-copy of the book.

7. Have a downloadable "Books List." I keep a running list of all my books that readers can print out. I've found that readers really like having a printable list to take with them to the bookstore or library.

8. Do book giveaways. This year I'm giving away books on my Giveaway Page. And no it's not to promote my own books. Rather I'm giving away new releases of author friends as a way to help promote them and also as a way to say thank you to readers for supporting me.

What are some other ways that authors can be more reader-friendly? I'd love to hear YOUR ideas!

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