5 Author Tips for Building a Fan Base
July 16, 2019
Note From Rochelle
It’s Saturday morning, and I’m working at Starbucks. It’s day 13 without Internet or phone service—thanks to ATT’s poor customer service. Despite multiple promises—empty ones—they haven’t fixed it. They’ve scheduled and failed to show up for 3 service calls. You can be sure I’ll be blogging about this soon. But until then, I have a favor to ask you.
I am planning my next set of classes, and I need your help. Here are the choices:
+How to Overcome Procrastination (and Get Stuff Done)
+How to Blog a Book
+How to Write a Daily Meditation Book
+How to Use Your Book To Boost Your Platform
+How to Use Writing to Transform Your Life
+Bullet Journaling Basics
+Publishing Paths: How to Choose the Right One For You
If you’d like to vote for one of these or add your own, head over to Facebook and leave a comment. Or, email me with your choice.
Today I am delighted to welcome bestselling author Angela Ackerman, coauthor of The Emotion Thesaurus, to the newsletter to talk about building a fan base!
5 Author Tips for Building a Fan Base
by Angela Ackerman
Ah, a loyal fan base. That’s the magic, right? Find readers who connect deeply with the stories we write, so much so that they stalk our website for updates, join our mailing lists, follow us on social media, and tell everyone they know to read our books.
Superfans out there. For you. For me. For all of us.
Only…how do we find them?
As an author blessed with a loyal fan base, I am often asked how I found my readers, and how I keep them coming back book after book. I’d like to share five things that are incredibly important and can help you build your own tribe.
1. Know what makes your books special.
The key to finding our readers is understanding who they are. And while a genre (and sub-genre) will help point you in the right direction, it’s only one data point for finding your exact audience. After all, a fantasy reader will not be interested in ALL types of fantasy, right? So, to figure out which readers will like your book, you need to understand what makes it special.
Is there a theme or element in your book that makes it stand out (homelessness in America, Cyberterrorism, lost WWII love letters, etc.)? Does it tie into an interest (rock climbing, travel, or ghost hunting, etc.)? Is there a concept that makes it pop?
For example, let’s say your fantasy is about a race of nomadic humans who are actually shapeshifting dragons, but over the generations, have forgotten what they are. People who love dragons would want to read your book, don’t you think? Or if your fantasy is about a heroine that is fascinated by mathematical patterns and while studying the stars, discovers a formula for wielding magic it would be very possible that readers of fantasy that also like astronomy and/or math formulas would be drawn to your book.
Whatever your “special element” is, it makes your book unique. People interested in that same thing are the most likely to want to read a book like yours, make sense?
2. Find books like yours…and read them.
Once you understand what makes your book special, start looking for other novels that are like yours within your genre & sub genre. For example, let’s say you’ve written about two dog rescue workers who fall in love while rehabilitating dogs. This type of romance will appeal to dog lovers, so head to Goodreads or Amazon and see what other romance books have a dog theme. Chances are, these books cater to dog lovers, too. Buy some with strong ratings and read them.
If you find a book or two where you think, “Wow, someone who loved this book would enjoy mine,” start digging into that author’s online presence: search for their website, social media, Facebook page, etc. Read any interviews they have done, find their guest posts, and listen to podcasts where they are a guest. This person has the same audience as you, and by studying where they are online, what they post, and how they engage with their audience, you’ll gain valuable insight into what your own audience may like. Knowing where to spend your time online (rather than trying to guess) and seeing what type of content is popular will help when it comes engaging with your own readers!
3. Research your influencers and show them your generous side.
Remember those popular authors you researched who have books like yours and a thriving audience of their own? Wouldn’t it be great if they suggested to their readers that they should check out your book? Well, you can make this happen, but it means really being invested in helping them succeed first.
Popular authors who write what you do, influential book reviewers, conference and book event organizers, book club members, etc. can all be influencers. An influencer is someone who is trusted and respected by their audience…who may also be your audience. If an influencer vouches for you and recommends your book, it gives you instant credibility. People will be more likely to pick up your book because it was recommended by someone they trust. So how can we get an influencer to do this for us?
It starts with building a relationship—a genuine one, not a “what can you do for me?” one. If you have the same audience, you have similar interests, passions, and goals. You have common ground. And because you both need the same things: to reach more people, become more popular, and gain more influence, doesn’t it make sense to work together? Of course! However, because they don’t know you yet, you need to show them that you aren’t just after what they can do for you, rather you see the potential of what you can accomplish together. How you do this is by investing in them first. Make it your mission to help them succeed.
Spend time getting to know the influencer. What will help them gain more visibility and be better at whatever they do? Analyze what they are focused on, what is important to them, and dedicate time to actively helping to raise their profile and getting them what they need most. Start conversations, too. Find out who they are as a person and show you’re interested in getting to know them better.
After a while, no matter how busy they are, they are going to see your name keeps popping up as you send traffic their way, share their links, and tell people about them and what they have to offer. At some point, they are going to start looking into who you are, because they will want to know more about the person helping them. When they see you write books that are a fit for their audience, they will connect the dots just as you already have, and see how the two of you together can reach more people than you each can alone. And because you’ve been so generous with your time and worked hard to help them, they will want to start helping you in return. For more information on how to get on an influencer’s radar and how you can collaborate with them, check out this post.
4. Know what makes you special and embrace these qualities.
More than anything, readers connect with an author because they love what they write and want to discover who the person is behind the story. And while it can be tempting to pretend we’re someone we’re not online because we are unsure of ourselves and don’t exactly know how to act, readers can tell when someone isn’t being authentic. So rather than trying to mimic popular author X, or be “the funny one” or the “outspoken one,” just be yourself. There is a big piece of you in every story you write, and that’s what readers want to experience more of!
5. Engage—whatever your audience craves, give it to them.
This is the most important piece of advice. If you want to turn your readers into superfans, then value the time they spend with you by thinking about what they want and need. What are they interested in? What sort of information might help them solve a problem? What would they find funny, or fascinating, or entertaining? Give it to them. What might they want to know about you? How can you open your life to them in a way that makes them feel valued and part of a special club because they have a genuine relationship with you?
In other words, be present online, get to know your people and what they need. Be friendly, fun, helpful, generous, and authentic. Readers who connect with you on an emotional level will not only come back for every book you write…they will become the ones spread the word about your books, introducing even more readers to your work!
About the author
Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, (now an expanded 2nd edition) as well as six others. Her books are available in seven languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Thanks so much for having me by, Rochelle! I hope you get your internet fixed soon–that would drive me crazy! Lots of good people watching opportunities for you, though. 😉 (I’m always so glass-half-full, haha!)
So glad to have you here! And yes, I’m getting some good time in at the library and coffee shops, watching people and appreciating their funny habits.
Oh no that sucks about your internet 🙁
Some great tips from Angela, I really liked the advice on influencers. I hadn’t really thought about that aspect of marketing too much before. Especially with identifying influencers who are also your audience demographic! Makes sense!
Influencers are terrific. And while I didn’t really have room to get into them too deeply here, they can be anyone, not just authors. They might be your biggest superfan, a well-respected podcatser, a neighbor with connections, a book club organizer, you name it. Even business who have the same audience can be influencers. Building a relationship that is about mutual respect and the desire to give the other what they need can be so beneficial for both parties. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
Such a great read, from a wonderful woman! I whole-heartedly support the idea of supporting others in your niche – it confirms the idea that publishing ISN’T a contest: it’s a community and a place where we can share in our ideas and our passions.
What a great article, Angela (as always). Thank you for the helpful information.