How to Engage Your Reader — A Guest Post by Matthew Turner

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by Larry Brooks on January 14, 2013

There was – apparently – a time when a writer merely wrote, sat back, and let the good times roll. That time is no more, at least not for 99% of us.

These days writers are marketers, publishers, formatters, designers, and most importantly… engagers. To stand out from the crowd you need to communicate with your readers, make them swoon, and have them become your biggest endorsers.

This is no easy task, and it needs genuine love and affection, but any writer is capable of it.Engage Your Reader

It won’t take long before you acquire a few readers. Some people have many, and others just a few. No matter what the number, I urge you to involve your readers as much as possible. Be a person who adores connecting with other people, even if you’re introverted and shy.

I too am quite the introvert. I do appreciate meeting new people, though, and I love to connect with like-minded folk. As such I’m always open to new connections. I try to get to know them and allow them to get to know me too.

Here are just a few benefits engaging with your reader can have:

  1. New Friends
  2. Endorsers
  3. Feedback
  4. Social Sharing
  5. Sales
  6. Ideas
  7. Beta Readers
  8. Critique Partners
  9. New Events, Organisations, People, etc
  10. Learn New Stuff

All of these have benefited my world. They include people I didn’t know prior to creating my Blog. I’ve met them recently, but they’re a very important part of my life.

How To Engage

These are just a few ideas that I’ve personally partaken in. I urge you to find other means, create your own, and build it around YOUR Platform. This is what I did for my debut novel, Beyond Parallel, and although I’m sure not all will work for you, I hope they provide some inspiration.

1: A Short Story

I created a short prequel (set the night before Beyond Parallel begins) that is FREE and aimed at engaging with my readers. The story is short, the engagement is high, and I include a host of behind-the-scene features.

This took a little time and cost a little money, but I loved the process. It helped me connect with some new people and further establish relationships with others.

2: Facebook Group/Page

I started this way too late, but a Facebook Group/Page for your book is a great idea. It allows you to upload pictures, updates, and special features that only those who follow are privy to.

It’s all about the journey. I’m going to create my second novel’s Facebook Page ASAP. I want my readers to be part of my daily world. Writing… editing… events… people love being part of a journey.

3: Polls & Surveys

People love competitions and freebies, but I think they like polls even more – as long as it’s for a worthy cause – like your book. :)

Allow your readers to vote on your book cover, help choose the name of certain characters, tighten up your book descriptions, and create promotional material. Whether you have a small or large following, having your reader be part of the process will make them feel special. Too few writers do this, in my opinion.

4: Regular Emails

More importantly, emails that DO NOT sell. Around launch day, sure, but make the majority of your emails helpful and fun.

Share your journey, ask them to leave feedback, and tell them about your worries, excitement, and everything in between. Email is a great way to connect with people, but most are wary about what it represents. Be one of the cool folk who use email to engage.

5: Give More Than You Take

The whole point is to get people to buy your books, but don’t let this take over your life. If you love what you do, people will love you back. Money is a byproduct of this.

Create a free ebook, do regular giveaways, meet with your readers, and provide special, secret tips that can help them become writers themselves. You don’t have to giveaway expensive prizes, merely give more than you take.

Value Thy Reader

I look at this way: my readers -whoever they are and wherever they are – are my most valuable asset in the whole wide world. Without them I couldn’t justify writing, at least not without having another job.

I do the above because I enjoy it and love connecting with people. I also love it when fellow writers do this. I feel part of their world, which makes me loyal and eager to share and help where I can.

How do you involve your readers in your journey?

Do any writers engage with amazing effect?

Please, share your thoughts below… thanks for reading.  Matthew Turner

*****

Matthew Turner is a writer from Yorkshire, England. His debut novel, a coming-of-age tale entitled Beyond Parallel, is currently available.  From the same mold as Sliding DoorsBeyond Parallel is an emotional roller coaster flips between two parallel stories.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Olga Oliver January 14, 2013 at 7:21 am

Larry – thanks for this guest post. I really need this info because I’m one of those Turner describes – introvert to the extent that the word TWEET makes me jettiery. Big blockage here that I must work with.

Craig January 14, 2013 at 9:00 am

I’ve also been very introverted about getting my work out there, and my new website is a real source of angst. It’s becoming fairly obvious that I’d be wise to make the jump to electronic self-publishing, but that creates even more anxiety for me. What I loved most about this post was tip #1, the idea of offering a free prequel. That’s actually a brilliant idea, it seems to me, as it would allow the author to build a following with the free work, while still reserving the right to charge at least a pittance (say $0.99) for the main work. If I do move to electronic publishing, that’s definitely something I will try.

Turndog Millionaire January 14, 2013 at 9:36 am

Craig: I certainly suggest looking into it. It’s been an interesting way to market for me. It took a little effort and time to create, but it was another way to practice my craft, which let’s face it is what it’s all about

Matthew

Turndog Millionaire January 14, 2013 at 9:37 am

Olga: edge in slowly and all will be fine. I was anxious at first too, but these days Twitter is a fun experience for me :)

Matthew

mindy sitton-halleck January 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

Discovering unique and pioneering ways to market and engage readers is the new frontier for authors and I’d say these are some valuable tips. Nice article. Thanks so much for sharing.

Curtis January 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

Content Content Content
Write it. Love it. Share it.
You are your content.
Love it and Share it.

The Medium Matters.
F/B stats for our site. One year of effort = Seventy-four followers.
Twitter stats. Four months of effort = 254 followers.

Who Goes There?

F/B is more like a settled community with the wagons circled, the garden plowed and the turnips planted.

Twitter is the frontier. The quest is in progress. The search is on. Everyone is looking to connect. It is understood on Twitter that everyone has an agenda. Random contacts can quickly lead to knew associations centered on a common point of interest. Like say, our content.

Uncle Buck follows us on F/B. Professional contacts are found on Twitter. I think it has something to do with getting it said and read in 140 characters.

Chances are better than good that not a single word of what I have written here will be read. It is to long and we are not here to communicate with each other. Larry’s site is not F/B or Twitter.

P.S. If your goal is to sell something, converting any of this into those sales is no small task.

Betsy January 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

Matthew asked: “Do any writers engage with amazing effect?” Instantly, Diana Gabaldon comes to mind. Her time travel/historical romance “Outlander” series has been going and growing for more than 20 years now, with a huge Volume 8 expected toward the end of 2013. Gabaldon maintains a website and blog, which she somehow finds time to update pretty regularly. She replies to readers’ comments, provides tempting snippets from whatever volume is currently under construction, and is considered a personal friend by several groups of devotees who have their own websites, based on their responses to her books. The best-known of these may be the “Ladies of Lallybroch”; a newer, and very interesting, one provides recipes created to support any mention of cooking or food in the novels. Just yesterday I read a recipe for “Mrs. Bug’s Buttermilk Biscuits” that was most convincing and appetizing. The site owner took into account details of the story that surrounded the biscuits, including the fact that they were likely baked in a cast-iron frying pan. I have rarely seen such a good example of an author engaging readers to such a point of fascination. They (we, actually) not only love the novels, but have a most personal and affectionate feeling about the author, and realize that their/our comments, questions, and criticisms are read, responded to, and often taken into account by Ms. Gabaldon.

Lesley A. Diehl January 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

A group facebook page, what a great idea. Any thoughts on how well these strategies have worked for you?

Robert Jones January 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Some good suggestions. Not sure how I would feel about readers choosing my covers though. Since readers aren’t designers, as a rule, I would be a little bit afraid. Though if you have several good designs, I can see how choosing the one the public is drawn to most would be screening a film for a test audience.

I would be interested in hearing more about how this plan was implemented, as well as the results.

Daphnée Kwong Waye January 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Thanks for this helpful post! I couldn’t agree more. Readers are the most precious thing I believe in a writer’s life. Without them, he is practically nothing. I run a blog and I love interacting with my readers, I try to do my best to make them enjoy every post, just like I enjoy writing them. To my blog, they mean the world.
Awesome tips!

Michael January 15, 2013 at 4:59 am

Very well put, Matthew. You mentioned some things I’ve been considering doing prior to the release of my first book and a couple I hadn’t yet thought of. As I’ve heard said so often, “Selling isn’t about selling, it’s about having fun, and people always want to join in the fun.” Thank you, Matthew. And to Larry, very timely — as always. But that’s why I keep hanging around here when I should be working. Shame on me.
:)

Sara Davies January 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

Here is a slightly crazy and off-topic question, but I would appreciate any insights about this: How do you come up with an attractive, snappy, attention-getting, compelling, memorable title? I have a book (it’s non-fiction, sorry)…but giving it a title that would get someone to look further while also encapsulating the content…I am at a loss. I have a game I play, making up literary-sounding titles for imaginary novels, because real ones tend to feature the same words and themes, universally, everywhere, every time. The pattern must be familiar to the publishing industry. But for non-fiction, those categories don’t work. Thoughts?

Larry January 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm

@Sara — I have several thoughts. First… great question. Maybe too good… because there’s no “how to” for something that, well, big. My answer is more toward hints and directions, perhaps… but in the end, whatever leads you to a great title is either luck or maybe the result of a process. Who knows.

I think it helps to know what KIND of title you want, which should connect to what kind of book you’ve written. If there is lightness, humor, irony or something close to those in there, then the title is licenses to go there. Look for spins on other famous titles (“Three Men and a Manuscript” is a title I’ve kicked around for a writing book, leveraging “Three Men and a Baby,” the 20 year old movie). Or alliteration (“Life or Lust, or Maybe Just Luck” – okay, just made that up, hope you see how it works in this context).

Or, the content itself can lead you to a title. Both of my writing books were titled after the content, a fresh way to descibe an ages-old craft. The second book leverages the “arena” of the first (“Story Engineering,” now, come June, “Story Physics”). Without knowing your content, or tone, or mission, it’s hard to give more specific help here. Feel free to add more info, if you’d like. Larry

Turndog Millionaire January 16, 2013 at 5:32 am

@ Betsy: that is fascinating, I love this!

I will have to check her out because it sounds like she is great at it. Thanks for the tip

Matthew

Turndog Millionaire January 16, 2013 at 5:33 am

@ Lesley: hard to say at the minute. I was expecting certain things to be better, but other things have outdone my expectations. The thing with building relationships, though, is that it takes time.

If you’re consistent and keep doing what you do, it leads to good times…hopefully…maybe :)

Matthew

Turndog Millionaire January 16, 2013 at 5:34 am

@ Michael: I feel your pain :)

Matthew

Sara Davies January 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

@Larry – Thanks for the response.

The book is about an obscure tractate of Talmud devoted entirely to Jewish interpersonal ethics. I would expect it to be of interest to approximately 200 people worldwide. As far as I know, three of them have actually read it. One of them loved it. One said it was “preachy, but interesting.” Another was vague but polite – one of the seven warning signals? The style is not particularly academic, as it’s meant to be accessible to anyone with an eighth grade reading level. The content is based on a series of online classes taught by a rabbi who specializes in the subject. It is a compilation of his notes, which I have turned into 300 pages of complete sentences and paragraphs solely because I love the material. It is a line-by-line explanation of what the tradition says, what the sages meant in historical context. To the best of my knowledge, no one has written a commentary on this tractate in 1500 years. We tried calling it “Great is Peace,” which is a direct quote from the Talmud, but that ruffles hawkish feathers (go figure.) “Civility” seems to be the more trendy word these days. In essence, the book is mussar (character development, self-help, ethics.) With a little humor thrown in, although more probably would have been advisable. But while we are re-thinking and changing, we can add. Rabbi’s other books continue to sell like hotcakes, so what’s wrong with this one? His picture is on those covers, which have equally clunky titles. Is it because I’m a woman? Is it because the cover is pink? Is it because the price is too high? Is it because not enough people know it exists? To be sure, no one writes a book like this expecting to get published, and in this field, those who get published see their books marked down to $5 per copy, from which they receive pennies. We went the “self-publishing” route, in which our chances of getting read are probably no worse than with the traditional approach. I wrote this book because I love it, because I want other people to have the chance to learn what they might not otherwise have access to. And I’d do it again, so clearly I’m not a real quick study.

Love your Story Engineering book, by the way, which I believe will help me salvage This Stupid Novel (working title) I am trying to write, if anything can. Could have saved myself a lot of time and grief if I’d consciously grasped those concepts earlier. It’s a mind-blowing book that I plan never to leave home without. You have done a noble thing.

l’shalom

Larry January 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

@Sara — thanks for the overview of the book. Actually sounds fascinating. I’m thinking that, with your wit and self-depricating humor, coupled with a keen vision for who (and why) this book will to, you can channel that into a brainstorm on possible titles that deliver more than one meaning. I’d like to help, but this is totally foreign territory to me… humor is best generated from the inside of a culture, and in this case I’m on another planet entirely. Volume is key, come up with as many titles ideas as you can. Get some like-minded friends, drink copious amounts of wine, and brainstorm this. I’m confident you’ll get one that, as soon as someone says it aloud — it’ll probably be you, even if you’re in a room alone — it’ll announce itself as The One. I wish you success… let me know what you decide on! And thanks much for your generous praise of my book. L.

Robert Jones January 16, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Hi Sarah,

I hope you don’t mind me chiming in on the subject of your title. A wise Jewish writer/teacher said the best titles are metaphors…the bringing together of two subjects, or ideas, in a fresh, or different, way.

With that in mind, I’m looking at the basic subjects you listed above: culture, ethics, peace, and civility. You may want to look up a few synonyms of each of the words above and see if you can put a couple together in a way that chimes with your subject manner in a metaphoric way.

Some of the best titles are metaphores.
Tender is the Night
The Grapes of Wrath
A Moveable Feast
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

If you come up with two words that don’t normally go together, you’ll probably find your title somewhere in bridging the two…or at least be a step closer to finding something that has the same type of resonance as the titles I listed above.

Hope this helps :)

Robert Jones January 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

P.S.

Sara–Apologies for adding an “H” to the end of your name last night. My only excuse is that it was getting late when I posted. I noticed my mistake in looking back at your posts this morning and can only hope I didn’t tarnish my good intentions of possibly pointing you in a potential direction for further thought.

I wish there were a way to edit these posts…

Respectfully,
Robert

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