It's an unfortunate truth that once the book is uploaded to Amazon, we cannot just sit back and watch the checks come rolling in. We need to market our books.
As an experienced author, you already know this of course. You probably already have your own website and blog and you are probably diligently posting every week. But what else can you do to keep your online readers engaged? Here are five ideas that work:
1. YouTube channel – Yes, that’s right. A YouTube channel. You’ll be among good company. Jeff Kinney, he of Wimpy Kid fame is a prolific poster drawing a regular audience of 21,000. His videos have been viewed over 3 million times. Rachael Hollis, author of Party Girl is another prolific YouTuber with over five thousand people subscribed to her weekly video updates. Used correctly, YouTube is a great way to engage with your readers. You share information about the characters, answer questions that have been emailed in, or share progress on your next book.
2. Short stories – We all know how long it takes to write a novel. But the longer you leave it between releasing books, the greater the risk of you losing fans along the way. The solution? Short stories. Adding short stories to your website (500-1,000 words) is a great way to keep readers engaged and coming back for more. It’s a great way to add richness to the world you create in your books. Character backstories, stories from a different character perspective and stories on the periphery of your plot lines. Stories don’t even have to be about set in the same world as your existing books. Use it as an opportunity to try out ideas for future books – encourage comments and see what your readers would like to see more of.
3. Podcasts – I love podcasts. I subscribe to loads of them. I listen to them on the train and in the bath. They seem somehow more intimate than other mediums. And intimacy is what you want with your readers. Through podcasts you can connect to your readers while they drive to work, while they walk the dog, while they work out at the gym. No other channel gives you this level of access to your readers. Your audience are going to be listening to something. That voice should be yours. There's some great advice on setting up your podcast over at The Guardian.
4. Engage on Forums – Forums are a great place to engage with your readers, and none are better than Goodreads.com. If you haven’t already, set yourself up an author profile and start a Featured Author Group. Don’t just leave it to fester – make sure you visit the channel regularly and start conversations. Tell your readers when you are around and host Q&A sessions. Don’t limit yourself to your own thread though – get involved in other areas of the forum too. If your forum allows it, add links and thumbails of your books to your signature – everytime you engage in a conversation, you’ll be marketing your books. Other forums worth looking at include The Book Club Forum, and kboards. If your book is of a specialist nature, consider joining specialist forums relating to your subject matter such as gardening or DIY forums.
5. Live chat / Webinar – Webinars and live chats are a great way to engage with your audience. Schedule a time slot and then join your fans online for a live book reading or discussion. I would recommend having someone with you to help you with this: People will be joining to hear you talk – not to hear you struggling to get the technology working or being distracted by incoming questions. Your helper should be able to introduce you, explain how the process will work, and will help field and filter questions. While some of the premium tools are expensive, tools such as hangouts.google.com work well depending on numbers. And you can also take advantage of 30 day free trials such as this one from www.gotomeeting.com – just make sure you unsubscribe before the 30 days are up if you don’t want to be billed. And you don’t need complicated technology – the guys over at pmchat.net have been hosting a regular live project management chat on Twitter every Friday. Maybe you could experiment with a similar format?