Communicating Indirectly With Readers

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigsw_BacklitKeyboard_FFP10036

At the very start of this blog back in 2008, I tried to figure out who I was writing for.  I’d read a lot of advice at the time that blogging was a good way to connect to readers.

Instead, I decided to stay in my comfort zone and make my blog writer-focused.

I took a class on building a social media platform.  It recommended interfacing with readers instead of writers.

Instead, I decided to stay in my comfort zone and focus on connecting with writers on social media.

Despite my complete disregard of all the excellent advice that I’d gone searching for, this reader avoidance on my part worked really well. I built a large platform online.  Readers could easily find me because of good SEO. They’d message me on Facebook or email me if they wanted to connect and  communicated directly with me. I care a lot about my readers and I answer their messages promptly.  But I was very shy about seeking them out.

It’s been a couple of years now that I finally started thinking about ways to connect with my readers.

I originally went about it the wrong way.   I asked “where are my readers?” and then set out to join them.

The problem with this is that the last thing I wanted to do was to chase down my readers.  I certainly didn’t want them to think that I was following them around the internet, trying to badger them to buy my books. The thought was completely horrifying to me and felt like author intrusion of the worst kind.

I knew my readers were on Pinterest and Facebook.  These are two platforms that I don’t actually enjoy.  I tried to interact more on Facebook through a group I was in…a trad published email loop type thing.  But I was uncomfortable.  And Pinterest I just didn’t get.  So I started avoiding those sites.

Clearly, that approach wasn’t going to work.  I’ve seen other cozy mystery writers doing a bang-up  job on those platforms. They don’t badger their readers at all.  They post recipes, what they’re eating for supper, cute pet photos, ask questions like “what was your favorite lunchbox when you were a kid?” I just wasn’t up to the task.  Even with the computer to hide behind, I’m simply too introverted to interact that way.

I’m likely one of the last authors to jump on the newsletter bandwagon.  I’d heard from day one about the importance of building our list of subscribers.  Even if Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon all somehow went down in flames, we’d still have our list.  We could contact those readers directly and let them know of our new releases.  But, since this was me, I didn’t start doing this on day one because I didn’t want to bother my readers by popping up in their email inboxes.

Fortunately, I finally came around to see sense in this one area.  Although I don’t send newsletters often, they have become my most important way of connecting with my readers.

Other ways of indirect communication (broadcasting) that are important marketing tools for writers:

Author notes at the ends of our books.  We can talk about how we came up with our ideas or characters or what our writing process is like.  It doesn’t really matter what we’re talking about–it’s the fact that we’re communicating with our readers in ways separate from our fiction.

Our Amazon Author Central page.  Are we making the most of it?  Could we film a short video on our phone and upload it to our Amazon page–speaking directly to our readers?

Audio.  If we’re not comfortable with video (I wasn’t comfortable with it, but…I did it), then could we put an audio clip up on our website?  Again, talking directly to our readers.  Here’s my post on how I used SoundCloud (free) to put an audio clip on my site.

If you’re an author who feels a lot more comfortable networking and connecting with other writers, don’t think that you have to chase your readers down.  There are other effective and less time-consuming ways of making ourselves available to our readers.

How do you connect with readers?

Tips for indirect communication with readers: Click To Tweet

Image: MorgueFile: Jppi

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26 thoughts on “Communicating Indirectly With Readers

  1. Hey, that’s me! I’ve tried to track down blogs and bloggers who were into science fiction and rarely managed to make a connection. I still don’t have a newsletter. And you know how many writers track me down because of the IWSG. Fortunately, I blog about a lot of movies and science fiction and stuff, which is something I enjoy. Hopefully that brings in people who enjoy my genre.

    1. Alex–I was especially pitiful when I tracked down mystery bloggers. Stumbled all over myself before giving up completely. Penguin stepped in to arrange blog tours for me with those folks since I was completely incapable of doing it myself, apparently.

      You do a great job…you’re probably the best example I know of a blogger who is capable of connecting with his fan base in a natural way. Your interests in film and music and SF/F tie in well and attract readers.

  2. “Despite my complete disregard of all the excellent advice that I’d gone searching for, this reader avoidance on my part worked really well. ” – funniest thing I’ve read all day.

  3. Oh, I know exactly what you mean, Elizabeth! As an author, you don’t want to be a pest; what’s more, you don’t want the only connection you have with readers to be advertisements for your work. But I do think it’s worth thinking about how we connect with readers. I agree with you about Amazon Author Central. I’ve also found some readers who like my FB author page. I think writers can make solid indirect contact with readers on Goodreads, too. In fact, I probably ought to be more active there than I am…

    1. Margot–Goodreads is another one. I think it’s a great place to go as a *reader*. As a writer, I feel that sense of author intrusion again. I’ve got 2 profiles there, but rarely visit. I do like their giveaways, though.

  4. My blog began with a focus of connecting with readers, but it never felt right. I switched to tips for writers and authors even though it wasn’t my target audience. Of course, I did eventually publish a book for that group, so now my blog fits better.

      1. You already have a lot of material for a nonfiction book on writing, Elizabeth. I think I’ve been gently hinting at this for years. Maybe not to gentle, huh?

  5. The advice I’ve always given, and followed myself, is that it’s easier for my 1,000 true fans to come find me than for me to go find 1,000 people. They each only have to find one of me, after all.

    So, I’m me, at the top of my lungs, on my blog and in my newsletter and, lightly in all the places where I comment and tweet and post and share and whatnot.

    And people follow me home, one at a time.

    1. Joel–And it makes us so much less obnoxious than other writers, too! At least less obnoxious than about 40% of promoting writers on Twitter. :)

      You’re right…should do the cozy how-to. Maybe I’ll stick it on my to-do list for 2016. Thanks!

  6. Hi Elizabeth – it’s gaining loyalty .. and being real (sounding real) … I love bloggers who slot into that category … can name quite a few. It’s being helpful – be prepared to help and generally not selling oneself … all the time – it is boring. Then the readers will read and will continue to follow and interact … cheers Hilary

  7. Such a great post, thanks, Elizabeth! With so much advice out there, it’s easy to get gridlocked and forget that the most important things are to 1) do *something*, 2) stay true to what feels right for you, and 3) keep building from your efforts.

    1. Emily–So true! If we stew over the fact that we’re not directly engaging readers, we’re choosing to do nothing (which, in this day and age, isn’t going to help us much). And we’ll never keep up with social media updates if we’re forcing ourselves to connect to readers (see my Riley Adams Facebook and Pinterest page for proof!) Thanks for coming by.

  8. Hi Elizabeth,

    I love your idea about using Author Notes more creatively. I’ve tried to keep mine short (not intruding too much!), but now I’m realizing that this doesn’t make sense. When I’ve really enjoyed a book, I want more! Maybe it’s a perfect place for topics that I’ve answered in author Q&As, for example?

    Again, thanks. Your posts have so much practical value, and the tone is warm and welcoming.

    1. Rebecca–That was the conclusion that I drew, too. If readers have gotten all the way to the end of our book to the Author Notes, they will be interested in hearing what we have to say. And your Q&A topics would work great there…that’s similar to what I’ve done. I’ve collected questions that readers have asked me and included the answers in my notes.

      And thanks! :)

  9. I’ve put some thought into this area – haven’t jumped on my ideas much yet because I don’t have my books out yet. I think I’m going to try out FB as a way to interact with readers. We’ll see how that goes – maybe next summer :)

  10. I don’t have that problem yet as I remain in my pure and unpublished state – but I do plan on that changing. I’m a reader and a writer as probably most of your writer pals are – and when I’m enthused about an author – I look him or her up and find where they hang out. I like reading Louise Penney’s page but it is really just a fan page – there isn’t much interaction that interests me. I guess I believe that folks will find you – they do – right? Facebook, although I belong, is a scary nightmare of advertisers trying to track me down – note to writers – don’t look up lingerie on line (for work or pleasure) as you will be inundated with stoopid ads. I guess I’m saying that you magnetize folks with your work, your humble approach and your genuineness. Keep it up, buttercup!

    1. Jan–I think you’re going to do a great job! You’re always so personable and relate well with others (your training as a therapist?)

      I’ve found that readers *do* find us, we just need to make it easy for them (particularly if our name is John Smith or something like that!)

      And thank you!

  11. Ooooh, this is good stuff. As you know, my blog is like Seinfeld’s show; it’s about nothing. Ha. Mostly random stuff, meaningless, but that’s how I roll in real life.

    You’re so smart in all you do. Really.

    PS I’m shy.

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