Sunday, November 26, 2017

Developing a Reader/Author Connection

One of the most important aspects of any author's career, no matter the genre, is the connection we make with the readers. Whether it be on Facebook or Twitter or even our own website, these connections are important.

While cyber connections are the easiest, there's nothing like a good old face-to-face meeting with both established readers and those who are new-to-you and your books. It's been awhile since I attended an author/reader event and I'd forgotten how much I missed them. And, more importantly, how vital they are to cultivating a personal connection to those readers who love and respect the romance genre.

In addition to the author/reader event I wrote about last month, I've attended a flurry of craft fairs, library appearances, and bookstore signings. The new acquaintances I've made have been uplifting to my spirits as a writer. And, as is our goal, cultivated sales and new readers.

Writing is such a solitary job ... holed up in our writing space with little more than the tap of our keyboards to keep us company. Unless, of course, you own a cat. For some reason, they love the keyboard of a warm laptop. Because of this solidarity, writers more than anyone need an outlet to the outside world.

So how does one plan to get the most out of those outside experiences, those connections to readers?

First, don't overdo it. As I discovered at the first craft fair I attended, too much of a good thing is ... well ... too much. I carted way too many books with me, had too many "things" in my six foot space. What I discovered was by offering them too many choices, I took away their desire to browse. Also, the swag seemed to scare them away more often than it drew them in.

My solution: At craft fair number two, I limited my display to five copies of six different books. I kept backup copies under the table. I put out a single tray of swag, with a sign saying "free to a good home". On it I placed pens, fridge magnets, and chocolate.

Second, if you're local to the area, make sure they know it. One man stopped at my table and picked up and sat down a few books before it dawned on him they were all written by the same person. Finally he asked, "Is this you? Did you write all these?"

My first reaction: Uh...yes...I did. I guess the huge banner in front of my table wasn't clear enough. Then the realization hit. Everyone there was selling a product (e.g., Tupperware, makeup, woodworking). I hadn't personalized my product. I could have been a sales agent for the author, rather than the author.

My solution: A new sign (actually two) that clip onto the edges of my fancy banner and say "Local Author" and "Meet the Author". Clarity is key.

Finally, appeal to the genre the reader wants most. When putting out your product, don't mix genres or heat levels. Someone who reads only sweet romance is going to shy away from the section with racy covers and possibly think you have nothing he/she wants to read.

My solution: Label your product. Since I create my own price tags, I also "flame" rate the books. Then, when setting up the display, I put tent cards in front of the sections. "To be read with a cool drink." "Cup of tea and cookie read." "Travel distant times, places, and species." This last label drew a number of readers to my recent sci-fi release, The Vessel, and resulted in a number of new customers.

Most important is the personal connection you make. Take time to talk, not just about your own books but about the customer/reader's favorite authors. Knowing a reader likes certain authors/genres can help you direct them to something similar in your own catalog.

I have two library events coming up next weekend. I can't wait to see how those turn out. Far different from the craft sale where the products are mixed, in a library you have an audience who are already there for the right reason ... reading.

I'd love to hear from readers on what you like to see at a book signing. What draws your interest? What scares you away? And authors, what works best for you?

Until next month, stay happy, stay healthy, stay well read. I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.


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