Wow! You Must Really “Like” Me

As authors and bloggers, we hear that we need to grow a following, or an author platform, and this is the digital measure of success. So, we write blog posts and posts promos in the hopes that readers will be drawn to our blogs and fall in love with them, and subscribe to them. Then we start counting “like” or other reactions on all of our social media sites, and when they start accruing, we tell ourselves, “Look! It’s working! Lots of people “like” my promos. My following is growing!”

But, I would argue that the number of “likes” we get on social is not a true and accurate measure of success, or even popularity, and it certainly isn’t any indication that we are moving any closer to increasing book sales, or blog visits. Think about it. Just because several people “liked” a promo on social media, doesn’t mean that any of those people clicked through to actually read the blog post or buy the book. In fact, I’d venture that the majority of “likes” on social media do not click through. They may be “liking” the promo, but they aren’t reading your work. They are probably a more accurate measure of promotional success, than they are the size of the reader following.

Of course, this isn’t the case with “likes” that appear on the blog site itself. Watching those numbers increase is a big deal, because they are an indication that people are reading your work. When the number of subscribers increase, that’s when you know that those folks who “liked” your posts, are truly finding your content of interest enough to come back and visit again. This is what bloggers strive for when trying to grow a following. (But alas, many of those followers may have subscribed may become inactive over time, letting email notifications go unopened.) Even with a large following, we are still challenged to keep readers engaged and entertained or informed. Growing a reader following is an unending process and you have to keep at it over time with quality content to maintain it.

So, why do we even bother with “likes” on social media? They may make us feel good, but do they have some other value? Are we all just striving to go viral because that’s the current measure of success on social media? The answer is that they do, indeed, have value, because they are a form of engagement with existing and potential readers. And engagement is the key to growing a solid following, with members who enjoy reading your writing and want to hear what you have to say, or the story that you have to tell.

Engagement is one of the major objectives that social media marketing is aimed at. Readers whom you engage with in some manner are more likely to subscribe to your blog or buy a book. Readers who do have engagement of some sort with a book’s author are also more likely to leave a review for that book. Favorable reviews increase the chances that someone else, previously unfamiliar with you or your work, will also buy your book.

So, as an author, don’t totally dismiss all those “likes” as unimportant, thinking that they don’t mean the ‘liker’ really likes you or your work, but instead make use of them as a chance to engage with the ‘liker’, even it is just to say thanks for “liking” my promo post. Encourage readers to click through and actually read the blog post, or buy the book in the promos, and be thankful for any engagement received.

And for heaven’s sake, be sure to reply back. Even giving a quick emoji is a form of response, and considered engagement, so take the time to reply or reach out to those people who “like” promos, engage with them, even if it’s obvious they haven’t clicked through. They will remember the next time they see one of your promos, so you’ve increased recognition and awareness, and maybe, just maybe they’ll subscribe to your blog or even buy a book.

And as readers and social media hounds, please click through and read the actual blog posts and leave a comment to clue the author in to the fact that you did. If you do buy a book, please take the time to leave a brief review to show support for the author. Being an author and getting our work out there is not easy, especially in the trying times we live in, so let’s lift each other up and support one another. Every author can’t be your favorite, but engagement and reviews are easy ways to support the ones who are.

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So, How Do You Build a Reader Platform?

platform

I’ve heard it asked if a reader platform is even necessary. So, let me ask you, as writers and authors, without readers what are we? Of course, we need to have a reader platform. All it is is a fan base equivilent, but it can make the difference between the success and the failure of our books. Without my readers, there would be no one to buy my books, read my books, recommend my books or review my books. So, how does one build a reader platform?

It’s a good question. And I’ve heard of many different methods of doing just that, and none of them require construction tools. Not even a screwdriver. All it takes is what we writers and authors do best: words, communication, contact.

Hidden Secrets - smallI started out with this blog, Writing to be Read, and the number of subscribers is climbing as I work to improve the content. The thing is, there was no way for me to capture those subscriber emails or reach out to them. So, I created a monthly newsletter, and added a sign-up pop-up, offering a free e-book as a thank you for subscribing. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free e-copy of my paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets, which isn’t available anywhere else.

The trick is to get people to read your work in the first place. You can’t have a fan or a reader unless they have read something you’ve written and liked it. Nobody will follow you, or write a review, or join your reader group, if they haven’t first, read your book. One way to do that is to identify your target audience and promote to them, offering them all the reasons why they will like your work.

reading is Fun

Another, and probably the most important, is to be sure your writing is fun and entertaining, if you’re writing fiction. With non-fiction, you need to make the subject matter interesting and present it well. And humor never hurts, no matter what you write. Even dark works can have dark humor. In short, whatever you are writing, make sure that it is quality writing. This should go without saying, but they won’t become your loyal readers if they can’t make it through the book due to the poor quality writing.

After all, a reader platform is really just a fan base of those who are interested in your work, and by finding them and adding them to your mailing list, you are effectively building a reader platform. With this method, I had a big initial burst of subscribers following the launch of a marketing campaign, then it tapered off to a slower rate of growth. My list is growing slowly, but I’m gaining a few new subscribers every month.

Other authors I know start Facebook reader groups or ask fans to join their street teams. I don’t know how well they work, but it seems there’s always activity happening in these groups and they seem to have lots of members. I would think you would have to have a solid fan base to pull ‘groupies’ from, so perhaps this is just an additional step, rather than an alternative method. Most of the authors I know who have street teams or Facebook reader groups, swear they don’t know what they’d do without them, relying on them to spread the word on new releases, post reviews on release day, find reviewers for their books, and/or show up for support at book events. These authors are harnessing the power of their readers and directing it to where it is needed most. And I’m thinking they might be on to something.

Part of the problem may be that I’m a multi-genre author. To date, I’ve published a western novel, Delilah; a paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets; and a science fiction time travel short story, Last Call. I’ve also had a dystopian short story and a crime romance short story published in anthologies, as well as shorts and poetry online. Western readers, science fiction readers and paranormal readers are not all included in the same crowd. I’m also eclectic in my reading habits, but most folks want to read only their preferred genres. Now how do I find readers that are so hard core they want to read everything I’ve published?

My answer is, I don’t. I’m finding that I must seek out readers for each one seperately and build a seperate reader platform for each one. The western readers who liked Delilah will be interested in the sequel, The Homecoming, when it’s finished, but they may not be interested in the books for my science fantasy Playground for the Gods series, when the first book is released. And many of my readers are authors themselves and they may be interested in the content on Writing to be Read, rather than any of my fiction works. When I look at it in this way, the task at hand seems to be enormous, the goal so far away. I’m not sure where to start, but I’m determined to find out.

I think a good start would be to find out which of my works the readers I already have are interested in, so I’ve added a genre question to the pop-up for the newsletter sign-up, so that I can place readers on different lists and then new subscribers can receive notifications concerning those works that they are interested in.

All of this marketing stuff is new to me and I’m learning as I go, so if you do sign-up for my monthly newsletter, I’d love it if you’d drop me an email and let me know how the whole sign-up process went, and what worked for you and what didn’t. After all, I’m smart enough to know that without you, my readers, I wouldn’t sell any books. I appreciate the fact that you stand by me. Let me hear form you at: kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Thank you

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