Among the biggest things that baffle authors is how they can sell one book well, but the next one fizzles and dies on the vine. Where did all those book buyers go? You wrote a story as good or better than the first. You were comfortably confident because of all the great reviews and compliments you received. Somehow between the glowing blush of success and the release of the next book, your book buyers seem to have simply disappeared! Where did all your fans go?
The real truth of this conundrum is that until you have sold several books really well, those book buyers aren’t really your fans. They might be fans of your genre or subgenre, or they might be interested in the unique hooks inside your story, but they aren’t quite your loyal fans just yet.
To be a successful selling author, it takes an understanding of the market as well as the stories you write. Between your first book and your second, the book buyers who helped you feel so successful have wondered off to other authors and other books. It’s only natural—out of sight, out of mind.
We would all love to be able to sit on our laurels and enjoy the luxury of just writing the next book. Unfortunately the reality of the marketing world simply doesn’t allow that, at least not until you’ve been sitting on the Top Ten Best Sellers List for several books. We all have to start somewhere, and if your goal is to have loyal fans waiting with baited breath for your next book, you will need to put in the work.
Here are a few tips to help you create loyal fans and keep them.
When writers drop the ball, we sense it. That’s why we have proofreaders, beta readers, editors, critique groups, and writing craft coaches to help us get back on track and create the best possible product.
When authors with a published books drop the marketing ball, it’s another story all together.
All’s not lost. You did have success with your previous book. Whether it was sales in the hundreds or thousands, you felt sure enough of your fan base to write and put out a second book. Now all you need to do is figure out what worked right the first time.
Analysis is extremely important. It’s time to seriously consider everything you did last time because, honestly, it was the combination of all those efforts that created your previous success.
Too many authors imagine that they worked so hard for the sales of their first book, that it should be a breeze this time around. They figure they can skip a few steps because they didn’t like that twitter crap, or dealing with blogging anyway. This is false security talking and you need to ignore those thoughts.
Here’s what I usually see. The author enthusiastically went for it the first time. They wrote a great book and understood that it deserved to be efficiently and effectively marketed. They focused on building following, either through genre lover groups or better yet, through the unique hooks within their story. They blogged religiously, faithfully build and connected with their twitter and Facebook following, unique hook online groups, and live groups and organizations. They created awareness for their coming book and watched the success flow when the book was finally released. Then…they simply smiled and lowered their head to the keyboard to write the next book. They figured they’d earned it, right?
So, now that the second book has been released, why are all those wonderful book buyers playing hide and seek?
It isn’t that they forgot about you—YOU FORGOT ABOUT THEM! The connections you strategically, carefully, and painfully made with those readers fell by the wayside. What’s a book buyer to do? Buy the next book that reaches out and peaks their interest, respond to the next author who connects with them, and pay attention to the creative marketing efforts all around. Unfortunately, you and your next book are nowhere in sight. These weren’t your fans because fans crave as much loyalty from the author, as the author craves from them.
Analyze EVERYTHING you did before, and put it into practice again so that you can connect with those book buyers who loved your work again and cultivate them.
With each book, the author should not only remain connected to the people who bought the last book, but add more prospective book buyers to the fold. This is an ongoing effort. We talked about staying connected earlier, but expanding your audience is the key to eventually reaching that Top Ten Best Sellers List.
There are a thousand ways to locate a larger audience for your books. If you’re writing a series, expanding audience should be a piece of cake. Beyond genre focus, the main character and story has qualities that attract readers. Whether your MC smokes cigars, loves the gym, chocolate, exploring caves, or gardening, there are ways to reach those audiences in a broader way with each successive book. For example, if your character rides a bike and you’ve used that unique hook to connect with bike riders, bike lovers, bike racing fans, or mountain bike clubs, you can take that further with your next book. If the character rides through the streets of Paris in the first book, but finds him or herself racing along the hills in Tuscany, you can add a unique hook audience loaded with people who love travel or tourism in addition to the bike lover unique hook audience you already have. Layering audience on top of audience broadens your exposure to prospective book buyers.
If you write stand alone novels, there is still a similarity from book to book. In many cases it might be genre, in other cases it might be the author’s preference for writing stories that take place in military environments, adventurous political arenas, or maybe even in small town America. Seek out this similarities from book to book and be sure to build larger audience with each book. The first book’s primary marketing strategy might have targeted lovers of stories about small town America. Keeping close to that audience between books promises that you will continue to write books like that. And add the lovers of small town lifestyle, values, and attitudes can add a large number of new prospective book buyers for our next book.
Authors who seek readers through basic author strategies of genre and book related marketing miss the bigger picture. If you’ve written a mystery, by all means connect with mystery lovers. But if you want huge audience and sales, you must also seek those audiences through the unique hooks inside your story, AND keep in touch with that audience between books.
Building loyalty takes effort, but it’s a joyful effort because you’ve already made this audience happy with your first book. Obviously, maintaining a continuous bond can’t take the same shape that your original awareness marketing campaigns did; it has to be more intimate and more interesting. It must show that you care about the people who love your book and want to be connected to them. Here are a few tips to keep the love alive between books. Oh, and here’s the best part…these efforts are not so time consuming that you won’t have time to write that next book. Just about 15-20 minutes a day will work.
Website Activities – What do you have on your website? Just the basic information? Here’s the book, here’s the link, here’s the blurb, now go buy it. That’s not conducive to cultivating a loyal fan base at all. In fact, it kind of ignores your fan base and focuses on people who don’t even own the book yet. Think about how you can create a wonderful place for your fans. Consider a website page that updates your fans about the next book. Consider a website page that shows all the outtakes or back stories for your primary characters. Consider an interactive page where your fans can drop you an email question and you can answer it on the website for all to see. Think about a page with a map of your main character’s travels
Blogging – Why not let your characters blog every other week? Let them respond to comments too. Let them give subtle hints as to where the next story might go, or where it takes place.
Speaking – Of course no one can really hop on a plane and go anywhere to speak with their fans, especially if you’re just building your author career. But why can’t you conduct a interview through a Google Hang Out Q&A Event? Live yahoo chats? If you do speak live and do book signings, be sure to take pictures and share them on your website with your fans.
Contests – I’m NOT a proponent of giving away free books at all. Nothing in the logical world of marketing confirms that free anything sells more product. However, there is a way to use your back list to help promote future books. If you are a series writer, consider giving away a copy of your first book in the series. Some authors and publisher have adopted this practice and made the first book in a series perpetually free. Of course, this requires that the author continually market, build audience, and create a loyal fan base. Remember, there are other ways to have a contest without giving away a book at all. For the book that created the bike riding fan base, the author can give away a tire pump, or cool water bottles, or even a bike if they care to go that far.
My final thought for you all is to remember what you love as a fan, and what makes you look elsewhere for that gratification a fan wants most. If your favorite movie start stops making movies, you’ll get a new favorite movie star. If your favorite television show takes additional steps through their website or twitter or YouTube to get you involved, you become more and more loyal. Think about what you want, and give your fans what they want. They crave connection. Don’t drop that ball and find yourself in a position to start from square one all over again. Success breeds success, but only if you cultivate it.
Go and be successful!
Questions? I’m happy to answer!