I’m thrilled to be participating in the second HarperCollins Romance Festival which runs all weekend, 7/8th February. Follow @RomanceFestival on Twitter for all the latest chat and links to author guest posts and use #Romance15 You can also follow the festival Facebook page. The event is open to ALL (writers, aspiring writers and readers) and is free. You can read more about the event and sign up here.
The following post was written especially for the Romance Festival, and you can also catch me on a live chat on Sunday 8th Feb from 3-4pm.
Every book needs readers to bring it to life. It is the readers who give our books wings. It is the readers who share their excitement and enthusiasm and downright LOVE for a book with other readers and in so doing create that magical ripple effect that can result in a book really taking off. But what can we, as authors, do to connect with readers. And how do we find them?
As I hurtle through the whirlwind of promoting my second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS, I am hoping to learn from the experience of promoting my debut, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME. What surprised me most about that was the extent to which the things you do away from the writing desk are just as important as the words you write when you are glued to it. Most writers are now expected to be fully involved in the promotion of their books. You have to tell the world that a new book has been born, and find all those lovely readers who you wrote the book for in the first place! So, here are ten ways to find your readership; to connect with readers and bring your book to life.
Press articles – writing articles on a subject matter relevant to your book is a great way to share information with readers. They may not be aware of you, or your book/s (yet), but picking up a magazine or newspaper and reading an interesting, entertaining piece by you can be a great way to pique their interest. Most editors will include a short byline about your latest book to accompany your piece, but do check to make sure.
Radio interviews – radio can be a great way to become more ‘real’ to readers. Live radio – while TERRIFYING – can lead to some lovely spontaneity and really show your personality in a way that other forms of media can’t. Contact your local radio stations and let them know about your book and that you are happy to go into the studio. Remember to share podcasts on your website for readers to listen to at their leisure.
Bookshops and signings – introduce yourself to the manager of your local bookshops and leave a copy of the book for the staff room (thanks to Richard Lee at the Historical Novel Society for that piece of advice). Let them know you are willing to sign stock for them, or do a signing for an hour or so. While there may not be people queuing out of the door, bookshops love to have authors in and it’s a great way to be visible to, and to connect with, new readers.
Conferences – Go to them! Even one a year (relevant to your genre), can be really worthwhile. Let the organisers know you are interested in a speaking slot and use your time at the conference to network (aka chatting about books over a glass of wine). Take business cards, or something to help people remember you and your book i.e. bookmarks or postcards.
Emails – make sure your website has a ‘Contact Me’ form so readers can email you. And if they do, respond. Chat. Engage. I know how much I would love to receive an email from an author I’d contacted to tell them how much I loved their book. Do the same.
Social media – be approachable, be friendly, be respectful and social media can be every author’s friend. It is such a great way to engage with readers. One word of caution: don’t use social media to merely sell your book. Nobody begrudges a little self-promotion during book launch or the occasional tweet to share exciting news or competitions, but you have to also engage with people about non-book related things: your cat, an amusing guinea pig, your favourite brand of gin, other people’s books etc.
Local community – connect with local writing groups, local newspapers, local radio, local writing festivals, local bookshops and the library. These can all be great places to talk about your book and your life as a writer.
Be a reader – it sounds obvious, but don’t forget to be a reader as well as a writer. Remind yourself regularly of that excitement of devouring a great book and have plenty of recommendations ready when asked in interviews or at events. Connect with your favourite authors if you can. Many readers discover a new author through an existing favourite author and cross-promotion with another author can work really well.
Book clubs – let book clubs know that you are happy to come and talk to their group. You can arrange Skype calls to book clubs anywhere in the world, or set up a Goodreads Q&A style chat, for example.
Get involved – try anything once! Sometimes, dressing in period costume and selling your books to total strangers in a Victorian town in a remote part of England turns out to be far more enjoyable than you might have thought (I know this from experience)! You can also learn an awful lot from seeing how other authors promote their books at events like this (take lots of chocolates – it seems to work.)
Lots of these activities have really worked for me. Not always in the immediate or short-term, but something positive has eventually come from ‘being there’ and being involved. Go and find your readers and let them know how much you love them!
Happy Romance Festival 15! x