Ride the Reading Wave to a Bigger and Better Readership

By Rob Tucker/ Let’s start by facing up to a hard truth. For writers, building up a fan-base around your work is tough; significantly more difficult than it is for musicians, for instance. Growing a readership is the writer equivalent of having a girlfriend/boyfriend. It is time-consuming and hard work but it’s also exciting and incredibly fulfilling. Without an audience, your life as a writer will be strangely empty. How is it exactly that talented author get readers in the digital age?

Short is sweet

Even if your eventual goal is to sell your magnum opus, the best method for building up a readership is through short story giveaways. If you’re still a relatively unknown writer, then readers are 5 times more likely to read a short story of yours than the first chapter of your novel.

Stories under 1,000 words get by far the most reads and shares online. Less is definitely more. Also a word of warning: don’t imagine that you can simply post up an extract of your novel and readers will swoon over your talent. Readers can nearly always spot a novel extract because it feels incomplete and unsatisfactory. Writing a compelling story that works as a whole in under 1,000 words is a formidable skill and in the digital era it’s a skill every writer needs to develop.

The key issue here is in making the leap from someone reading your story to becoming a permanent follower of your work. My advice – make your story memorable. Make it stand out.

Locate your readers

So you’ve got your short story giveaways lined up, the next question is how to get people reading them.

Most people will answer this question in terms of social media. Facebook and Twitter are of course great platforms for self-promotion. Ultimately though, you shouldn’t put too much value on these social networks. There’s a huge difference between getting followers on Twitter who are occasionally prepared to give you 140 characters worth of attention and building a real readership who will buy your book. Treat Twitter and Facebook for what they are, social networking sites, not platforms for readers.

Make sure you devote at least as much time to exploring communities within your ‘vertical.’ If you’ve written a story about sharks, then post a link to your story in every shark forum you can find. Get in contact with Sharks Monthly and Sharks Digest to see if they will embed your story on their site or do an interview with you.

Engage your readers

I want to talk for a moment about blogs. If you’re a writer, it’s usually a good idea to have a blog to show off your dazzling wit and make your readers feel more connected to you as a person. But remember that your blog isn’t the ideal place to build up a readership either. Usually, new visitors coming to your blog will look around for a bit and then disappear, forgetting all about you. As a result you will constantly be finding ways to get more new visitors to your blog rather than retaining your existing visitors.
This leads me to an important point. It is much easier to persuade someone who has already read your stories to continue spreading the word about your awesome talent than it is to persuade someone who has never heard of you to take you seriously. Turning your initial supporters into loyal advocates is the fastest way to grow your readership.

Uploading new stories is the simplest way to keep your followers engaged, and it’s also a good idea to respond to any comments or questions that readers have posted and try to create a discussion around your stories.

Your readership shouldn’t just be a number; it should be deeply important to you. You should cherish every single one of your readers! If someone takes the time to follow you then send them a quick private message to say thank you. Create a relationship. Don’t just sell, sell, sell!

Don’t forget offline marketing

How many times have you said the phrase “I’m writing a book” to a friend, a colleague, or even a stranger you got talking to? Did you ever actually send them any of your writing? Probably not. For some reason writers can be very defensive when it comes to marketing, almost as if self-promotion is a bit distasteful. If you want to grow your readership you’re going to have to leave this thinking behind and embrace your inner marketer.

Everyone you’ve ever met or will ever meet is potentially part of your readership, and your personal network will form the basis of your initial readership. If you’re embarrassed or shy about your writing then the solution is simple. Leave your ego at the door. Some people won’t like your work. Accept that fact up front. If you leave your ego at the door and really listen to the feedback you’re getting (and act on it), then you’ll be amazed how many people are prepared to go out of their way to support a talented aspiring writer.

Best of luck and get in touch at rob {at} readwave {dot} com if you have any questions or comments or right here in the comments below!

 


ReadWave logoRob Tucker can be found most often over at Readwave. Readwave is community of readers and writers who love to discover and share new stories from contemporary writers. Readers can access thousands of stories and read them for free on mobile or desktop. Writers can use ReadWave to build up a fanbase and market their stories online. ReadWave puts writers in touch with the readers who are just right for them. You can join them on Facebook or Twitter.


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