Building a following as an author should be your number one priority from day one. Period. If you’re in this for the long haul, those loyal fans who sign up to hear about future books from you are going to be your greatest resource. As the number of fans at your disposal grows, you’ll go from seeing one or two sales on launch day to seeing hundreds. That’s the key to greater success.
So how exactly do you build that list of people who want to hear about your next great book? It’s actually easier than you might think and we’re going to walk you through all of the steps required!
Get a mailing list
A mailing list is going to be a critical piece of the puzzle for any new author. This is where you’re going to reach out for ARC readers (people who will read your book in advance and leave a review on launch day). Since nearly everyone has an email address these days, it will also act as a “default” place for readers to sign up to hear about updates from you.
Some of the more common email providers that I’ve seen authors use are Mailchimp and Aweber. Personally, I recommend and use Mailchimp for my author accounts since it’s free until you hit 2000 subscribers and I found it pretty easy to setup and use.
Get a Book Sprout account
Book Sprout lets you notify your readers in a brand new way, keeping you up to date with today’s mobile technologies. With a push notification right on your reader’s reading device and/or phone, your new releases and deals will be hard to ignore.
Once you’re signed up, it’s time to create a public author page. In your Book Sprout back-end, click on pen names in the navigation bar at the top of your screen and then create a new pen name. If you need help with these steps, you can follow our guide on how to setup a pen name in Book Sprout.
Make sure that you don’t forget to include your mailing list HTML form if at all possible. That will allow readers to signup quickly and easily through our app and on your public author page, thus increasing signups to your mailing list.
Take note of your public author page, as it’s going to be coming in handy very soon. The link should look something like this: https://booksprout.co/author/1/chris-leippi (that’s me). The link to your Book Sprout public author page will be used as the central hub for you to gain followers since it gives readers the option of either following you in the Book Sprout app or via your mailing list (or both if they really like your stuff!)
Don’t forget social media!
Many readers are going to want to follow you in as many ways as possible, so make sure you give them the chance to do so! At a bare minimum, I recommend setting up a Facebook page and Twitter account. I also have a Google Plus account where I get followers as well. Some authors like to setup Pinterest and Instagram profiles too if you’re into that kind of thing!
Getting readers to follow you
So now you’re all setup with a few different places for readers to follow you if they like your books. Great, but now you need to convince them to follow you somehow!
One key to remember is that you need to offer something of value in order to get people to follow you. If you’re just spamming people and telling them to follow you, you’re going to find yourself ignored and frustrated. If you’re offering useful information or entertainment, the response from readers is going to be much more favorable.
Tell people how to follow you in all of your books
Each book that you sell or give away should be looked at as a means to advertise. By the end of the book, your readers should know exactly where to find your past books AND where they can follow you to hear about future books.
In the front and back matter of all of your books you need to include a link to your Book Sprout public author page so that people can either follow you in the Book Sprout app, and/or signup to your mailing list. Make sure the link is descriptive as well, so that readers know what they’re signing up for. Something like “follow me on Book Sprout or signup to my mailing list if you want to hear about my future books and deals!” is a good start.
Giveaway short, free stories
This has been by far my most successful method of gaining followers over my two years of self publishing and running a small press. When I first started, my focus was on short stories. I’d break up a longer book into pieces and give away the first one for free, permanently.
But that’s not all. Remember how we added links to your Book Sprout public author page in every book? That gives these free books a purpose: advertising. Each book is now a gateway drug used to get readers hooked and wanting more.
My recommendation is to give away a lot of books. I personally give out between 600-1000 free books each day. That’s 600-1000 people that…
- might follow me and get exposed to the future books I publish, AND/OR
- might buy the second book in the series.
Sounds like a win to me, especially considering the fact that it costs me nothing to give those books out! I maintain that giving out free stories can be directly attributed to the size of my following, and thus my success in publishing.
Get active on social media
Social media is a great way to get your name out there. How you do so is going to be different for each genre, so unfortunately, you’ll need to figure this one out a bit on your own. Here’s a few tips to keep in mind:
- If you’re a non-fiction author, try and position yourself as an expert in your field. Join groups and discussions related to your topic and HELP people solve their problems. You’re going to want to find a good balance between helping people for free, and promoting yourself.
- If you’re a fiction author, start networking with other authors in your genre NOW! Get in on their book release parties, do group giveaways, and help each other get visibility.
One thing I see too often on social media is authors simply spamming the link to their book everywhere without offering anything of value. People are simply going to ignore you. Your time could be better spent writing.
Bring your existing fans with you
A lot of authors didn’t start as an author. They had their beginnings as a yoga instructor, a music teacher, a professional chef, or any other variety of profession. If there are people who recognize you as an expert in the field, don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Many of these people won’t blink an eye if all you ask is for a simple share of your author page or book since they know you know what you’re talking about.
If you’re a fiction author, maybe you’ve been writing for years on forums or wattpad. Many famous authors get their start this way. Don’t be afraid to ask your supporters to follow you, especially if you’ve been writing with/for them for a while!
Make Friends With Your Readers
Befriending your readers is another really important thing for any author to do. If your readers like you as a person, they are more likely to recommend you to their friends! Never, ever make it about money. Sure, you would love to become a full-time author, but make sure your readers know that you write because you love it.
There are a lot of good places to become friends with your readers. Add them as a friend on Goodreads or add them to your circles on Google+. If they show you their blog, go make a comment. Send them a “thank you” for a nice review. Ask them for help if you need it. For example: let’s say they post a review on Google Play. Ask them to copy it over to Amazon (people love helping). Do anything else you can think of that would build a relationship with your readers.
An important note about this: Not everyone is going to become your friend. It’s just like real life, except harder because people have anonymity on the internet, so a lot of them think it’s okay to be rude. It’s crucial to just be yourself and let your personality shine through where it can. Having 10 people who LOVE you is so much better than 50 who like you. Remember, only the ones who love you are going to really help you get your work out there. It’s kind of like starting a little promotional army—you need those dedicated soldiers!
An important tip that my old sales manager always drilled into my head is this: “People buy from those they like.” The ebook market is crowded with books, and you need to stand out from the crowd. This is a great way to do that.
Do you have any other methods you’ve used to gain a following? We’d love to hear it on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!