How to connect with your readers

Book Club

Credit: ‘Chelmsford Public Library’ on Flickr

One of the best (and worst) aspects of self-publishing, is the ability to connect directly to your readers using various social tools. The GoodReads platform is a very good example of this kind of ability. And while there have been a number of horror stories popping out from GoodReads.com, there is no denying the possibility of connecting in very real ways to those who read your books.

The primary thing to remember in this task is the fact that your readers are your gold mine. Without them, you’re simply writing for yourself – which can’t be very satisfying now, can it? As writers, our whole goal is tell a story. We want to excite and enthrall and we can’t do that if no one is reading. I won’t go into the many ways in which you can turn readers off, because that’s another topic for another day. Today I want to focus on the social aspects of writing and how you can make it work for you.

On Free-eBooks.net, we’ve just recently switched our commenting system to Disqus.com which incorporates a wide community of people who interact with one another on a variety of things. The thing I like most about Disqus is the fact that you can create a profile for yourself which is accessible from each and every comment you make around the web.

By settling your mouse pointer over the icon on a comment, you get to see a little bit about the person making the comment. In this tiny space, you can put a short description about who you see yourself to be. From there, you can also see where else on the Internet the commenter has participated in other discussions.

As a reader, one of the most common questions I often find myself asking about the authors I read is: ‘What is this person like in real life?’; ‘What makes them the writer they are?’; ‘Where are the from?’; and so on. When you find an author you really like, it’s always part of the story to know who is actually doing the writing. I know when I discovered that John Grisham was a lawyer before he was a published author, I was intrigued. I wondered how many of his stories were reaped from his experiences as a lawyer and how many were stories spun out of the experience as a whole. When Stephen King was hit by a car and was in hospital, I fretted along with his family and his other fans that he might recover fully because … well, who doesn’t want more Stephen King stories in their life?

Your back-story is intriguing to your readers. It helps them flesh out who you are and why you write. And when they can interact with you directly, it can be the highest point in someone’s life. Reddit.com has a sub-forum dedicated to what is known as AMAs (Ask Me Anything; or IAmA – which is translated to be “I am a [insert-your-title-here]; ask me anything”). I remember a few weeks back when Stephen King did one of these AMAs (** Warning **: reddit.com can be a rather difficult site to navigate) – the response was huge. I don’t think he realized just how many people wanted to ask him about his work. The sheer volume of responses was staggering: the thread, as of right now, has 6,432 comments. Overwhelming, maybe; but what it shows is that people want to talk to their favorite authors.

The downside is that you often get people who are vile and malicious and just want to bring you down. Dealing with those people is another topic as well (and one which I just might have to follow this post with in short order), but it is an aspect that everyone has to deal with in their everyday life to one level or another. Think of how you react to the man who cuts you off in traffic, or the service personnel who simply seem to not want to do their job to your satisfaction or just plain refuses to serve you at all. We all have to deal with unpleasantness in our daily lives, so this shouldn’t be a huge detractor when interacting with your readers.

After all, it’s the readers who make our lives so much fun, isn’t it?

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