How To Grab That Coveted Online Audience
By Adam Dreece
There’s nothing like finding readers live tweeting your book as they read it, or finding them promoting your book to their friends. It’s one of those things that a couple of months ago, I looked at other authors on Twitter and wondered just how they did it, and could I do it? Now I’m watching it happen and have cracked a 1000 Twitter followers of my own.
I created my twitter account in February, and when I released my first book, The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1) at CalgaryExpo in April, I had maybe 50 followers. At my booth, I figured out how to connect with people, but online I was still a couple months away from that. In June, something clicked. By early August, as I approached 600 highly engaged followers, I realized I’d figured some things out.
My books (Along Came a Wolf, Breadcrumb Trail) are my products. They are part of a series, The Yellow Hoods, which is my product line, and Adam Dreece is the brand. In my case, my Adam Dreece brand is about smart, young adult fiction that’s layered for adults, has strong female characters and sees people as complex and human. The Yellow Hoods is adventure fiction in a world that is undergoing the beginning of a Steampunk revolution. You’d expect book 3 to follow that pattern as it is in the same product line.
Online, everything you post or blog, defines your brand. You should be conscious of what you post and tweet and how you engage people, because it affects your brand.
When people engage with you, they come to know you but more importantly, they come to understand your brand. If they like that brand, they will want it to be a part of that. They could mean buying your book, but that could also be advocating your book, posting tweets about it, blogging about it. They don’t have to be buying it to be ultimately helping sales.
I didn’t have my brand all figured out when I started. I needed to start engaging people first. I followed a couple of good hashtags (#amwriting, #amreading) and started replying to people’s tweets. I ended up getting a good group of people to chat with, and they followed me and I them.
I quickly learned not to follow everyone back, but rather to check and see if they actually engage with people. I did this by looking at their timelines and then tweeting to them, asking them a question. If they engaged with me, I followed. If they didn’t, I might try again later. Some people are just interested in broadcasting to followers, I’m not interested in being broadcast at. It doesn’t help me build a following and audience.
Through trial and error, I came to understand when people were online (very important to time your tweets so that they have a chance of seeing them), and what would engage them. I then thought about how this communicated who I was and thus how people would interpret my brand.
A core part of building the audience is understanding the value that you can bring to them. When you engage people, it should be about items where you are providing value, as oppose to “I know what you mean” or “Oh, I’ve been there.” There’s room for those type of social ‘chit-chat’ parts, but it won’t likely build you a following. Providing insight into your books, your author’s journey, will. No matter where you are on your author’s journey, there are thousands of people hoping to get to where you are, and thousands ahead of you. I had to get over the idea that I had nothing to say about what someone could go through.
Using your blog is a key item to provide additional value, allowing you to break out of your 140 character prison. I try to blog at least once a week, and while it’s a huge time commitment in addition to working my full time job, having a 3 kid family and trying to write my next book, I do it with my readers in mind because I want to continue to provide them value. If I can’t provide a new blog entry, then I tweet a previous one as some people either may have missed it, or opted not to read it the first time around.
Another way that I provide value is that I answer questions and help people on their author’s journey. This often helps me come up with blog articles, which I then tweet, which then gets me more questions, creating a virtuous circle.
Twitter and other social media can quickly start filling the lonely hole in a person, and then become an addictive time sink. This can consume your valuable time, taking you away from writing and promotion, but it can also make you forget the boundary between who you are as a person, and who you are as a brand and author. It’s an important thing to not lose sight of.
Another trap is always socializing with the same group of people, which can alienate other followers. You are engaging as an author, not someone just looking to hang out with friends, so keep that in mind. You want to meet people, engage with them, answer their questions, and be mindful when you’re playing favorites.
There’s a lot of things that we have to do as indie authors, and one of those is owning and building the relationship with our audience. There are other social networks out there, like Facebook, however I’ve abandoned that as they algorithmically determine what people see and don’t see, even if they Liked my page.
It’s hard work, and takes time every day, but it is well worth it. If you have any questions, give me a shout on Twitter.
Adam Dreece is a Calgary author of layered young adult fiction. His first series is The Yellow Hoods, which is emergent Steampunk laced with fairy tales for depth. His books are available on Kobo.