The craft and business of writing and self publishing

Be Authentic: How To Build Relationships With Readers

By Julie Strauss

Julie Strauss wanted to maintain control of marketing and distributing her own titles. She spent considerable time doing research on self-publishing—seeking out articles, podcasts and online forums, and reaching out to other authors with questions. She has found the indie author community to be incredibly generous and an invaluable resource in her own self-publishing journey.

Julie Strauss is a #KWLWonderWoman—a savvy entrepreneur building her writing career into a successful independent business. We’ll share more stories here and on Instagram. Do you have a story to share? Tell us here.

My name is Julie Strauss, and I hate cats.

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Who, me?

You probably want to tell me why cats are great, and that I haven’t met the right cat, and that I would love your cat. No they aren’t, yes I have, and no I wouldn’t.

Stick with me. I’m just not an animal person in general and not a cat person in particular. Cats ignore people who love them and slink a figure eight pattern around the legs of people who can’t stand them, like fuzzy, mewling snakes. They stare at me with those big, weird eyes. Don’t even get me started on the smell. When I was eight, I read a story about a cat who sneaked into kid’s bedrooms at night and bit the child’s neck and sucked out all his breath. My mother assured me that cats couldn’t do that. But I never believed her, and I still don’t trust cats not to kill me in my sleep. (Which, now that I think about it, is probably the basis for this entire fear.)

What does all this have to do with my writing life?

Authenticity.

Like everyone, I want to be successful in my writing career. I figured I had to do what all the other authors were doing. Weekly e-mails, pictures of my children, lots of hair and makeup, and cat pictures. The trouble was, I don’t share pictures of my kids online, I don’t care all that much about makeup, I don’t want to write to anyone once a week. And I don’t want to talk about cats.

Every few months I’d send a plaintive note: Hey do you remember me? I’m still here. Do you want to buy a book? Please just buy my book!

After about a year of not understanding how to talk to readers, I attended a book signing where a woman approached my table and claimed she didn’t like to read romance novels.

I pushed a plate of scones toward her. “Here, have a scone. Tell me what you do like to read?”

I’m not good at too many things, but I am really, really good at talking about scones and books, so we chatted for a long time, and she asked me for the scone recipe. I told her it came from my first book, about a chef who travels the world and falls in love, but I’d be happy to write the recipe down for her.

Then another woman approached my table and sneered at the varied skin tones of the people on my book covers.

“Your books are interracial.” she said, in a tone one might use to say, “You have spaghetti in your hair!” Or, come to think of it, how I might say, “Is there a cat in this house?”

The sneering woman stomped away before I could reply. I turned back to my scone-eating friend, who looked horrified. “Good thing she left,” I said to her. “More scones for us. Who needs her racist money, anyway?” (I’m not going to lie: in the actual conversation, I used a curse word. But I always try to watch my mouth around my polite Canadian friends.)

She laughed, and wouldn’t let me write down the scone recipe because she immediately bought all of my books. “I don’t normally like romances. But I think I might like yours.”

It was at that moment I realized that I don’t have to pretend to be any other romance author. And I could forevermore disabuse myself of the notion that I had to be all things to all people, it freed me up to just be myself when I talk to readers. As my writing mentor told me, “Can you imagine how happy the cat-hating romance readers are going to feel when they find you?”

So now when I get new subscribers to my mailing list, the first thing they see from me is this: My name is Julie. I write romance. I write recipes. I hate cats. I’m not going to e-mail too often because I’d rather be writing books. But when I do write, I only want to talk about books and recipes and cocktails.

Too blunt? Maybe. But it’s authentic. They know who I am, and I don’t have to fake an online persona.

And the strangest thing is happening: for the first time, readers are responding to my e-mails. You would like my cat, they tell me. (I wouldn’t, but it tickles me that they care enough to try to convince me.) My animals saved my life, one woman wrote, and then she proceeded to tell me a heartbreaking personal story. Most of the time, I get friendly jabbing. Give up now! One woman told me. Bow down to our pet overlords before they take over and put you on a leash. I think she was kidding, but I’m not entirely sure.

I get a few unsubscribes with every newsletter, of course. But not as many as you might think. Whether that is because they don’t like my books, or my voice, or my policy on cats, I’ll never know. But it hardly matters. I’ve learned to stop chasing ALL readers and instead by my real self for MY readers. In a world filled with filtered pictures and commodified stories, a writer’s true voice is exactly what set us apart.

 


BW Author photoJulie Strauss lives, cooks, reads, and writes with her husband and four children in Southern California. She writes Contemporary Romances about chefs who travel the world and fall in love. You can reach her at www.juliewroteabook.com, or on Facebook or Instagram

 

You can also subscribe to her cat-free newsletter list here

She currently has 3 books on preorder on Kobo right now:

Moonstone Heart releases 2/13 – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/moonstone-heart-3

Hungry Heart releases 3/13 – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/hungry-heart-11

Prosecco Heart releases 4/10 – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/prosecco-heart

 

6 Responses to “Be Authentic: How To Build Relationships With Readers”

  1. Mark Leslie

    A wonderful and important article; and written in a fun and personable voice that is entirely part of the authenticity. Thanks for sharing, Julie!

    Reply
  2. Barb

    Another “cat-hater” here *waves*
    People with pets just don’t get us. But I’m sure we can find our readers who are not pet-obsessed! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Josephine Rose

    This is wonderful and so true! Being who we really are lets others know that it’s okay for them to be who they are too – it’s a brave and beautiful way to live.

    Reply
  4. Phillipa Nefri Clark

    Such an enjoyable blog. How easy it is to follow what we ‘should’ do and how refreshing when we don’t. Loved your voice.

    Reply

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