Last week, I wrote about writing compelling blog posts, so assuming you're doing that, you should have an immediate audience, right? The truth is, it takes time to build an audience for your author website. Here are 10 tips for finding that audience.
1. Determine who your audience is.
The most crucial step in building an audience is to understand who your audience is before you go looking for them. Usually, your audience will be people who are interested in either the type of genre you write in, or your subject matter. You may write romance, in which case, romance readers will no doubt be your audience. Here is a list of criteria you might use to determine your audience:
- Book genre
- Book subject matter
- Age and gender of people who might read your book
- Locations where they might congregate (conferences, etc)
- What they are passionate about
2. Figure out where your audience hangs out
One you understand a little about your audience, then you can go in search of them. I write about grief, so my first step might be a Google search on "widow blogs," "grief blogs," "grief and loss," etc. Through those searches, I will find blogs, forums, conferences and other sites that cater to grieving people who might find my words helpful. Be specific in your searches. And you don't necessarily have to connect with each and every one. To find the sites you mesh with most, pay attention to the look and feel of their blog or website, the kinds of content they are posting, etc. Does it speak to you? Do you want to get to know the author? Can you think of ways in which you might be able to help each other? Remember building an audience is about quality, not quantity.
3. Engage your audience one person at a time
It is always much better to build a personal connection with people who may be interested in reading your books than it is to buy a list of people who might not be all that interested just to get your numbers of site visitors or twitter followers up. Once you have found a group of blogs that you personally connect with, comment on their blog posts, retweet their tweets, share their Facebook posts, offer words of encouragement and offer your expertise in your subject matter to help them out whenever possible. Give, give, give. That way, when it comes time to ask them to read or buy your book, they will be more willing to do so. The best part about these connections is that they often give you more blog material to write about as you begin to discover new facets of a subject that you didn't know about, or can answer questions and become a trusted authority by writing about issues and ideas that haven't been covered by others.
4. Get involved with your community in real life
I teach memoir writing every year at Camp Widow (which is awesome despite how it might sound) and connect with over 300 people who would be perfect readers of my book. I get to talk to them one-on-one and develop a relationship with them. The Camp Widow community is growing, which in turn helps my audience to grow. Attending conferences, teaching about your subject matter, or even participating in online forums are all great ways to connect in real life.
5. Ask for help from your audience
Once you've built some close ties to your audience, select one or two people who you've connected with most closely to become your "street team." Ask them if they will help you spread the word about your work, become BETA readers (early readers who can give you feedback on your work) on your next project, do an interview of you on their blog, etc. You can reward them with free books, adding them in your acknowledgements, and doing interviews of them on your blog.
6. Be authentic
Some ways of being authentic in what you write and how you conduct yourself online:
- Be approachable
- Write in a way that exposes your vulnerabilities
- Ask questions of your audience, seeking answers from them
You will immediately become more likable than if you are just trying to sell your book all the time or writing in a way that hides your true self. If you come across as being too perfect, your audience won't be able to relate to what you write and may begin to distrust you. Authenticity draws empathy from people and you will find that your most shared work will be that the cuts to the bone the deepest and is usually the hardest to write. This will require you to trust your audience, which in turn will inspire trust in you.
7. Don't over-share your blog posts
It is possible to tweet, Facebook, Google+ plus your posts ad nauseam until turn people off in one way or another. Share your posts a few times once you have written them and then stop. If the post is well written and authentic, the sharing will happen organically. There are a number of syndication sites out there that make it easy to share your posts the moment you've written them. I have also mentioned the WordPress plug-in "Tweet Old Posts" which is a good way to keep old material circulating, just don't overdo it.
8. Use lots of links to other sites in your posts
The more you can cross pollinate your posts, the better. The blogs you link to will see your links and be curious about your site. And be sure to comment on as many target blogs as possible. It used to be (way back in 2008) that commenting on others' sites was pretty much the only way to gain traffic. I think we tend to forget the commenting is still a pretty formidable way of gaining readers. Don't forget to include your link in your comment.
9. Write posts on timely topics
Get your voice heard in timely and possibly controversial topics. Have an opinion and don't be afraid to state it clearly, even if it is controversial. If possible, find other blogs to write for that have a wider audience than your own. Be sure to include links back to your own blog, so that your new audience can discover you and your work.
For me, SEO is like a bad word that can illicit one of those headaches behind my eyes. But I was happy to discover the WordPress plugin "Yoast SEO" that takes the pain away a little. Still, concise titles that are clear and searchable are always a good idea and using keywords in your posts also enables your posts to pop up in searches. Do a search on your subject matter and see if your posts show up. If not, what does and what titles do they use? Take some clues to update your post titles and keywords.
Here is another great post on building traffic that is very useful.
Here are the other posts in this series: