On Seeking Readers

A painter paints pictures hoping that others will see them. A musician plays for the ears of others. An actor or dancer performs for the benefit of an audience. Writers write to inform, inspire, or entertain readers. In each case, these artists are incomplete without their audience.

island_desertedEven print-book authors benefit from running a blog where their readers can learn more about the author and even interact. But a blog without readers is like a musician on a deserted island. If we write on a blog – especially if we are just starting out – how do we find an audience?

Friends and Family

The obvious place to start would be your friends and family. Sure: those who (claim to) love you will help you promote your work and get you started … right? Not necessarily.

I read an article just the other day written by author Chantelle Atkins who addressed this feeling of being unappreciated. After getting her first published book into print she gave each of her close friends and family a copy. Asking them to review it and share the book with others when they were done. She was amazed by the passive resistance to this. Most did not say, “No, I won’t do that” but so many just never seemed to get around to reading the book.

She was even more amazed to find out how common this reaction is when she discussed it with other authors.

I find much the same reaction to my own work where friends and family are concerned. Unless they have a genuine interest in the subject matter, most don’t “get around to” reading it much less sharing it with others or reviewing/commenting on it.

Do ask them, but do not pin all your hopes on this one.

Social Media

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+, Instagram and others are popular and effective tools for finding new readers. Some are more effective than others, depending on what you write and who your audience is. If you have video clips, such as a book trailer, YouTube and Vimeo are useful.

carnival-barker-2To make social media effective, whatever the platform, you have to be … SOCIAL. That means establishing your account, then investing some time finding people you share interests with and interacting with them. People who show up and start blasting out promotional material for their book or blog tend to get ignored by the masses. Those who do nothing but share the posts of others tend to get overlooked as well. You’d think that if you share their stuff they’ll pay you back by sharing your stuff. I know I thought that … it doesn’t work. A few do … maybe one in ten. More will send you a quick thank you note. Most just go on about their lives.

There are some sites like Triberr that are set up specifically to band together people of like interests and help them cross-promote one another. These use the popular social media platforms, but are separate entities.

Share Buttons

Installing share buttons on your blog helps readers spread the word about your writing. When someone does read your work and likes it, making it dead-simple to share it encourages them to do so.

Most blogging platforms have functions or plug-ins you can install to put share buttons on your blog. The best ones put buttons on each post. Some come as a widget that lives in a side bar to promote your blog. Both are useful, but the post-by-post buttons are best. Someone read THIS article and wants to share it, not necessarily your blog as a whole.

Make the buttons big and bold, and highly visible. Do not hide the button collection under an almost invisible icon tucked into a corner somewhere.

Auto-Share

WordPress offers several utilities that will select an older post from your blog and post it to social media. Timing and technique vary, but the ones I’m familiar with allow me to specify how many hours will elapse between postings, and focus on or filter out certain categories of posts. Make sure the utility you choose posts more than just a link. Title and link is the minimum, title, link and some of the description is ideal.

Why?

As you develop your blog you will amass a sizable collection of articles covering your topic. But if all anyone sees is the latest post, most of that wit or wisdom will go unnoticed. Stir the pot by sharing the older works to keep traffic coming in to them.

Guest Posting

To develop awareness of your existence, find popular blogs that deal with similar topics and offer to write a guest-post for them. If you can produce engaging articles that will interest their readers the host blog will include some kind words and a link to your blog in the author credits at the end of the post. Make use of this to help pipe an interested audience to your work.

Print Magazines

These days, getting into a print magazine is really hard because they are struggling to stay in print and many do not accept outside submissions from anyone but famous writers. But some do.

Find magazines that cover your topic of interest and seek out their writer’s guidelines. These will be on their web site. Everyone who is anyone has a web site these days. If they have no guidelines, you can assume they are not open to submissions at all. If they have guidelines, read them carefully. Take notes. Then write an article you think they’ll like and submit it according to those guidelines. If they accept your submission you will generally get the same credits that you do with a guest post. These days they can even print a code block that can be scanned with a smart phone to take them right to your blog to learn more about you.

Radio and Podcasts

A podcast is essentially a radio/TV program offered over the internet. Many local radio stations, especially AM stations, devote some programming time to featuring local persons and events. Contact your local stations and see if they’d be willing to do an interview with you about your work.

Radio is often done with you live, in studio … but not always. Phone interviews can be done as well. This is more common with podcasts.

This is more helpful to those who are promoting a print book, but not out of the realm of reason if your topic appeals to a wide user-base.

Paid Promotion

Naturally, you can always hire a promotional outfit to spread the word about you through their established channels. Sometimes, this can be helpful in kick-starting a venture. But get references and do your homework before selecting a promotional service. You will want returns on that investment, so hook up with someone reputable and effective. There are a lot of wolves in those woods!