category marketing

Developing Your Fan Base

This is an excerpt from Karen Miller’s upcoming book, Authorpreneur: Build the Business Behind Your Book, which will be published in September, 2022.

Of course your mom is your fan. And I hope your siblings are, too, as well as your best friend. But are they your only fans? And can you really count on them to buy your books, even if what you write is just not what they are interested in? 

Let’s face it, I’m the only author in my family. And while my mother will always buy all of my books, most of my other relatives and friends just won’t bother. My subject matter, how to write, publish and market a book successfully, is just not interesting to people who are not authors—no matter how much they love me.

So yes, I want you to start your fan base with your friends and family. Like them and follow them on social media and share what you are doing. Maybe some of them are social media savvy and will share your posts on their pages. That’s the first lesson in going viral: get people you know to share your posts, so that the people they know will share it, and so on…and so on…

The goal of a fan base is to let people know about your books so that they will support your work in several ways. First by purchasing it, then by telling other people they know about it, and finally by reviewing it so that people beyond the reach of just your friends and their friends will learn about it and want to purchase it, too.


Are Your Fans Fanatics?

Many people think that the word “fan” has a negative connotation; it comes from “fanatic” after all. And none of us want to think of ourselves as a fanatic. But truth be told, that’s what we want our readers to be. We want them to do more than just buy a book. We want them to talk about it with other, like-minded people. We want them to promote them by wearing T-shirts with our book cover on them, or to carry coffee mugs with sayings from our books so that the people they meet will ask about the items and maybe become interested enough to buy them, too. Most of all, we want our fans to anxiously wait for and buy our next book.

Your fan is your target reader on steroids: someone who doesn’t just like your book, they love it. They identify with it, and you. They have a feeling of friendship with your characters, and by extension with you. You want to build a relationship with them: a relationship predicated on your continually writing books that satisfy their needs.


Turn Your Readers Into Fans

The best way to turn your readers into fans is to build a community; in other words to create a place where your fans can talk to each other and to you about your books. You want them to speculate about plot twists and wonder about cliffhangers, you want them to check in with other fans as they wait anxiously for your next book. 

Your online fan community is similar to the real-life communities to which you belong, such as a church, a social club, a professional networking group, an alumni association, a neighborhood group. Each of these types of groups have a few things in common: 

  • They have a purpose. This can range from a formal charter to the most informal “let’s get together and go out to eat once a week,” group. 
  • They have a regular place to meet. Whether it is a church, a school, a local restaurant, on in someone’s home, they have a base where they know that they can find other people who think like them.
  • They share. The members of a church share their beliefs, the members of a social group share fun activities, the members of an alumni association share in supporting the school they attended. And in the best groups, the members receive all of these things, from sharing a philosophy (or in the case of an author fan group information about the author’s books) to entertainment, friendship, support, etc.

  Now, how do we turn a group of readers we do not know into a community?


A Place to Meet

Right now the best way to create a safe place for your readers to meet is with a Facebook Author page. Facebook is inherently designed to create a community. Using your Facebook Author page or any other online tool to create community takes a lot more work than making an occasional post such as, “My next book will be coming out in July; I hope you will read it.” 

Step 1. Communicate Regularly. Post at least several times a week.

Step 2. Give Your Readers Something They Want. This can be an excerpt from a new book, a background piece on one of your characters, updates on your next book, links to articles you and your readers find interesting, cute memes, contests, or anything else that gets your readers talking to each other and to you.

Step 3. Respond to your readers. Check your site regularly. If a reader has asked a question, answer it. If they have complimented you, say thanks. Building community means building communication.


Don’t Get Discouraged

It takes time to build a community. You can’t expect 100 likes if you only have 20 followers. But you have to start somewhere. It’s a numbers game. I have several authors I follow on Facebook. They are authors I read; I’m a fan. But I also enjoy learning from those who use the site well and passing what I learn on to my own readers. One author I follow has been writing for over 30 years. She has a following of over 800,000 on her page. She averages between 800 and 1.7 thousand comments on a post. That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? But think of it another way, only about one in every 100,000 followers actually interacts with any given item that she posts. 

A second author I follow has only been writing for about 10 years, although she has written even more books than Author One. She has 2.8 thousand followers and averages between six and 100 comments per post. If Author Two compared the number of post likes and comments she receives to Author One without taking into account the difference in the number of followers each has, she could become very discouraged. 

But she doesn’t. She knows that her fans are devoted to her books and are out there buying, reviewing, and telling others about her work.

Gaining a Following

Your social media pages are similar to your books in that if you post but never tell anyone about it, they will never know to check your page. And if you quit posting for several months, people will quit checking to see what new things you have said.

One of the easiest ways to gain followers is to follow others. Follow your friends, but also follow and interact on other author and book sites. Show that you have something interesting to say, and make sure you put a link to your own social media page when you post. Check out pages with subject matter similar to your books’ genre and try a Google search for other types of social media groups with a similar subject matter. 

Just with everything else in publishing, you must start small. If that means you only have a few friends and family on your site, so be it. There are many ways to attract more followers to your sites, and each follower is a potential member of your community: a fan.

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