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Grow Your Crazy-Dedicated Fanbase through Reader-Centered Book Marketing

This series has been expanded into a step-by-step eBook! Find out more about Building Your Fanbase: A From-Scratch Guide for Indie Authors.

For more on reader-centered book marketing, check out 11 Questions to Turn a Target Market into a Reader Profile3 Steps to Pinpoint Your Crazy-Dedicated Readers’ Favorite Hangouts and How to Engage Your Crazy-Dedicated Fanbase.

What are some of the biggest books in publishing today? Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games.

What do they have in common?

Well, yeah, the YA genre. And the fanbases transcending any one target market. Also the multi-billion dollar movie franchises. But what else?

Crazy, rabid fans.

These folks will fake engagements to try on Bella’s wedding gown, get a full back tattoo featuring Dumbledore and spend hours creating elaborate signs declaring their love for Peeta.

How would you like to have fans like that going nuts over your book?

Okay, maybe you could do without quite that level of craziness. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to have readers spreading the word far and wide about you and your book?

That’s what I thought.

Guess what: fans like that? You can have them.

Sure, without the backing of Scholastic or Bloomsbury it won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to dig in for the long haul and get your hands dirty.

But, you’re an indie author — you’re not scared of a little hard work, right?

Suffering from Book Marketing Apathy?

Much of what I’ve seen out there in indie-land, however, seems to indicate otherwise. What’s up with that?

I call it “book marketing apathy.”

Some indie authors think that readers will appear out of thin air, throwing dollars at them mere seconds after their book is published. Others see marketing as an afterthought, as some sort of unnecessary burden. And yet others appear to have given up altogether, sadly begging for book purchases on Facebook or Twitter.

Don’t let that be you.

The 4 Truths of Indie Book Marketing

  1. It takes time.
  2. It takes effort.
  3. It takes dedication.
  4. It is totally worth it.

Your readers ARE out there, but they’re not going to find you by accident.

For the next few weeks, we’ll teach you how to stand out above the crowd and earn those crazy-dedicated readers through reader-centered book marketing.

It sounds silly and obvious, but it’s actually quite rare to see — authors focused on not only promoting themselves, but also providing value to their readers.

Are you following the Golden Rule?

Honestly, it all boils down to this — let’s call it the Golden Rule of Reader-Centered Book Marketing — treat your readers as you’d like to be treated.

To implement this “Golden Rule” you must:

1. Have the Right Attitude

If you’re not enthusiastic, confident and passionate about your work, how can you expect to jazz up readers?

Remember, just a few years ago, authors’ publishing fates were solely in traditional publishers’ hands. Take pride in your indie author status  and the fact that you have self-published your book!

Although you’ve likely experienced doubts about your writing, if you’ve taken the time to write, editdesign and publish a book that you know is your best work, act like it!

Blog tour and guest post to get your name out there, then eagerly engage each commenter and new reader — provoke discussion, answer their questions and value their perspective.

2. Give More than You Take

A common mistake many authors make (most likely out of sales desperation) is to make their only “message” one of pressure; one focused on selling their work.

This is a *huge* turnoff to potential readers!

A better method to earn readers is to share something of value (instead of strictly selling). Once they experience your generosity (and get a taste of your crazy talent in the process), they’ll gladly become faithful readers.

Some ways for you to provide value to potential readers include:

  • Writing guest posts on blogs your readers frequent
  • Recommending other books you’ve enjoyed
  • Providing free excerpts of your work
  • Giving away free copies or other goodies

Give, share and give some more and finally, when the time is right, ask your readers to give a little something back.

3. Think The Avengers, not Survivor

If you’re a reality TV geek (like, sadly, I am), you’re familiar with the motto of Survivor: outwit, outplay, outlast. Players constantly backstab, use and abuse each other in an effort to win $1 million.

That go-it-alone mindset may work for the last Survivor standing, but it won’t help you and your book!

A better method is that of The Avengers: work together.

Establish relationships with other indie authors, but don’t go about it willy-nilly. Be genuine; only reach out if you actually like and respect the author and their work.

Once you’ve teamed up, leverage the power of your combined readerships by:

  • Cross-promoting each other’s work through social media
  • Introducing each other to blogger friends for guest posts and interviews
  • Brainstorming ideas for giveaways and promotions
  • Supporting and motivating each other with things get tough

4. Don’t Let Your Readers Down

Once the new readers start flowing in, you must continually work to keep them by:

  • Encouraging them to subscribe to your mailing list and send out an update at least once a month
  • Keeping a schedule for updating your blog
  • Providing value through exclusive rewards and promotions

Whatever you do, don’t forget about them!

Ensure, however, that you’re only passing along valuable information to your fans (never spamming or pressuring). Don’t let your new fans down!

Call it the Wild Wild West rule: how many successful July 4th Will Smith movies did we get after that flop (which, for the record, I enjoyed)?

Remember: without a fanbase, you’re just writing for yourself, your mom and the Twitter spammers. 

Go Forth and Earn Some Youphiles!

Ready for more reader-centered book marketing goodness?

Next week we’ll discuss how to uncover the identity of those crazy-dedicated readers (and show you a targeting tool even more specific than your target market), but the concepts above give you something to work on in the meantime.

At the conclusion of our series, we’re unveiling a super-special book marketing workshop exclusively for indie authors who receive (totally free) updates from us. So, if you’re not on that list, hop to it!

You’ll also receive Self-Publishing Basic Training, a rockin’ 35-page guide to the basics of self-publishing, as an added bonus.

Talk Back

I’m curious: how do you take care of your readers? Do you find reader-centered marketing practices work better than pressuring and groveling? Am I totally wrong about everything I said above? Let me know in the comments!

  • No, you’ve hit it on the head, seriously! I am so impressed at this post. The lass in me with a decade of Marketing & PR experience up her sleeve was nodding along, going yes, yes and definitely YES!

     I’m a writer, I’ve written a novel called Gunshot Glitter, it’s going to be self-published later this summer, and I’m hoping that I keep a steady head and remember that as well as being a writer – I am a READER too. I’m a huge fan of books and humbled by the writers’ that put those stories in my head. This is my chance to give something back. And I hope to get the balance right so everyone who sees or hears me enjoys the ride along the way : )

    • Woot!! Thank you for the props, Yasmin (and for easing my mind). You have exactly the right mindset for success! 
      I’m really looking forward to following your journey (totally subscribed to your blog). I hope you’ll come back and share your experience when you have your own merry band of dedicated fans! 

    • Toni, I would absolutely love to write a guest post closer to D-day or post D-day. I really like what your site is about. Go for it with checking out ‘Hello You’.  I hope you like what you find, I’d be delighted if you did subscribe.  I want to write about stuff that interests and entertains folks as well as about me and the workings of this here head. You’ll find all sorts on there from a piece about the perils of having big breasts to a short story about what the Devil gets upto when he gets lonely. Really hope you enjoy it. xx

  • At present, as a blogger, I always make a point of replying to every blog post comment and acknowledging everyone who’s tweeted, RT’d a blog post. I believe in good manners plus I love blog comments!  I also support other writers who I feel a bond with be they starting out or award-winning best-sellers. It’s from the heart. There’s room out there for everyone, and it’s a circle. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far, but no (wo)man is an island.

    • “Good manners” — I love that point, Yasmin. There’s definitely room in the author-verse for everyone; I hope more authors adopt that “no island” manner of thinking. Kudos! 

  • Great Stuff!! Needed this!

    • Thank you, Sylvia! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more! 

  • Erickastafford

    Love it and needed to know it

    • Thanks Ericka! Let me know if it works out for you :-)

  • Great points guys. Especially like the joining forces part. 

    This is how things will go in the future. There’s plenty to go around for all, so don’t fight each other, embrace, share, and be as one :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    • Exactly — I know it sounds a little “hold-hands-around-a-campfire” hokey, but I love me some s’mores, so that’s alright with me. Thanks for your support, Matt (and for an awesome guest post)! :-)

  • Number 3 spoke directly to me. I’m starting an new brand called Authors of the Free World, which is a team of us authors who help other authors reach their goals. After reading your post, perhaps I’m on the right track!

    • What an *awesome* idea, Kaamil! Let us know if we can do anything to help or if you’d like to write a guest post about your experiences :-)

  • Lauren Clark

    Great thoughts :)  Now to put them into action …

    • Action is always the hardest part, isn’t it, Lauren? The good part about reader-centered marketing is that those small actions of goodwill build over time, so a little bit of effort every day builds your fanbase! 

  • Rah, rah, rah! You did a great job, Toni!

  • Kate Papas

    I was sort of suffering from Book Marketing Apathy till today, that two awesome things happenned: 
    1) I made my first solds in the USA (which means that soon I will have some reviews on my book (“MARRIED OR … MERRY”) by tottaly unknown American people who decided to buy it -with the a little help from my friends here in Greece, I must admit!)2)I found some great articles by you, Toni and Shannon, that I incredibly enjoyed and that I find very helpful and encouraging.
    Of course now I have to work really hard (after working everything out…)
    Thank you

  • Cherleygrogg

    Thank you. Very interesting. I need many more followers. 

  • Excellent post! Good marketing so has to be about giving, not getting!

    I’m planning to self-publish soon, and reading all I can. Have to admit, two things scare me- knowing when my story is “good enough”, and then marketing it in a way that respects potential readers.

    I’ve had to stop following some writers on Twitter and unfriend them on Facebook when at least daily (or more often!) I’m getting messages which are basically “Buy my book!” or “You haven’t bought my book yet, c’mon, pleeeeeeeeeese?”

    • Yes, Autumn, you totally get it! The more you give, the more you’ll get back from your audience. With your mindset, I have no doubt you’ll market your book in away that respects your audience. That doubt you mention, however, is trickier to tackle: Shannon wrote a post on conquering writing doubt, but I say that if you’ve had pro editing and some kind of feedback, rest easy! :-) Your confidence will build over time.

  • Great thoughts. Well said. I’ve just recently stepped up my efforts to team up with other YA fairy tale retelling authors. Combine forces. Thanks for the reassurance that this isn’t such a crazy idea!

    • Oh no worries, Michael, it’s not crazy at all! Strength in numbers, right? :-)

  • Thank you for priceless information especially now when I feel inundated with information so much I just can’t seem to absorb it. So far I have sent out review request letters one has gotten back to me and agree to review my book, I have started researching book clubs in my genre, and I have joined communities and discussion groups online but my sales are still scant, I have heard of the blog tours but I feel discourage, in my mind I can’t figure out what I have to offer as a gust blogger but like you said I have to change my frame of mind because I do love my book and I’m proud of it .

  • Very motivating! The whole idea of self marketing can be daunting. Especially to a newbie. Most of us are still trying to figure what works and what doesn’t in self marketing. Thanks for sharing.