Category Archives: Networking

Growing Our Fan Bases – Month-end Roundup

This month, the Fictorians provided a wealth of information about starting, managing, and growing our critical fan bases.

We discussed starting with what we have – friends and family – to begin building our street team and fan base. And did a deep dive into the pros and cons of running a fan forum.

We explored using Mailing lists, working our newsletters, and a reminder that we don’t write in a vacuum, nor do we have to go it alone. We explored options for collaborating with other authors and cross-promoting.

For those willing to be sociable and interact with fans and the public, we had three posts discussing using conventions and appearances, speaking engagements, and school visits.

We discussed the power of tapping the tremendous community of indie bookstores.

And we even discussed ways we get in our own way and prevent success.

So take some time and review the amazing posts from this month again. There’s meat in there for newbies and experienced authors alike.

How Often Should You Send a Newsletter?

I have a friend who writes sweet romance books. She releases often and makes quite a bit of money. I asked her where she felt she gets her biggest boost from. She didn’t even hesitate when she told me that her newsletter sells more books than anything else she does. Especially new releases.

A lot of people roll their eyes when they see the “Sign up for my Newsletter” box pop up on a website, but I have to tell you, that as of right now, a newsletter is a great way to connect with people.

There are a few distinct camps when it comes to newsletters.

The first are those that feel that newsletters should be few and far between. Only put them out when you have something important going on, like a new release or a sale.

The second are those that want a little more. Perhaps updates on current projects (tantalize those readers) and other exciting announcements. This camp doesn’t mind regular emails. Maybe once a month.

The third are those that want to know everything about the author. They want to know about their kids, their cats, their frustrations, their triumphs…everything and anything. These people are good with emails once every other or even every week.

None of these is wrong.

In truth, you should pick the one that’s best for you. Do you hate putting out newsletters? Does it stress you out? Don’t feel like you have much to say? Then do the first. If you like to engage your readers a little more, go for the second. If you love people and want to connect more personally, go for the third.

One thing that I appreciate is when I sign up for a newsletter, that the author or company tells me how often I’m likely to hear from them. That sets up the expectation in my mind, and I’m totally fine when my email gets hit once a week, or once a month, or once every three months.

Personally, I’m between two and three. I don’t have any children or pets, so I can’t regale people with tales of my mothering woes, pet antics or honey-covered kitchen floors. But what I do have is a nerdy husband who thinks he’s hilarious. So he has his own little spot at the bottom of my newsletter where I usually post some stupid meme he’s sent me that he thinks is funny. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong. But it’s always there.

I also include an update about what I’m working on or perhaps an announcement. If we’ve been on vacation I usually share some pictures. There’s a section where I generally share a giveaway I’m involved in or someone else’s book (a book that I think my readers will like). And then I have a permanent call for people to join my review team. And that’s it.

I send my newsletter out every two weeks. Once in a while that changes, but not often.

The biggest connections I’ve made are when I ask a question of my readers. What fandom do they love and why? What are they grateful for that day? Where would they love to travel? Things like that. Sometimes I get one answer, other times I get a lot more.

I attended a class on newsletters last year, and the presenter asked, “If your favorite actor/singer/famous person sent a newsletter of what they did that week, would you read it?”

Uh, yeah. I might. I mean, what is Harrison Ford doing today?

So think of yourself not as a bother, but as an addition to people’s lives. Don’t waste their time, but give them a reason to make some time for you. Even if it’s just a few minutes.

Speaking Engagements as a Tool to Build Your Base

One of the most feared things in the world is death, followed closely by speaking in public. Some folks equate the two as the same thing. Considering that most authors are solitary beasts that hide in their writing dens and poke keys and scribble lines that magically turn into stories, a suggestion that one should consider getting out in front of crowds and talking is up there with making your own medicine in your basement and doing a live-action game of Frogger™ at the Indianapolis 500®.

If you have anxiety or panic attacks about speaking, then it may not be for you. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you can have a medical emergency. If you were able to get through your high school or college class where they made you talk about goofy things for ten minutes before you could sit down, this might be for you.

There are plenty of organizations and corporations that are looking for folks to come in and give a positive speech about almost any subject. You may be wondering why a software company would want an author to talk to their programmers for fifty minutes. What do they have in common?

Turns out you can fit your self-motivated method of writing into almost any subject. For those programmers, your speech can range from watching out for repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel to methods to document your code (think building a worldbuilding bible) to motivational ways to tackle a problem (like your characters have to do to get out of a jam you stuck them in).

If you’ve never had to give a speech in front of a crowd, consider joining Toastmasters. You’ll get lots of excellent training and opportunities to practice in a safe environment. Their entire organization is dedicated to developing communications and leadership skills. You can connect with places looking for folks to give speeches, and there are local chapters all over the place — most likely there’s one in your neighborhood.

When you are ready to get your name out on the speech circuit, look for local organizations first. Businesses, charitable organizations, and even places like libraries, chambers of commerce, and military veteran organizations are looking to bring folks in to talk to their members. You can even combine some charitable service and giving a speech, like going to a retirement home and talking about writing memoirs.

Some professional writing organizations have a speaker’s bureau listing for their members. SFWA is one, and the Missouri Writers Guild is another.

So, if you give a speech and don’t explode on stage, what’s in it for you? The top of the list is getting your name out there in front of a bunch of new folks. Some businesses will buy copies of your books to distribute to their folks. Depending on how famous (or infamous) you are, you can get travel, lodging, and meals covered for distant speaking gigs. It’s similar to going to a convention, where you’re sitting on panels and getting some in-kind reimbursement like free con passes or access to the VIP green room.

And since we’re on the subject of conventions and panels, that is an excellent way to start your speaking career. You’ll get used to talking to a crowded room but you won’t be alone behind the table at the front. Sharing a panel spreads the load between enough folks that the time usually flies.

It may not be a traditional method of getting your name out or even building an email list, but it’s one more arrow in your quiver that you can use on your literary adventures.



About the Author:
DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Bram Stoker Award® and IAMTW Scribe Award finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer; and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, ITW, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, MWG, SWG, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

School Visits – A Captive Audience?

For authors who write middle grad or YA books, it seems like a no-brainer to include school visits in our plan to build our fan bases, right?

Maybe.

Like a lot of things, it depends on your personality, your books, and how you approach those visits. I personally love visiting schools, even though I haven’t sold lots of books as a direct result of most of those visits. Still, I consider visiting schools, teaching kids about writing, talking about stories, and mentoring young writers well worth my time.

Through the process, I’ve learned a few things.

  1. When you first approach schools, don’t be surprised if they’re wary. These days a lot of indie authors try to get school visits, but few seem interested in helping busy teachers, administrators, and librarians accomplish their curriculum objectives. And they don’t have time to babysit an author coming only to pitch their book.
  2. When you do get school visits, many schools are happy to set you up in the library. Don’t be surprised if you don’t have tons of visitors, unless you schedule with teachers in advance.
  3. Get to know the librarians. Promise them a free book. They love free books, and I always give them one every time I visit. Ask them to put you in touch with English teachers or other teachers who might be interested in meeting with you.
  4. Contact those teachers and ask them what they need, or how you can support and assist their current plans.
  5. Note – don’t be surprised if quite a few teachers scoff at the idea of some indie hack coming into their classrooms and teaching their students anything they couldn’t teach themselves. Some teachers are very open and friendly, but some are quite snobby, even though they usually have no idea how to actually write a publishable story. I’ve had to work through that in initial visits where I prove I know what I’m talking about, students enjoy interacting with me, and I bring value. They’re often much more eager to invite me back a second time.
  6. Be friendly and smile a lot.
  7. Offer to teach students about writing. I’ve spent entire days at local schools teaching students about writing and holding writing workshops with them. Students love it best when only a little formal instruction is given, followed by a hands-on exercise. I really enjoy building a story with students, and they usually love the opportunity to help create stories together.
  8. Prepare a message or presentation that appeals to a wide audience beyond just your books. I’m working on a couple different presentations suitable for larger audiences that should make administrators a lot more eager to invite me to come speak to their schools.
  9. Although it is possible to set up a big book signing event at the school, the more I learn, the more I think there are better ways. One well known author I know warned me that sometimes holding a big book signing can actually generate hostility from the school.

He pointed out that at least one teacher or administrator at almost every school fancies themselves an author, and they often feel resentment when they seen tons of students lining up to buy books.

So for a really big book signing, a great suggestion they gave me is to line up multiple school visits for the same area over a couple of days, and send all the kids home with a notice that you’ll be holding a big book signing at a local bookstore or venue close to the schools. Then the kids and their parents can come on Saturday and buy your books.

I plan to test this approach soon, and I’m eager to see how it goes.

10. Finally, know your objectives. Make sure you’re helping the school and bringing value to them. You’ll get exposure, if not tons of sales at first, but over time, it really pays off.

I’ve been cultivating relationships with local schools for the past few years, and I have a strong local fan base, partially because of those efforts. Plus I’ve helped a lot of budding authors learn some things I wish I’d known at their age.