Connecting with the reader

One of the most difficult jobs for any new writer is to connect with his/her readers and build up a fan base. The big writers such as Stephen King, Robin Cook, Lee Child and John Grisham have huge fan bases. The fans know when they publish a new book what to expect and are rarely disappointed and many fans eagerly await the launches of their new books.

If you’re and indie writer, however, it’s an uphill struggle to build a following. First you have to attract new readers and persuade them to give your book a chance. And that’s not an easy process. Why should a reader take a risk on you? The cover might look exciting, but they don’t know you and don’t know how you write.

If you’re using an on-line retailer like Amazon, first they have to find your book among the millions of published books on Amazon’s web-site. Today this is virtually impossible without some level of advertising. If a potential reader searches on a keyword and Amazon thinks your book is relevant to their search, a thumb-print impression of your cover may be displayed along with others in Amazon’s search results. If you’re lucky the potential reader may click on the impression, go to your sales page, and read the marketing blurb explaining the book. They may look at the stats about reviews and read some of them. And if they are still interested they may read the first couple of pages to see if it meets their expectations. In a nutshell that’s the on-line sales process in selling a book. It’s not easy.

The title of your book, the cover and marketing blurb are all important elements in the sales process. And failure to get these right can destroy a book’s chances of success. But another important element is social proof. That is, how many readers have reviewed your book, rated it and left text reviews. The problem with this for a new author is that reviews come from a small percentage of sales, but reviews themselves are what influences sales.

As a writer I love it when I get another five star or four star review on Amazon or Goodreads. They represent serious new fans. But, whenever you get a good review it will be followed by some indifferent three-star reviews or worse still, if the reader hated it. If this happens to you, don’t get despondent. Even the author giants of the industry have their share of bad reviews. And it’s not just trolls. It’s often readers who picked up your book expecting it to be something very different from what they got and feel aggrieved.

That brings me back to the theme of this blog. How do you connect with the reader and ensure that they get the kind of story and tone of story you promised in that advertising blurb? First it is important to accurate about the genre of the book. Is it a sci-fi, action-adventure, thriller, crime, mystery or romance genre? And if so does it fit into any of the sub-categories of these genre.

Describing the genre is not necessarily easy if you write cross-genre like me. My favourite genre is science fiction, but there is almost always an action-adventure element to the sci-fi element and a strong romantic B story. I suppose my ideal story would be a mixture of science fiction and romantic comedy. For example blending of “Romancing the Stone” with “Star Wars”. My latest novel, AndroDigm Park 2067 was recently described by one reviewer as

” a splice many genres: Horror, gritty hard-boiled detective, Sci-Fi, Erotica.”

I’m not sure I totally agree with the Erotica caption, but as I was given a five star review I can hardly complain.

I’ve seen advice from other writers who caution against writing cross genre. But there are also writers that have been incredibly successful doing so. In some case they have created their very own sub-genre (for example, Vampire Romance stories). So I will continue to write cross genre.

But the point I am trying to make is that somehow the writer has to describe the book in sufficient terms that the prospective reader can understand the type of experience he/she will expect from the book.

Genre is important, but even more important is the tone of the book and audience it is aimed at. And in this respect the age and sensitivity of the reader is important. Books unlike movies are not rated according to sexual and violent content. And the reader might react negatively if the content differed from that which they were expecting. As a writer I shy away from too much profanity, violence and explicit sexual content. But my ideal readership are adults and stories have to feel real and honest, and therefore include some elements of adult content which may be unsuitable for pre-teens.

As a writer you should have an idea of who you are writing for and their age and sex. In my case 75-85% of my readership is female and this is partly reflected in my choice of protagonist. In three of my books the protagonist is female and in one the protagonist is male. Although all four books have a strong romantic B story.

Attracting new readers is a difficult process. Knowing who they are and what they want is part of that process. And ensuring they get the type of reading experience they were looking for is one of the main keys to success. If you’re a writer that’s struggled with making an impact on the indie market, let me know if you think this blog has helped.

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