Admittedly, I’m new at this. A year ago, I had one novel written and was hemming and hawing about what to do with it. Then I self-published in November, released the paperback in December and signed with MacGregor Literary in April. A year ago, my only readers were people that either a) I went to high school with b) had the same last name I do or c) fell into that nebulous group of Facebook acquaintances that I don’t have the heart to un-friend.
But since the release of my book, I have readers! There are people who have read my book, liked it and left glowing reviews on Amazon and I have never met them! I am not only thrilled to actually have taken these people’s money, but also to know that many of them have told me through social media that they can’t wait to read more. This is the best feeling in the world!
I want to keep these readers around! I want them to love me forever! So, I’ve made a list of six things that readers want! (And I think that if I keep these up over my career, I’ll never lack for them.)
1. AN ATTRACTIVE ATTITUDE I think that generally speaking, people are attracted to lightheartedness. And while there is a place in this world for controversy and strong opinions (perhaps in the books I write), I think our persona as authors should be one of cheerfulness. (This means NO COMPLAINING. EVER.) I know how much I’m turned off by bad attitudes, so I can imagine my readers would feel the same if I were whiny, condescending or rude.
2. AUTHENTICITY Writers are ordinary people who spend a lot of time thinking. We’re not some pretentious, chain-smoking, cat-loving hermits who substitute our stories for actual human intimacy and wear a lot of black. (At least I’m not.) I believe that writers who can show their humanity to others, who can allow non-writerly life to be seen by the public (within reason), who don’t isolate themselves or create a lofty image will be able to identify with their readers. I like to meet people who are real and if they aren’t afraid to show their weaknesses, then I love them all the more.
3. ACCESSIBILITY We are so lucky in this age to be able to communicate with our readers. It used to be that readers wrote letters to authors and there were no reviews on Amazon and no one could tweet you. Wise writers should take advantage of these communication methods and figure out what works. This would include, among other things, having an email address on a blog and engaging in conversation.
4. AN INSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE So, what was your favorite love song from the ’80s? Our readers can provide all kinds of answers to questions, but we need to ask them! I found while I was writing, that my Facebook fan page readers have great insight, they have good ideas, they know exactly how feasible it would be to hide a laminating machine in a dorm room. Because I’m asking them questions, I’m starting some interesting conversations, think about things in a different way and outsource my research (all of this adds to my authenticity and accessibility!) My readers know I’m up to another story and so when it comes out, they’re all the more excited. Win-win!
5. APPRECIATION Readers are why I do this. Every time I find out someone read my book or left a review, I am a little humbled. My readers are taking a chance on me. A $3.99 ebook isn’t a very big chance, but still. Out of the millions of things these readers could read, they chose my book and from the response I’m getting, they are willing to fork over even more. I can’t take this for granted. Perhaps fame and fortune are part of my future. I never want to be so big that I don’t forget who loved me in the beginning. I thank my readers often. You should too.
6. EXCELLENCE (and thus ends the A Alliterative point. Sigh.) If we go to the trouble of writing a book, then we must be diligent in all areas of it. We must take care to make it mechanically sound. We must not cut corners. We must not disappoint our readers with sloppy, unprofessional work. Poor editing communicates to the reader that we don’t care about them. I would hate for my reputation to be tarnished because I didn’t take the time to be excellent.
Granted, ten, fifteen years from now my own experiences may change this a little, but for now, I want to cultivate these qualities as a habit, so that I can continue to have great relationships with my readers.