In speaking with a friend recently, she commented, “I don’t understand why Icabod gets invited to every event. Everyone knows who he is, but no one likes him.”
I countered that, in attending every event, Icabod is providing a service. As an attendee, he is helping to make the party a success.
Our readers provide an audience. They are our bookwormish partygoers. And though Icabod may be clueless as to his unpopularity, we love our readers! We can publish book after book after book; but if no one reads our words, our books’ only benefit is to help us grow as writers and as people. Though growth is a noble goal, it’s not why writers want to be published authors. We want to attract and retain readers.
Who Is Your Audience?
“Audience” is a proposal element for a reason. Agents and editors want to know the reader the author visualizes. Adult women who love romance? Pastors seeking to start a new church? Teens who love fantasy? We need to know.
Once you discern your audience, tell us who they are. And tell us why this audience will read your book. Do your readers seek entertainment? Knowledge? A happy ending? Sermons? A history lesson? An understanding of a specific segment of people or a sense of place? Perhaps they seek a combination of these factors. Tell us why your book appeals to your particular reader and how your reader will benefit from encountering your words.
Invite Your Readers!
Social-media and newsletter stats, along with a list of speaking engagements (though they may be virtual at this point), show editors and agents how you invite readers into your world. The author who cares about their readers will be more likely to succeed than the narcissistic soul.
Thank you for providing our blog with a dedicated, thoughtful, friendly, and respectful audience. We write this blog for you, the writer seeking to gain knowledge of the publishing industry. Without you, our party would be a flop. The next time you see us, we’ll treat you to coffee.
How do you find new authors?
What is your favorite way to stay in touch with an author?
What author(s) do you love so much you always buy their books? Why?
How can authors better reach their audience?
You ask how authors can better reach their audience. I believe there are at least two components to reaching my audience. First, I consider those in my audience as friends. Indeed some people who read my books have become true friends. A few I have never met face-to-face, but we chat on Facebook or Twitter. I pray for them and they for me. We celebrate each other in success and weep with each other in sorrow. It is about relationship.
The second is recognizing that my view of my audience may be narrow. God may use my writing to reach people I didn’t expect. I need to be open to that and tender to ways I connect with those readers. For example, when I wrote Breathing on Her Own, I thought my audience would be women. Particularly, middle aged women. However, I have women of all ages reading and sharing the book. And what surprised me were the men who read it and made comments like, “I’d like to be more like Travis.” The pastor of a church invited me to participate in a Sunday service. He interviewed me and used elements of the book to make points about the Christian life. So unexpected.
So be a friend who cares and don’t limit your writing. Trust God to use the words to meet the needs of others.
Thanks for the post. We often get so caught up in the “practices” of building an audience, we forget the “purposes” of our writing in the first place.
I love reading Max Lucado’s books because of the unique illustrations he uses from real life.
My book is right for everyone,
men and women, young and old;
there’s nothing new beneath the sun?
Wait till you see the tale I’ve told!
There’s bright romance for ladies,
stark violence for macho gents,
singing rhymes for cooing babies,
and for foodies there is flatulence.
Revolution’s pitched unto masses,
tyrannic themes warm autocrats,
investment tips thrill upper classes,
toys cheer dogs, and mice sate cats.
It’ll lift the world from its dull ruts
and make me rich as Croesus.
Kristen Joy Wilks
I definitely find new authors through word of mouth! I’m unlikely to trust an ad but when I see a certain book suggested again and again (I love the Avid Readers of Christian Fiction group) by people who appear to like the same kinds of books that I do, then I might be willing to take a chance on someone new. I like to follow authors I know on Facebook and Instagram to hear about what new things they are writing and what parts of their lives are inspiring their creativity. There are a couple of authors whose books I will always pick up and looking at my expectations carefully, I’m realizing that these are the authors whose writing is great, but also the ones I can count on to give a very specific experience. Jaime Jo Wright will always give a spooky, twisty, mystery. Becca Whitham will always transport me to the past with great research and a charming romance. Becky Wade will always give a roller coaster romance with real-feeling characters and humor and take us past the moment that they fall in love to weather their first real struggle together. Bethany Turner and Melissa Ferguson will always be funny. If I can count on what the experience will be and it is always one of quality writing, I will become a repeat customer.
Thank you for the shout out, Kristen! I’m honored to be listed with authors I love and respect both personally and professionally!
Kristen Joy Wilks
You are most welcome! I know that I will always get an enjoyable well-crafted read when I pick up one of your books!
I have found many now favorite authors through fan conventions.
If an author is engaging and knowledgeable in a panel, I will definitely check out their books.
I also like to attend author readings. Again, an author who is a great reader in person gains a new fan.
And new fans spread the word to their friends.
As much as people talk about having an online platform and such, I buy more books and find new authors at in person events.
And yes, some popular authors have an audience. I can recall (without naming anyone) a debut author who invited a very popular author for her book signing.
He stole the show. However, many people who have never heard from her bought her book because he was there, in person, endorsing her. And a few of them became her fans because of him.
So yes, authors provide their audience and it is smart to borrow theirs sometime.
Patti Jo Moore
I remember being thrilled the first time I emailed a favorite author, telling her how much I enjoyed her book – – and she replied to me! 🙂 I hadn’t expected a personal reply, so I was overjoyed. Since that time, we’ve become close friends, and although we live in different states, we’ve been blessed to connect in person. Although I love her writing style, the fact that she’s been so friendly has encouraged me to promote her books even more and give them as gifts to other friends.
Now that I’m published, I try to always be responsive to readers, because I remember how a kind reply can brighten someone’s day! Even if I’ve never met that person before. 🙂
Since I started reading your blog almost six years ago, I’ve loved being part of your audience. I don’t get here every day like I did before I first published, but you and your colleagues have shared so much wisdom and actionable advice over the years. I wouldn’t be where I am now as a writer without you. I even met my critique partner, who is now a Bethany House author, and the most business-savvy author I know here.
Even though I chose the indie route and am very happy with that for the freedom it gives me to use my books in nonstandard ways, what you’ve taught me has been invaluable. Finally meeting you and Steve in person at an ACFW conference was one of the meeting highlights. Many, many thanks to you all! I’ll be part of your audience as long as we’re both here.
Since I got involved with a number of Christian reader Facebook groups, I’ve found most of the new authors I try through recommendations there. It’s also through those groups that I’ve grown to know some of my readers, and I love taking part as a fellow reader in the conversations at those groups.
Without realizing it at the time, I hired one of the top Christian historical fiction writers as the cover designer for my first novel and for the 8 since then. Some other authors who have become real friends I’ve met through this and another agency blog (Hi, Andrew!), FB author and reader groups, and at writers’ conferences. We stay in touch through a mix of email and FB messenger.
As an author, I love getting emails from readers and comments through my websites or at Facebook. I don’t think most readers realize how encouraging and even delightful it is for any author to hear from someone who loves our books. In FB group comments, many readers have said they don’t want to bother authors by getting in touch. Why would an author want to hear from them? They don’t realize how encouraging it is to know for certain that something I wrote made a difference to them personally.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Thank you, Carol! So glad we could be a helpful part of your journey!
Helpful isn’t the right word. Crucial at the beginning is a more accurate description. I was so ignorant, and I learned so much here. Thanks!
My audience is teens, but most specifically teenage boys. I write suspense and action/adventure stories that at times I actually advertise as non-romance. I’ve found books with guy main characters with plots that aren’t romance based is something a lot of Christian teens, particularly teenage boys are really interested in finding. In fact, somewhat surprising a good number of teenage girls have approached me at conferences and told me they love that my books aren’t romances. My audience wants to be entertained and engaged in a gripping story but many of them also really want books with characters they can respect and concepts that will teach and encourage them. So this is what I try to write and so far teens are enjoying my novels.
I miss going to bookstores in the age of COVID-19. I love to spend an hour in a store browsing, reading back covers, pouncing on a new book by a favorite author and enjoying discovering someone new—usually someone reviewed by a favorite author. The one time I went to a brick-and-mortar bookstore since COVID, they were out of the book I wanted and I still spent $80. I read some online reviews, but mostly just read product descriptions online and decide for myself. I follow several novelists online. Before I moved from reporting/copy editing/designing to straight designing, I interviewed a few. Joshilyn Jackson said she thought she was writing Christian fiction until she was told she couldn’t have sex scenes or foul language. The only Amish fiction I’ve read is Cindy Woodsmall. I interviewed her, got to know her, and she helped me polish the first chapter of my novel. I always read her. And I always read Dee Henderson, Colleen Coble, and a few other Christian suspense novelists because if you aspire to write a genre, read the best.
I love Rick Bragg’s books. Like me, he’s a southerner, and his writing can make me laugh out loud!
My favorite religious writer is Max Lucado. Max stays out of the deep weeds while still offering uplifting insight.
I’m happy to hear Rick Bragg’s name and know that someone else laughs out loud when reading his essays. Agreed, he’s funny and so Southern.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
I am willing to try an author until he or she gives me reason to not read them. For example, Nicholas Sparks was one of my favs until he wrote a book where the possibly-adulterous hubby was the protagonist. I felt betrayed and haven’t picked up one of his books since.
I like Debbie Macomber, though the couple falls in love a bit too quickly for my taste. Still, she tells a good story and I just have to lay aside the fact that the gal really doesn’t know the guy….Sometimes, I feel like screaming at the female. Nine classes with eight preps this semester have not left me with a lot of reading time….
I find new authors in the Avid Readers group on Facebook and through recommendations of author friends I follow on social media. So, basically, word of mouth.
I hope and pray one day when I’m published, my author friends will give a shout out for my books. 🙂