Building a community of other writers, supporters, and readers is an important way for authors to spread the word about their work. In this article, we’ll provide tips on how to engage with authors and readers using social media, online events, and email.
When it comes to social media, set your own rules
There is no faster or more efficient way to communicate with the world than social media. And while all the major platforms can contribute greatly to your community building, each platform does have something unique to offer.
On Twitter, choose whether to reply to every tweet directed at you or to passively engage using likes. Replies take more energy, but they can be a great personalized touch to reach out to readers who ask questions about your process, or to provide insight into the thoughts behind your writing choices.
On Facebook, your author page can resemble an active online forum. Engaged fans will comment on posts, and other fans will join the dialogue in a way that’s much easier to absorb than that of other networks. Try to read comments and respond when possible—fans love it, and it builds a strong sense of community.
On Instagram, the visual platform makes it easy for you to share book jackets or allow fans a glimpse into your life, through full posts or Instagram Stories. Whether you use stunning images to drive sales or behind-the-scenes shots to give readers a peek into your personal life (or both!), you’ll be able to reinforce and personalize your author brand in a visual way that doesn’t translate as well to the other platforms.
Beyond that, new platforms like Vero provide authors an opportunity to get in on the ground level of a quickly growing phenomenon. Though many social media platforms have been touted as the new thing, it’s always worth giving a new platform a try to see if it works well for you.
Choosing the social media platforms both you and your potential readers like most is an exciting part of being an author. Tumblr, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, and more all have their own pros and cons, but remember two things: 1) You don’t need to be on every platform, and 2) Social media should never supersede the attention you put into your writing. But social media does provide you with an exciting opportunity—to set your own rules and decide how to build your community.
Be aware of (and participate in) online events
Hashtags can be a great way to build buzz about your book, but not always in the way you may think. Your publishing team may create a specialized hashtag for your book or brand, but hashtags don’t have to be tied to your work—they can also become online events where you can e-meet readers and other authors.
One example of a community-engagement hashtag is #askalibrarian. Each Thursday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. (Eastern), Read It Forward and the PRH Library Marketing team host a Twitter chat using this hashtag. Librarians and book enthusiasts around the world come together to give personalized book recommendations to readers. Although we lean on the expertise of our librarians, everyone participating is encouraged to recommend titles as well.
If you’re interested in daily events to share your work and interact with other authors, consider these: Every Monday, for #MuseMon, a theme from a popular song is chosen, and writers post lines from their books or works in progress that relate to the theme. Similarly, #2bitTues and #1lineWed are based around weekly themes, and writers post snippets of their work that best fit the word or theme.
Other popular hashtags like #AmWriting and #WriteMotivation act as ongoing events and online spaces where you can find inspiration and boost your productivity, while also inviting fans to learn more about your work and your writing process.
Keep your readers up to date with email marketing
While social media can be effective in building your community, social posts can get lost in your readers’ feeds, so it is not always the best way to move the needle in terms of sales and awareness.
But when fans receive an email from an author—no matter how many people get the same email—they feel as though you are letting them in on something special, and it forms a stronger connection between you and the reader. When interacting with users on social media, make sure your newsletter information appears prominently on your website or profile, so authors and readers can easily sign up to learn more.
Developing content for newsletters may take more planning than social media posts. If you would like to set up a newsletter, first think about the frequency that works best for you—once a week, once a month, or every other month. It is important to develop a sending pattern so readers know when to look forward to seeing your newsletter in their inbox.
Make sure your author name is in the “From” section of the email, so it feels personal and not like an automatically generated email. Another major part of the newsletter process is the subject line, which should be short, on-topic, and something that will grab the reader’s attention. Learn more about what makes a good subject line here.
Keep the content of the emails focused around your past work, upcoming titles, your writing process, themes from your books, and book-focused interests such as what you’re currently reading, anything you’ve seen that is influencing your writing, and other such topics.
As you can see, there are many ways to go beyond the content of your book and build a community of enthused readers, bloggers, and other writers to help you increase visibility and sales of your titles. But remember to have fun with it in the end—it should feel less like a chore, and more like a way to get to know those who have connected (or will soon connect) to your work.
Neda Dallal is Coordinator, Publishing Development & Author Platforms for Penguin Random House.
Phil Stamper-Halpin is Senior Manager, Publishing Development & Author Platforms for Penguin Random House.