Reach out to your readers
Increase your online profile and attract new readers by commenting regularly on other people’s posts about issues that relate to the subject of your book (without actually pitching the book itself. You won’t make any friends if you do that. Just make sure that the signature on the comment includes a link back to the website where you promote yourself and your book, and that your comment is so interesting that no one will be able to resist clicking through to find out more about you.)
- Use your search engine to find subject matter that relates to your topic (in the case of my books about grantwriting, I might Google, for example, “funding proposals,” “grant writing” and “grant deadline”), and
- when you find an article, a blog post, or a forum topic that relates to what you have written about, read the item and then make an intelligent comment. (You do need to read the item because in order to attract interest, you must figure out where the article writer or the original poster is coming from, and you need to find a hook in the article – some specific issue or statement – that you can refer to in your response.)
If your book is non-fiction of any kind, this exercise should be fairly straightforward. If you have written a novel or a book of poetry, on the other hand, you may have to sit down and actually think about what subject matter you would like to explore with other individuals online. In the case of my most recent novel, The Whole Clove Diet, again my approach is fairly obvious: I can search for forums about body image, blogs about food addiction and news items about the latest diets, and I’m there. But I can also explore other aspects of the novel by searching for “addictions” in general (there is an alcoholic in the novel whose approach to booze has a lot in common with Rita’s toward food)– or even ”stepmothers,” as my main character is one of those. For my first novel, The Woman Upstairs, relevant topics would include “mother-daughter relationships” and “family conflict.” Even “oppressive WASP Ontario childhood” would fit the bill.
Keep in mind that using actual quotation marks will help you with a search: if I search the two words “funding” and “proposals” together without the quotation marks, I get a result that can go far outside my area of focus. If I put quotation marks around “funding proposals,” I get only sites that contain those two words in the text in that order: which is what I want.
Also keep in mind that you are not looking for other writers with this initiative. In my experience, writers are not great buyers of books written by writers they have met online. Most writers have their own agendas for what they want to read. So don’t bother searching “my first novel” – it won’t get you anywhere productive because people who are writing about first novels today are a dime a dozen (or even more in some cases).
Remember that the idea here is to contribute to the online discussion about a subject that matters to you and to other people, not to make a sales pitch. You want to become part of the online community that is writing about an issue you have explored in your book.
You aren’t likely to make immediate sales of your book this way, but if you become a person who is known to make intelligent comments on a specific subject area, you will eventually attract readers.
You have to give, many times in most cases, before you will receive.
Once again, lots of great advice Mary. I am particularly intrigued by your comment: “In my experience, writers are not great buyers of books written by writers they have met online. Most writers have their own agendas for what they want to read.” I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you are right, at least, in my case I decided a couple of years ago to restrict my reading (and buying, which should but don’t necessarily go hand in hand) to books that either (1) are on the subject matter I am writing about at the time or (2) are written by authors I have met or made a personal connection with. Will we get to where we feel we have “met” authors on-line through their blogs or tweets? Is this something a younger generation has already accomplished? Good food for thought.
Good ideas, Mary.