How to Be A Reader’s Favorite Author

Woman with book

Last week in this space, I wrote about how you could become a publisher’s favorite author (other than selling millions of books).  Today, we’ll go a little different direction and talk about what you would need to do to become a favorite author to your readers.

A key difference between how you relate to a publisher and how you relate to a reader is that one is business and one is personal.  An average publisher will invest tens of thousands of dollars to get your book to market, while a reader might only need to pay $4.99 for an Amazon Kindle ebook.

Just like I wrote last week, regardless whether you are published or not, you should think now about what sort of relationship you want to have with your readers.

Last week I suggested that you should develop a publisher relations strategy for yourself. What I suggest this week goes a lot deeper. The closest thing I can think of for this discussion is to consider yourself as a “customer service” representative for your books. 

The Nordstrom retail company is legendary for their customer service.  They even have a manual, The Nordstrom Way.  To them, customer service is not a strategy, it is a “way of life”. 

So, among all the things you need to think about as an author…your platform, financial plan, professional growth and your relationships with your publisher and agent, I am suggesting you also need to decide on a way to treat your readers that becomes a way of life for you.

How would you become a “linchpin author” who inspires a reader to buy your next book and talk about it with friends?  I said last week that the obvious answer to that for the publisher is to write a best-selling book and making them a lot of money, but readers will be even more challenging.  Other than writing a great manuscript that will inspire wonderful comments from your readers, here are some thoughts on an effective “author way of life”.

  • Be a real person.  If a reader contacts you, write them back within 48 hours or less.
  • If you receive too many responses each day than you can handle, then have a friend, intern or even hire someone part-time to help you.  For most, the volume is not a problem. If it is, let someone else answer the questions about when your next book is available or if you plan on visiting Michigan any time soon.  A few “copy and paste” templates will suffice for those. For deeper issues, handle yourself.
  • Read a book by Gary Vaynerchuk…Crush It!, or The Thank You Economy or his newest, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.  Gary is a social media guru who is highly successful making money from his social media strategy, but his approach will surprise you.  I think you will actually feel comfortable with it. (He will urge you to be real!)
  • Follow through on commitments.  This is also in your publisher relationship, but important for readers as well.  If you say you will do something, then do it.  If you promise to answer all letters within 48 hours, then take your laptop on vacation and continue to do it.
  • Minister to the readers.  In your books, blogs, anything you do, show that you treat people with grace and with fruit of the spirit.
  • Be aware of other books or authors and recommend them.  Chances are you won’t write ten books each year, like a store recommending another store to simply serve a customer well. You don’t lose a thing, in fact you will actually grow in stature with readers because you helped them.
  • Pray for your readers without telling them.

Of course, write a powerful book that positively affects lives and you will go a long way to becoming a favorite author, but it takes more.  Be real.

What ideas do you have to make yourself a linchpin author to readers?  

20 Responses to How to Be A Reader’s Favorite Author

  1. Ron Estrada March 18, 2014 at 4:11 am #

    I handle the marketing for our family business, a small trailer hitch company that sells high-priced hitches direct to the consumer. I tell our salesman to not only always answer customers with a personal e-mail or phone call, but to answer complaints immediately. I read where one author responded to the writers of his one-star reviews. She’d ask them specifically what they disliked about the book and then ask them to beta-read her next novel to see if she’d resolved the issue. This sounds time consuming, but brilliant. I can think of no greater salesman than a reader who hated your first book, then became a fan.

  2. Heather Day Gilbert March 18, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    I definitely agree with every one of these, especially the keeping your promises part. I think we should only make promises we know we’ll be able to keep (and when we can’t, we immediately let readers/followers know). For indies, that can mean thinking looong and hard about when you can realistically release your next book, since many of us like to announce the launch date ahead of time to build buzz. I wanted to release my next one in April, but I knew all the pieces wouldn’t be in place (giving early readers time to read, etc). So I went to June and I’m so happy I did.

    I would really stress giveaways–if you say you’re giving people a book and you can’t follow through, you need to contact them and give them another option, like an Amazon card. It’s just so sad when people win books, get all excited about them, and then the author never contacts them or the book arrives about 5 months later out of nowhere, with not a word of explanation. Not good PR, I think.

    I really think the best thing about readers is that they are willing to participate in the process. They can help with book blurbs, choosing cover art, series titles, etc. It’s a blessing to me as an author every time readers offer input, so I think it’s key we leave those channels open and are as easily accessible as we can (realistically) be.

    • J.D. Maloy March 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      Heather, I’m going to piggy back off your suggestion. Giveaways and involving the reader is huge. I have a published friend who does some sort of contest every month and her followers love the prizes. It’s everything from a free signed book, to critiquing someone’s first chapter, to doing a Skype interview, and so forth. With social media, it’s like readers expect authors to be more all around available to them, which is all good within limits. Healthy boundaries are important. It’s cool that you enjoy reader involvement as well!

      • Heather Day Gilbert March 19, 2014 at 8:58 am #

        J.D.–I really wish I could afford to do more kickin’ giveaways like Kindles, etc! But Skype interviews are a great idea (although I haven’t been able to figure out Skype yet!). But I agree–healthy boundaries are key. I don’t post pics of my kids on my author page, etc. And I recently took out a P.O. box to protect my address. Just stuff to have in place IN CASE you ever get “big” enough to have stalkers.

  3. Jeanne Takenaka March 18, 2014 at 5:43 am #

    Being real. Such a tricky thing to do sometimes. Yet, when we are real with our readers, a connection happens—authors become relatable.

    Each thing you mentioned goes a long ways in being real…..keeping our word when we say we’ll do something. Taking the time to respond to each email or letter is also huge. Thanks for sharing some great suggestions for becoming an author readers want to read.

  4. Jan Cline March 18, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    Well said – we can apply these to all area of our lives, but it’s so true that our readers expect and desire certain things from their favorite authors. I am particularly keen on the “do what you say you’re going to do” point. This works both ways in any personal or business relationship. I hate being left hanging and I don’t want my readers to be disappointed in me for not following through.

  5. Richard Mabry March 18, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    Dan, good points, and I’ve tried to address them all since I started writing. However, there’s one thing readers sometimes say that I can’t do a lot about–”I finished your book in just a few days. Will the next one be out soon?” Some writers take a year to finish a book, some can do one in six months or even less. Even if the writer goes the self-pub route, cutting publication time from a year to a matter of weeks, it still takes time to come up with the material (if one’s going to produce good work). Any magic suggestions?
    And thanks for sharing.

    • Dan Balow March 18, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Magic suggestions, no…but this might be a time to recommend some other titles to a reader that have been particularly meaningful to you or you sincerely enjoy and think they would too. Suggesting something else to a reader seems dangerous, but they will love you for it.

      • Jenny Leo March 18, 2014 at 7:55 am #

        In the movie Miracle on 34th Street, generosity worked for Macy’s. When Kris Kringle sent customers down the street to Gimbel’s for the toy they wanted to buy that Macy’s didn’t have in stock, it told the customer that Macy’s cared more about the customer’s satisfaction than their own profits. We have nothing to lose by recommending other authors’ books that a reader might enjoy. A rising tide floats all boats.

      • Richard Mabry March 18, 2014 at 9:04 am #

        And, of course, that’s what I do. But I’ll have to admit that I sometimes do it with a faint voice whispering in my ear–”What if they read these books and find out mine aren’t that good?” Just part of every writer’s “imposter syndrome,” I guess.

      • Iola April 21, 2014 at 4:51 am #

        Richard, I’ve just finished Critical Condition, and you’ve got nothing to worry about, Your books are more than ‘good enough’. No, not everyone will like them, but that’s because not everyone likes medical drama.

  6. Deborah H. Bateman March 18, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    Thanks for sharing this post. I totally agree with your suggestions. I also like to thank my readers personally when I get a chance for their support.
    Deborah H. Bateman

  7. Chris Malkemes March 18, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    Dan. At a risk of sounding like a new bee (and I am) shouldn’t we be praying for our readers as we write? When we have a good start out off the starting box then the race goes to the swiftest horse and the other things you suggest will be a piece of cake.

    • Dan Balow March 18, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      Good suggestion…of course!

  8. Tricia Goyer March 18, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    This is an awesome post but the 48 hours made me cringe. Oh no! I have two assistants and I/we still can’t get to all the messages. I do the best I can but I think because I’m so open online that people fine me really, really approachable. I LOVE hearing from readers and I wish I could clone myself. 30-40 messages/private a day is common.

  9. Peter DeHaan March 18, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Dan,thanks for the reminder to pray for our readers. I know it; now I just need to do so on a more regular basis!

  10. Preslaysa Williams March 18, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    This sounds like a challenging one to navigate. I once read a novel that left me weeping and as soon as I finished. I emailed the author via their website. I was really touched when that author wrote a personal email back to me in a timely manner. It made my reading experience all the more personable. One idea to be a linchpin author for readers? Hmm…providing a reader who contacts you with a free copy of your next book? Could this strategy get unwieldy if a lot of readers contact you?

  11. Judith Robl March 18, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Richard Mabry, this is for you. Your quote ”What if they read these books and find out mine aren’t that good?” is just the enemy whispering in your ear. I’m still struggling as a novelist, but I am a voracious reader and a heavy-handed critic.

    You have the right stuff, and you put it on paper time after time. Thank you.

  12. Linda Chontos March 18, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    While the dream of being a published author is still a distant dream, it is so helpful to read posts like this. I thought once I had finished writing my book the real work was done. I am rapidly learning that is not so. Thank you so much.

  13. Lisa March 20, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Great post. I dream to be that kind of author when the day arrives :) Until them I will be laying the groundwork to be real and responsive. It’s my favorite part of blogging. I love hearing the readers voices.

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