Some authors are famous enough that the press gets them thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of book sales without them having to reach out to anybody. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not one of them. (Uh, if you are, please email me right away. I want your autograph).
For the rest of us, we get our sales from a smaller, but loyal following of friends, family, and fans. If that system is working, they’re like a money button you can press a few times a year. You hit the button by releasing a new book and telling them about it, then the money pours in from your new release.
They’ll also recommend your work to other people, keep your social media feeds active and hopping, and generally keep a trickle of new readers coming in between your big release days. Plus, it’s fun to have fans.
It can be tricky to accumulate a following and keep them engaged over the long term. Whether you’re just starting out and need to move your count from two to three digits, or you have thousands in a mailing list but most don’t respond too often, here are ten quick things you can do to get things hopping.
1. Let Fans Contribute
Put a post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook asking your fans to contribute content. Some good examples include asking them to finish a sentence to make a fun story, provide a caption for a weird photograph, or give the setup line for a knock-knock joke that somebody else gets to finish.
Fans love to be asked for their opinions and contributions. Think about how you would feel if your favorite author asked you to help them finish a sentence. That’s how some of your followers feel about you.
2. Get Your Nerd On
You’re a huge nerd about something, whether that’s Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy football, punk music, or travel. Your fans are also huge nerds about what you write about. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be your fans. But there are other things that you don’t write, but both you and your fans are nerds about. This might be a tv show, a book series, something about current events, another sport, or any other thing.
Engage around that thing on your feeds. This energizes your fans because they get engaged with both by you (of which they are a fan) and about this other thing (of which they are also a fan). As a bonus, it also benefits from whatever fame and marketing budget that thing has behind it, as you’ll get the attention of people who love that thing, but don’t yet know about you.
3. Piggyback on Breaking News
If something even remotely related to your topic hits it big in the news, you should post about it as soon as possible and get the opinions of your fans (and some strangers who become fans once they see your post). For example, our friend Jason Brick does a series on family safety. When the riots hit a few years ago, he made a video about protecting your kids if you get caught in civil unrest. That video exploded, and almost doubled his subscriber count in less than a week.
Make a Google Alert for two to five keyword phrases about your topics and genre, or about things your fans and you nerd out on. Use those to identify the trends you can use to supercharge your platform.
4. Hold a Quick Contest
We’ve already mentioned long contests in this article here (and this other one here), but you can also do a quick contest with a social media post. Do a guessing game, or a “who can share this the most by noon?”, or ask for people to name a new character in your series. Make it last just a few minutes, and make the prize something public and fun.
You’ll be surprised how many people engage with this. It takes on the same psychology behind those addictive Facebook games, and can be just as compelling.
5. Share Their Posts
Think about your very favorite artist, author, or musician. How would you feel if they shared one of your posts, with a nice sentence about how clever it was? You would lose your mind. Always remember that you have fans who feel exactly that way about you.
Take ten minutes to scan the pages of your fans, and share one post each day in the way you think will most help them feel seen, appreciated, and liked.
6. Videocast on Facebook Live
This only takes ten minutes. You can do it with your phone. We’ve written about the details of making it great in this article right here. We won’t say much more about it other than it’s one of the fastest-trending ways to get lots of eyes on your content.
Go do one this week. Heck, do one today. Go do it right now. We’ll wait.
7. Say Happy Birthday
You know how Facebook reminds you every day how many of your friends have a birthday? Take a minute each morning and use that to send a quick note. While you’re at it, include birthdate in your mailing list signup form so you can shoot your subscribers a simple but heartfelt birthday gift like a free ebook or a coupon for your work.
You already know how good it feels to have somebody remember your birthday, who has no earthly reason to remember your birthday. It’s time to use that feeling to get your following more excited.
8. Fire Up a Cheap PPC Ad
Facebook, Google, and Instagram all offer options to run ads where you pay a few cents to a couple of dollars per person who clicks through to the page of your choice. These can be very cost-effective ways of getting lots of potentially interested eyes on your social media, newsletter, blog, and other content. The more interested eyes you have, the more engagement on your feeds. The more engagement, the more charged up your followers will be.
Experiment for a while with inexpensive ads, tweaking your images and copy until you find the combination that works great. Then keep hitting that feeder bar for as long as it keeps working.
9. Pick a Fight
Find something that will polarize people and choose a side. People who never have controversial opinions are boring, and boring people are forgotten about.
If you can find something that will polarize your audience, you can create an “us versus them” situation where people will identify with you and feel some solidarity. Even if somebody doesn't agree with you, it can pique their interest and keep them engaged with you.
10. Ask Their Opinion
Spend ten minutes a day reaching out via email or direct message to talk directly with one or two of your fans. Ask them what they love, what they care most about, and how you can better engage with them moving forward. The first thing this does is tell you exactly what to do so you can keep their energy up.
The second thing it does is solidify the fandom of the people you talk with. They will remember that you gave them your time and attention, and that you acted on their advice.
The Golden Rule: Give More Than You Ask
The quickest way to alienate your following is to only reach out when you want or need something. You don’t like “friends” who do that in real life, and your following won’t appreciate that kind of behavior from you. Make a regular habit of giving solid value, entertaining peeks behind-the scenes, and notes of appreciation and thanks. If you keep that going, your following will be eager to help you when you do ask for their assistance a few times each year.
Follow the 10% rule. For every small thing you ask of your following, provide nine pieces of legitimate value. Only ask a big thing (like buying your new book) once out of ten times you’ve asked for something. That means you’ve done your following a solid favor 90 times for every time you ask them to spend their money or time on you. That’s how you keep them eager, loyal, and happy to help.
Image by Mohamed Hassan.