Find your audience.
As a new author, I hear that advice all the time. The instructions given bother me. I don’t like the idea of my audience being prey to track via statistics, I don’t want to lose sight of my readers as people.
Even before I published Dissonance, I never wanted my readers to be numbers…I wanted to befriend them.
Though I’ve yet to unearth the secret of finding a huge audience, I feel better when I ignore the advice given. It’s more rewarding to establish relationships than posting ads with prices, insisting the book be read.
That tactic is necessary sometimes, but… I’ve wanted to be a storyteller all my life, and there was a vision I always had. I want to be friends with my readers. I even want to be friends with people who don’t adore my book!
The storyteller-audience relationship is not a buy-sell relationship. What called me to writing was feeling someone could trust me enough to hear my tale. I don’t want to flash numbers at people; I want to breathe words that’ll help them visit another world.
I haven’t been published long, but I’ve learned it’s far better to be a voice people trust than a voice trying to sell a story.
I’ve found some things do help. They all involve time and interaction.
First, find stories similar to yours. Read books you like to read, and you’ll meet people who like them too. It’s important to have things in common! Stay up-to-date in genres like yours, discuss these books with like-minded people. You’re more likely to interest people in your book if they feel you have similar tastes.
Second, it’s important to let readers know feedback helps. My audience is small and I love being able to tell them “in person” that, even if there were things they didn’t like about the book, I appreciate their taking the time to read. No honest writer can deny that praise lifts the spirit. It takes so much effort to write 200 pages; kind words help wash away hours of self-doubt.
Third, be someone else’s audience. Focusing on your own work for too long will isolate you. Build communities with other authors and encourage them, connect with people who share your goals. It’s hard to be a writer, and a blessing when others help you to your feet.
Storytelling as I see it is like a campfire with readers gathered to listen. It’s not a solitary activity, but a community of dreamers. This community takes effort to build, and you won’t make progress that way by leaving a link on Facebook hoping people will buy.
Readers want to know you. As a reader myself, I speak from experience.
My audience is small and I adore it. If it grows, I hope to continue finding ways to let readers know they matter. I am where I am because of these people who’ve taken the time to read my 200 pages.
Be a person, not a billboard. That’s how you build a loyal audience; that’s how you create relationships. It makes me feel more like a storyteller, the person I’ve wanted to be all my life.