Sunday, December 15, 2013

Authors: Finding Your Readers On-line: A group of Award-winning Authors speak up. – A Study – Response Detail


One of the major problems facing authors today is finding their reading audience. With the marketing burden being placed more and more on the writer’s shoulders, building an on-line presence and interacting with readers is becoming the popular way to go.

It is study time again and I am fortunate to have a group of outstanding, award-winning authors whose opinions I value highly. Over 30 authors helped me with this study.

Initial Study Question

How do you Find Your Readers? - HBS Author’s Corner STUDY

Well I’m back trying to help authors with a difficult task. This time I’m creating a study about 'How Do Outstanding Authors Find Their Readers?' I want to help authors start in the right direction in finding their reading audience.

One of the biggest challenges an author has in the online world is how to find their readers and build a relationship.

Like I have down several times, I’m contacting the HBS Author’s Spotlight crew to get their opinions and experiences on the topic.

So here it goes.

What are the methods you use to find your reading audience and start a relationship? Here are some sample questions to give you an idea of what I’m looking for.

1.    How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

2.    What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

3.    What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

I know you are busy but if you could give me a quick paragraph or two, maybe we can help some authors struggle through this important step. If I could get something in next week to ten days, I would appreciate it.

If you have written a book or a blog post on this topic, pass the link on to me and I will include it in the study.


I will use your quote (space permitting) and provide a link to your twitter account and a link to your Spotlight post. Our last two studies: ‘Getting Book Reviews’ and ‘Boxed Sets are Gaining Exposure’ have close to 5000 views and growing.

James Moushon

Author Complete Responses

Terry Ambrose

Terry Ambrose @suspense_writer is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and a member of Murder, We Wrote.

Thanks for including me in this study. I'm going to answer question 3 because I think that's one of my strongest tools and I feel that most authors abuse their newsletter lists by making them purely promotional.

Here's the quote:

I use my monthly newsletter, The Snitch, as a means to communicate with readers I have met online or in person. The mistake I feel most authors make with newsletters is making them purely promotional. If I'm going to subscribe to a newsletter, it needs to provide me with something of value to me. In keeping with that philosophy, my monthly newsletter includes a recipe, contest information, and a tip on how to avoid a current scam or con. I also provide a link to my most popular posts, whether they are an interview with a bestselling author, a scam tip, or a book review. The most recent copy of The Snitch is available at

Melody Anne

NYT and USA Today Best Selling Author Melody Anne @authmelodyanne is the author of many Romance and Young Adult novels.

1.    How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

I use these as communication and promotion tools. I love speaking with my fans and try to answer as many questions as possible, though it's getting harder and harder as I have a lot more messages coming in. I also do all my promotions through all of these sites, such as giveaways of iPads, Kindles and gift cards.

2.    What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I don't do groups right now. I am trying to do some blogs, but I've just got a full plate already.

3.    What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

Email, newsletters, facebook, and twitter. All of these things are effective. 

Cate Beauman

Author Cate Beauman is a Romance, Mystery & Thrillers Writer.
Let's see...

I think the most important part of finding and keeping readers IS the relationship we build with our audience. There's a fine line between promoting our work and being annoying. Yes, we want to keep our readers in the know with what we're working on and when our latest releases will hit the market, but if all we talk about is selling, selling, selling, we're not building lasting relationships.

Readers want to know who we are. If they take the time to e-mail us, it's vital to respond. If they make comments on our facebook fan pages, do them the curtsey of replying. If as authors we're constantly taking but not giving in return, we're turning people off. Each reader is a customer, but more, they are people looking to build a connection. 

I don't know if that's helpful, but that's the motto I try to stick to.  

Kathy Bennett

Bestselling suspense Author Kathy Bennett @kathywriteslapd is an author specializing in Mystery & Thrillers with Women Sleuths.

1.    How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

Most of the social media interaction I do is on Facebook. I usually post once a day on my author page and check back several times during the day and respond to any comments. Not very many readers comment, but the few who do are very loyal. I'm building strong relationships with those readers. I do use Twitter, but it's not my favorite format. I usually post interesting trivia bits, or funny sayings. I rarely tweet about my books - unless I've got a new book out or I'm running a sale or something. Then I'll tweet more about my books. I'm trying to do more with Goodreads, but at this time, don't spend a lot of time there. 

2.    What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I look for opportunities to do guest blogs. I do have other writers who will do light promo if I have a new book out. 

3.    What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

My Facebook page is the main place right now that I communicate with readers. However, I recently started a newsletter, and I'm preparing my holiday greetings right now. My newsletter is quarterly unless I have a new book coming out or something else of importance to let my readers know about. My email list is growing and I'll be running a contest soon to try to increase the subscriptions to my newsletter. I'm leery of putting all my eggs in the 'Facebook' basket. If that's the only place I'm communicating with my readers and Facebook goes away, I will lose touch with all my readers.

James…I'm sorry. This is the best I can do at this time. I hope you find something useful in here.

Jen Blood

Jen Blood @jenblood is a Bestselling Mystery author of the Erin Solomon series.

1.    How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

To this point, I've found that my use of social media is more to strengthen my relationship with my reading audience than to actually find them in the first place. I've had moderate success attracting readers through Twitter, and started my own Facebook group specifically for fans of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre (BloodWrites), but by and large the results I've gotten from those efforts have been to connect with fellow authors. However, I love being able to interact with my readers through social media, particularly on Facebook. I've started a fan club of sorts for my readers (The Erin Solomon Press Corps), which has been an excellent venue for initiating dialogues, hosting giveaways, and generally getting to know my readers on a more personal level.

        Having said that, I will add the caveat that when I'm having free or discounted promotions, social media is an excellent way to get the word about that (either using hashtags on Twitter, or by targeting the innumerable Facebook groups focused on e-book readers). That has resulted in attracting readers who have ultimately become diehard fans of the series. Additionally, I have used targeted searches on Twitter to find users with interests that line up with the novels I write -- fans of the mystery genre, fans of television shows that echo the themes/pace of my novels (Castle, The Mentalist, etc.) -- and have followed those individuals. That has also resulted in finding readers I've converted into fans of the series. As we all know by now, of course, all of this hinges on your ability to create a meaningful, genuine dialogue with people versus doing the hard sell. I targeted people who were fans of the TV shows I watch regularly and/or occasionally obsess over, which meant I could converse with them about that before I ever brought up the fact that I am a mystery author with a series of my own. We've had it drilled into our heads by now, but I can't stress it enough: Social media isn't about selling, it's about creating relationships. If done correctly, however, those relationships will ideally lead to sales.

2.    What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I don't use a lot of groups, to be honest, though I'll probably try more of that in 2014. I started writing originally for a fanfiction audience (gasp!)... I amassed a loyal, fairly substantial readership by doing that for a couple of years. When I moved on to publishing original fiction, those loyal fans spread the word like wildfire. They continue to be some of my most loyal fans, regularly purchasing print copies of the books, reviewing promptly, and spreading the word about my work. Many other loyal readers of my mysteries stumbled upon the series through free or reduced promos... In addition, I blogged about the mystery/suspense/thriller genres for a couple of years on my own website, interviewing fellow authors I admired, and writing articles on craft and book reviews -- Many of my current readers are people I found through those efforts, as well. I do plan on doing a more targeted approach to finding readers on Goodreads in 2014, however I haven't done enough research to determine which other groups might be worth the time.

3.    What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

The Trib (Digital magazine)
I've started a free digital magazine that comes out about every six months or so, which includes a free short story featuring my serial characters, interviews with fellow authors, photos and articles on the setting in which the series is set, and a slew of other things specific to the Erin Solomon series. That's been a great way to add value for my readers and keep them invested in my novels while they're waiting for the next book to come out.

Erin Solomon Press Corps (Facebook group)
I have a monthly giveaway at the Erin Solomon Press Corps Facebook group, and offer book recommendations, pose questions, post fun snippets about research I'm doing, and generally check in with readers whenever I can (usually a few times a week, though the frequency goes down when I'm under deadline)...

Music Mondays (Blog feature)
Every month or so, I'll post a free short story revolving around a particular song or music video on YouTube, featuring my serial characters. One ("Urban Rambling") is about the Keith Urban song, "You Look Good In My Shirt" and the first big journalism conference my main character attended sober... Another is called "Crying in the Rain," from the Willie Nelson song, and revolves around the day one of the main characters lost his mom to cancer. These are a quick, interesting way for me to revisit and explore the characters, and allow my readers to get to know them just a little bit better.

Claude Bouchard

Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series.

It's been said time and time again that social media has a limited impact on book sales and readership growth and even I have seen my sales continue when on vacation and off Twitter/Facebook.

However, I can't see how my presence on social media sites didn't help in finding readers. It's through these very sites that I receive interview requests, book feature offers and so on. It's on Twitter that I most chat with readers and potential readers and am often asked, "Which one should I read first?"

With a Twitter following of close to 450K and Goodreads' friend base of 5K+, social media had to count for something in finding readers.

Another aspect which can't be neglected was the KDP Select program (when it worked) combined with advertising with the big ones at promo times. Following a number of successful Select promotions, I saw sales across my entire series increase which told me, folks liked the first (free) book and were willing to buy the others.

I use newsletters rarely, basically when I DO have news like some special promotion, a new release or a bundle like our very successful 9 Killer Thrillers which approaches 30K copies sold. That, by the way, is another good reader finder, if all works well.

What it boils down to is exposure and looking to continuously expand it. The more people hear or read about an author and his/her work, the higher probability of finding new readers.

Karin Cox

Australian Author Karin Cox @Authorandeditor is the prolific author of more than 28 titles, from travel guides, to natural history, to illustrated children's storybooks.

1.How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

I'm the first to admit that I could be far more active on social media than I am. But I find that it can eat into a lot of writing time if you're not careful. I run competitions on my facebook page, tweet links, reviews and other promotional activities, as well as links to interesting articles, and have my blog set up so that it posts to Goodreads. 

2.    What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I don't tend to find readers via social media as much as my readers find me, by which I mean they buy a book online and then like it so they go to my social media pages. I think readers come from many different sources—groups I interact with online (including some for other authors), and by that I mean interact with, not spam; friends, family and acquaintances I know or meet in real life; those I come into contact with on Facebook or Goodreads, and those who see me about thanks to promotional efforts (advertising on FB, twitter and Goodreads).

       I visit a lot of blogs in my genres and leave comments if they've posted something interesting, and I interact occasionally on their Facebook pages or twitter. I'd love to spend more time just "hanging out" in forums and sites that suit my demographic, but I also know I need to stay productive, which sometimes means limiting how long I spend online. 

3.    What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

I don't tend to bombard readers with too many promotional tools. I have a newsletter, but I use it purely for alerting them about new releases. Otherwise, most of my interaction is via my Facebook fan page. I post there a few times a day and encourage fans to introduce themselves, to participate in giveaways and competitions and just to chat with me and get to know me.

       I also have a pinterest board for my books and I post inspirational images up there as I write and share the images of other "pinteresters". I think it is a good way to create more visual exposure. Promotion can be a real time burden, so I like to create visual "teasers" from stock images to share on my wall or page and to encourage readers to share them also. Creating teasers is also time-consuming, but at least it is a lot more fun and engaging than straight-up promoting. 

Dave Folsom 

Dave Folsom @davefolsombooks is a Mystery & Thrillers author based in the Northwest.

1.  How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)  

I use HootSuite to schedule Twitter, Facebook Google+, LinkedIn, etc. three times a day.  It's the only way I've found that didn't require spending the whole day at it.  It seems to have worked as part of a total marketing scheme. 

2. What groups do you use to find your readers?  

I blog, though not regularly, especially when I'm writing.  I use a number of Author Networks with varying success, though time seems to be the biggest factor.  I give away a lot of books which seems to always result in an uptick in sales.

3. What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?  
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

Mostly social networking, networking with other writers, and personal contacts with readers.  I've begun to like Amazon's KDP program since over time a large percentage of sales come from that source as compared to the other outlets.

Ron Fritsch

Author Ron Fritsch @RonFritsch is a self-published Historical Fiction Writer.

1. I participate in all the usual social media, but they haven't led to a reading audience. I never anticipated they would. I can see how they could do that for celebrities, but I, alas, am not one of them.

2. I've joined several groups. Currently the most important to me are the Association of Independent Authors and the Facebook group, Indie Writers Unite! While they provide loads of useful information (as does HBS Author’s Spotlight), they don't directly help authors find their readers, nor do they claim to.

3. I have a website and author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook, and I attempt to keep them up to date. They don't help me find readers. They are there for any reader who is otherwise provoked to discover who I am and what my books are all about.

So how do I find readers? I write fiction appealing to readers who are willing to read something different -- as long as it makes sense and speaks more to the ages than the moment. I find those readers through honest book awards competitions and reviewing services. My first three novels have won a total of ten awards and a number of highly favorable reviews.

My readers might not add up enough to make me a "bestselling author" in my lifetime, but frankly I don't give a damn. I'll take my chances on being read by intelligent, serious humans a hundred or a thousand years from now. Electronic and POD books don't ever have to "go out of print."

S.R. Grey 

Author S.R. Grey @AuthorSRGrey is the Author of the A Harbour Falls Mystery series.

How Do Outstanding Authors Find Their Readers?

In the current publishing landscape, establishing a readership base is ssential for an author to achieve any level of success with his or her novel(s). For me, embarking on this vital step began long before my first novel, Harbour Falls, was published.

At the time, and as a new author, I knew I had to make the right contacts from the start. For me, those contacts included readers who were interested in Romance novels, Mystery novels, and/or Romantic Suspense books. One of the best ways to find and get to know those readers is by creating a strong and active presence in social media.

Sites like Goodreads have proven invaluable for me in achieving my goals. Not only am I an author, but, like most authors, I am an avid reader.

Goodreads provides a way to interact with other readers who like the same stories I do.

I’d recommend joining a few of the groups on GR, as well, as there are many to choose from and you’re sure to find several with readers who like the same books/genres you like.

And, more importantly, readers you connect with are most likely to give YOUR books a chance. I’ve made some great friends on Goodreads, as well as met a lot of terrific bloggers.

Twitter and Facebook are also essential social media sites for any author.

Twitter provides a way to send out quick blurbs and updates, while Facebook allows for more in-depth posts. I’ve utilized FB to announce when I publish a new novel, lower a price on an existed book, or when I am participating in a giveaway.

I am always looking for ways to connect with readers. My newest social media foray is with Pinterest.

R.S. Guthrie

5-Star Mystery Author R.S. Guthrie@rsguthrie writes Mystery & Thrillers, essays, and short stories.

1. How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

The answer here depends on where you are at in your branding process (i.e. getting your pen name out there). If you are new, there is a need for more Twitter traffic, because of the ratio of about 1/1000 of people seeing (or not seeing) your tweets. In the early stages, tweet whatever (and avoid "pimping" yourself or your book(s) too much). Early on it's about name recognition. You aren't going to sell a ton of books on Social Media anyway; it's really more about a positive presence. RETWEET a lot! Help other authors out (especially more established ones). They'll notice the assists and most will respond in kind. Make sure you have an author page on each of the major sites (FB, Goodreads, Amazon, B&N).

2. What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

The specific reader groups for your genre on Goodreads, Facebook, or any other social site. When specifically looking for readers, you want to target forums, groups, etc. that closely match your writing. No sense spending a lot of time in Romance groups when you write Science Fiction. :)

3. What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

The best way I have found is to have a newsletter or email subscription where people signup. You really need to have a blog, make it relevant, and post to it at least once a week. Offer people an "easy email signup".

I've found these work the best because all a reader must do is submit their email address and, best of all, most applications that allow you to offer this are free and they will email all or most of your blog text to the reader's inbox so they can read it there. This is a great way to reach a readership and to get your brand out there.

The other great thing about your blog is that it invites comments. I have developed many a relationship through the comments on my blog (P.S. ALWAYS answer commenters; you must be engaged, wherever the social media is happening).

Dianne Harman

Author Dianne Harman @DianneDHarman is Award Winning Bestseller Romance author.

Finding a reading audience is one of the most difficult things an author has to deal with, particularly if you write contemporary fiction which crosses several genres. I use twitter, tweet groups, goodreads, google+ and facebook. I'm a believer that no one is going to look for your works if they're under a rock, so I think multi-exposure is critical. If you write in a very specific genre, I think it's much easier to target your audiences. I read some advice early on to write what you'd like to read, and so I do, but since I read in a number of genres, it makes it difficult.

I'm an active member of ASMSG on facebook and that group has proved to be very supportive and helpful. I'm a Moderator on the Goodreads group, Modern Good Reads and it's another good way to network. I have a website and a blog in which I post a couple of times a week. I also am a member of a number of groups on facebook and goodreads. I wish I knew exactly where the readers come from, but I don't. Good old word of mouth is still the best way to go and gains the most readers, but it's not an overnight process.

Marketing Tea Party Teddy was a wake-up call for me. It's a political intrigue work of fiction, with a suspenseful love story which is set in California. I thought politicians, staffers and everyone involved with politics would jump on it. They didn't. I realized that this group (which I targeted) was much more interested in breaking rumors and scandals and their next "gig" than reading. It turned out my reading audience was once again, people who like a good read. So that may be the bottom line, "Kind of a build it and they will come!"

Brent Hartinger

Brent Hartinger @brenthartinger is the author of The Russel Middlebrook series. The movie version of his novel: Geography Club will be released later in 2013.

I wish I had more wisdom on this one, but I'm afraid I think the only real ways to build an audience are:

(1) Pure, random chance. You just happen to write something that fits the cultural zeitgeist at a particular time, or is in a genre that is unexpectedly breaking (vampire, erotica, dystopian, etc.). Talent counts for something here, and I know others have found success buying reviews or manipulating the Amazon logarithms, but I think this kind of success is mostly just organic.

(2) Hard, time-consuming work. You have to make yourself available as much as possible to your fans and readers, using all the tools everyone talks about: a blog, Twitter, a newsletter, Facebook, and public events. And then you hope your fans will like you as much as they like your books, and then spread the word via social media and word-of-mouth. 

Here I think the golden rule is: don't be a jerk. Don't be rude, obtrusive, presumptuous, or negative. Don't treat people like numbers or dollar signs. Treat them the way you'd like to be treated. Listen, be interested in them, give freebies, and always be appreciative, humble, and grateful. 

John Huffman

Award winning Indie Author John W. Huffman @johnwhuffman writes Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers.

I live in a very remote area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and as such, depend almost exclusively on the social media networks to promote my novels. I work through all venues available to me, such as blogs, email, twitter, pinterest, facebook, multi-authors networks, online interviews, and support groups on a daily basis...and your network is an excellent example.

I am hampered somewhat because I currently can only communicate through, which is slow and limiting, but will be getting high speed Internet cable this week, which will greatly speed up my connections.

A growing promotional venue is online author skypes with book clubs, which I will be doing more of with the new cable connection, since it is almost impossible to do so now with my satellite hookup.

I find the less I do to "pound my books on the Internet" via in your face advertising, the better, and actively look for friendships and online exchanges, with my author status and books in the background.

I watch other authors irritate their audience with constant barrages of "please buy my books," which I think is the wrong approach and tends to turn off an audience.

I prefer to be more subtle, figuring if they're made aware of my books and have an inclination to purchase one, they will. Just getting them out there in a non-annoying manner seems to work best for me.

Hope this helps you, and if you have further questions or need more clarification, don't hesitate to let me know.

C. S. Lakin

Award-winning Author Susanne Lakin @CSLakin is the author of the seven-book fantasy series The Gates of Heaven. Also, Susanne is a freelance copyeditor and writing coach.

Authors need to realize two key points: The good news is there are readers all over the world who will want to read their book! The not-so-good news is it takes time and effort (and patience) to find those readers.

There are plenty of ways to gradually build up readership. Social media is great. Setting up a Facebook author page, a blog that offers great free content to readers that they can promote via social networks, guest blogging on others’ blogs on content relevant to what their book is about, joining in on forums on Goodreads and Amazon, and using Twitter with appropriate hash tags to announce their books to readers are all great ways to get the word out.

Many authors build an email list and send out regular newsletters, offering specials and announcing new releases. I don’t believe there are one or two things that work the best.

I feel it’s more casting a wide net of your presence online and responding back to readers, engaging them where you can.

The great news is with indie publishing you have an unlimited amount of time and shelf life so that no one is going to pull your book if it doesn’t sell big in the first weeks of release. I have very limited time to spend on forums and social media, so I set aside fifteen minutes or so a few times a day to jump in and share things.

I preschedule most of my tweets via socialoomph so that I don’t have to do each one manually. I almost never do book signings or public events because the time spent gives little return. The most important thing, of course, is to write a terrific book and have it professionally edited so that it will hold up to scrutiny and eventually rise above the masses of books that do not meet high standards of excellence.

Joseph Lallo

Joseph Lallo @jrlallo is a bestselling author of the Science Fiction & Fantasy series: The Book of Deacon Trilogy.

For me, I find that finding readers is more about making your book available in the places and for the prices that people most look for them. I try to keep the prices of my books reasonable, and I price the entry book of a series lower than the rest to offer an incentive to new readers.

Now, once I've earned the interest of a reader, I find social networks are a great way to keep in touch with them and learn what things they like and don't like. While social networks do lead to word of mouth advertising which is crucial to finding new readers, I still focus efforts with social networking on fostering an open and friendly relationship with readers.

I do this chiefly with Twitter, a Facebook Fan Page, and my author blog. I've also been known to reach out to people on Goodreads and Shelfari from time to time, and even Deviant Art. (I've had a few fan artists pop up.)

On the rare occasion I take an active role in reaching out to near audiences, I find things like blog hops, guest posts, and other collaborations with other authors are a great way to build not only build a strong relationship with other authors, but to share audiences and overall help each other.

Caroline Leavitt

Caroline Leavitt @Leavittnovelist - New York Times Bestselling Author Caroline Leavitt is a Literary Novelist. Caroline also is a writing teacher and book critic.

1.   How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience? (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)
Facebook and Twitter are my home away from home. I'm always on there. I don't have an author page because a. I never go to author pages and b. I think what readers want is to feel a connection to writers, and an author page is mostly listing your publicity and events, which is fine, but it's not exactly personal!

2.   What groups do you use to find your readers? (Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)
I am always on and, and that's it!

3. What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships? (Email, Newsletters, etc.)
I don't do newsletters because I personally delete them as soon as I see them in my inbox!

Joanne Lessner

Author Joanne Sydney Lessner @joannelessner writes Mystery & Thrillers including the Isobel Spice Series. Also, she is a singer, actress, writer and mom.

1. How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

I'm pretty active on Twitter and I have a Facebook author page. With Twitter, I try to adhere to the 80/20 rule of only promoting my work only 20 percent of the time. The only times I ignore that is during a promotion or blog tour. Then it necessarily gets upped, but every time I tweet something promotional, I follow it up immediately with a personal, non-book-related tweet.
Similarly, on my personal Facebook page I try to limit book-related postings, though I feel like if people are on my author page, they know what they've signed on for.

I've limited my interactions on Goodreads, partly because I know it's frowned upon to self-promote, but also because the response to my books has not been as enthusiastic over there.

Goodreads readers seem to be much more critical and occasionally snarky. I've found that even people who post the same review verbatim on Amazon and Goodreads will dock it a star on the latter. I have no presence at all on Google+, although I did try Pinterest for a while. I'm not a particularly visual person, though. Twitter is my favorite.

2. What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I've written a lot of guest blog posts, either by contacting bloggers directly or through a blog tour—I had an excellent experience with Goddess Fish Promotions. There's a writer's group called Awesome Indies that I'm a part of, but beyond that, I haven't really made much of a dent in groups or forums.

3. What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

I'm very bad about this, I confess. I don't have a personal blog—I'd rather write my books—and I feel like I bombard my friends enough with Facebook. I have a small email list of names I collected when my first novel, Pandora's Bottle, came out.

But that book is for a slightly different audience than my detective series, so although I keep them updated, I'm not sure how much interest there is in my current projects. I've been meaning to put an email list opt-in on my website, but have been incredibly lazy about it. The third book in my detective series is coming out in September 2014, and I'll be giving away a short story for free in February. I'm hoping to have the email option ready for the short story, so I can build up a subscription list before the book release.

Kathy Logan

Award winning, best-selling author Katherine Logan @KathyLLogan is the author of the Celtic Brooch Time-Travel Series

I was reminded or your request when I got an email this morning from Author Marketing Experts titled “10 Things You Friends Can do to Help you Sell More Books!

#1 Do you have promotional pieces? T-shirts, postcards, bookmarks, hats, magnets? Send some to all of your friends and ask them to pass them out or leave them in places where your readers might shop.

The heroine in THE LAST MACKLENNA battles breast cancer, and she is also a marathoner. I had pink wristbands made with THE LAST MACKLENNA on one side and RUN TO CURE BREAST CANCER and the other. On the inside is my website address and Twitter name. I’ve sent handfuls of wristbands to friends who want to share my books with others. I’ve left them at exercise studios and athletic shoe stores. I’ve even, while running, “accidently” dropped them along a very popular running path. During October, I handed them out to flight attendants. I’ve left them in restrooms on restaurant tables and even handed them out during a race to policemen standing guard at intersecting streets along the route. Since they are individually wrapped, I don’t think they are thrown away. Do they sell books? I don’t know. But if they leave the bracelet in their purse or on their desk, sooner or later, the chances are pretty good that they’ll check out my website.

What online tools do I use?

In the back of my ebooks is a note to email me with “Sequel” in the subject line if the reader is interested in being notified when the next book is released.  Some readers write notes. Those emails I respond to, thanking them for reading and letting them know I will email when the next book is ready. I also invite them to visit my Facebook page where I post regular updates on the characters and the research I’m conducting. I have done several ads to promote posts and this has found new followers.

I have a large Twitter following (148K). Every time someone tweets that they’ve read my book, I engage them in a conversation and encourage them to share their reading experience with other readers by posting a review. What I haven’t done and am going to start doing, is to keep a list of all followers who have shown an interest in my books or have read them. This has been a missed opportunity in marketing the next book because I have no way of notifying them individually of its release.

I did a Goodreads giveaway which exposed my book to hundreds of readers. I highly recommend this. My book now appears on hundreds of bookshelves.

I started a Twitter account for the heroine in THE SAPPHIRE BROOCH, my work-in-progress. She is a surgeon in Richmond, Virginia. She is also a runner and a Civil War reenactor. She’ll be tweeting about medicine, running and the Civil War. I bought an image of a female doctor from Getty Images so Charlotte now has a face. Hopefully, when the book is released, she’ll have a following anxiously awaiting to read her story.

I think that’s about it.  Use what you can. If you need more, I’ll see what I can come up with.

Paul D. Marks

Awarding-winning Author Paul D. Marks @PaulDMarks is an Author of noir, mysteries, satire & mainstream fiction.

There are so many avenues to try to reach readers these days it's hard to know which to choose. And I think an author can dilute their time too much by trying to use too many of the social media sites.  So I suggest focusing on one or two, maybe three at the most.  And hitting the ones where you think your type of readers are.

I focus on Facebook and Twitter, but I also do some Pinterest and Tumblr postings.  I don't know how much the latter two do for me in terms of readership, especially as almost everything I post isn't related to my writing, but it's another way to get your name out there.

I'd say that I use a variety of groups to find readers, but it changes all the time.  You just have to look for an opportunity.  Sometimes someone will be asking for guest bloggers or you can contact various blogs to see if they would be open to a guest blog. Author networks are good, as well as professional writing groups in whatever area of writing you're working.

I send out a newsletter about 2-4 times a year, depending on what's going on and if I have the time to do it.  You don't want to overdo it because people get inundated and tune out.  You can put up a Facebook author page or a page for your book or series.  You can start your own blog – which I have, but don't post enough on.  An author should definitely have a website and it should look good and be easy to navigate.  It should also give any pertinent information on you, your books, etc.

Amy Metz

Author Amy Metz @authoramymetz is an Author of Mystery & Thrillers as well as a blogger and book editor.

James, I wish I could help you with this one, but this is an area where I really need help! I use Twitter, FB, and Goodreads, but I don't feel like I'm really connecting with readers. I'll be looking forward to your post!

Tracy Meyer

Tracy Hewitt Meyer @tracyhmeyer writes gritty, edgy Young Adult/New Adult fiction and Adult Romance.

1. How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

At this point, I use Twitter and Facebook as my social media outlets. I have tried other sites like Pintrest, Google+, etc., but I can’t keep everything organized when I’m spread too thin. It’s information overload and I can’t devote significant time to anything if I’m on too many sites. So, I narrow my focus. With Twitter, I use it for promotion, announcements, and retweeting. This is a good way to support a wide range of authors and bloggers who, in turn, help by retweeting my tweets.

There is a different audience, at least for me, between Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is where I build relationships on a more personal level. On Facebook, I share pictures and stories unrelated to writing and I start to build more personal relationships. I have had countless people comment on a personal story I shared and then say they want to check out my books.

Both sites are imperative, though, for promotion and success. Know your audience and share accordingly. There is a way to merge Facebook and Twitter, having all tweets go directly to the Facebook newsfeed. But I like to keep these two separate since my audience is different.

2. What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

 I have a personal blog and I contribute to a group blog on a monthly basis. These are both good ways to gain readers, especially the group blog. You are pulling in every other blogger’s readers when you post and it’s a great way to reach an audience you wouldn’t have otherwise.
I belong to writer support groups but don’t find these terribly effective in gaining new readers. They are a wealth of information and support, though, which makes them a critical part of my writing life.

3. What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

I have a newsletter that is still in the early stages so I can’t speak to its effectiveness. At a recent national writer’s conference, though, the most successful authors touted the importance of the newsletter and the email lists.
It’s important to remember not to bombard readers with promotion. In my experience, readers really like to get to know an author, almost as a person first and an author next. Or if they know you as an author, they want to know more about you as a person. Readers get turned off by having promotion shoved down their throats. My suggestion is to tweet, retweet for others, comment on posts (both writing-related posts but life posts as well), and promote others. Be a real person and slowly (sometimes painstakingly so) the readers will come. Take advantage of all opportunities, especially on blogs, no matter how big the following is. You never know where the next devoted reader will come from.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Author Phyllis Z. Miller @ZimblerMiller writes YA, Mystery & Thrillers plus she is a Book Publishing Marketing expert. Phyllis also writes nonfiction books, including ebooks to help authors market online.

I cover some of this info in my ebook TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKET IN THE AGE OF AMAZON --

Jake Raymond Needham

Author Jake Needham @jakeneedham is a best-selling Mystery & Thrillers Author.

1. How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

I have about 55,000 Twitter followers so that’s my primary platform for keeping in touch with readers who want to keep in touch with me. I also find a get a few tweets almost every day from new readers who have discovered my books through Twitter.

Facebook is mostly for friends. The Facebook algorithm makes it very difficult to reach new people using their platform. It works best for people you already know and keep in fairly close touch with, but then I suppose that’s what Facebook is supposed to do. 

As for Google+, I’ve only looked at it once or twice. It really does seem to be a mess and I just don’t have any interest in it. 

And I have tens of thousands of ‘friends’ on GoodReads, but I almost never look at it either. I keep thinking I should, and maybe I just don’t understand GoodReads, but I just don’t see how it works for me. It feels to me like the user base at GoodReads is overwhelming female and focused on female-oriented genres. There seems to me to be a lot of random trashing of authors, particularly those who write about subjects the user base doesn’t approve of.

2. What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I’m not a ‘group’ kind of guy. I don’t belong to any groups anywhere that do anything.

3. What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

For the last couple of years, I’ve been writing something called ‘Letters from Asia.’ Taken all together, my letters amount to something that I call ‘a sort of blog,’ but they’re really more like exactly what the title says they are: letters written to my readers from wherever I am in Asia.

Mostly, I’ve been writing about the real people, places, and things that appear in my novels in fictional form, but recently I’ve slipped over into a few other topics, too. Each letter is posted on my website (, but it also goes out by email to about 900 people who have signed up to be included on my mailing list (you can do that here: 

To be honest, I don’t think my ‘Letters from Asia’ have the slightest promotional value for me. Most everyone who gets them has already put up a hand to say they like my books or they wouldn’t be getting them in the first place. Occasionally, I do ask readers to forward my letters to others who might appreciate learning about my books, but it seldom happens. I’m not even certain I’m going to continue doing the ‘Letters from Asia.’ They get a great reception from readers, but they’re just not of any real promotional value and doing them regularly takes time I might well put to better use.

Gary Ponzo

Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author Gary Ponzo @AuthorPonzo is the author of the series of thrillers.

1.  How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

I use Facebook and Twitter to keep my name out there, but rarely do I do any marketing.  I’ll pay for FB ads but that’s different.  No one wants to hear “Buy my book,” all day long.  It’s boring and intrusive.  The only times I’ll ever use social media in that regard is when I release a new book and I let all my followers know it’s out.

2.  What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I don’t find readers in any group online setting.  Most of my email contacts come from readers who contact me with positive thoughts about my work.  I always let them know I’ll add them to my reader contact list and send out a broadcast email whenever I release a new book.  But that’s the only time I contact them—no spamming my random thoughts in an email.

3.  What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

I’m not sure I use any tools to keep my readers.  I’ll stay socially active just to maintain relationships with other writers mostly.  But readers do communicate through Facebook comments and I keep my promotional time limited to news of a new release.  I realize this may not be what new writers want to hear, but think about what you like to read on a Facebook post?  Do you want to hear how great someone’s sales are?  Or how many words that writer is going to write today?  I fell asleep just writing that last sentence.

Susan Oleksiw

Veteran Author Susan Oleksiw is a bestselling author of the Mellingham series and the Anita Ray mysteries.

James, again, my apologies for taking so long to get back to you. This is a great question, and one that is never fully answered.

Since I am published both commercially and on my own, I have the benefit of a publisher promoting my work through catalog and other advertising, but I still have to do a lot on my own.

I post book reviews regularly on Goodreads, and post comments on groups that seem relevant to what I write (mystery, Asia, women's interests, etc.).

I occasionally post a comment on a writing group, but not very often. It's too easy to slip into the role of teacher, and I don't want to do that. I also post on Facebook usually once a day, on some topic related to writing or publishing. I use FB strictly for my writing business, and never post anything personal except an occasional reference to a new pet.

I have started to use Wattpad, where I post summaries of a new book, a short story (for free), or a chapter of a new story with a link to Amazon where they can buy the whole work. I am registered on other sites, but haven't used them as much as GR or FB.

Finding readers is hard work, and reviews play a role to some extent, but some of the success is just building a readership over time, adding one or two or more readers every day.

I blog at least once a month, sometimes once a week, and appear as a guest on other blogs. I always write about writing and my writing life. I hope to add a brief newsletter also in the near future. The most important thing is to write and publish regularly.

Mohana Rajakumar

Award-winning Author Mohana Rajakumar @moha_doha is an author based in Qatar. She has a PhD and has been involved in various foundations supporting young writers.

What are the methods you use to find your reading audience and start a relationship?

People who have read and reviewed your books on GoodReads are a great place to start with launching your next book.

1.  How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?
(Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Goggle+, etc.)

I use social media to 'give'; I share posts, comment on people's blogs, and in general am a reader so that when I need readers they can do that for me.
Be the kind of person you want to know more about on social media. I'm having the most fun on Instagram right now because photos allow us a completely different access.

2.  What groups do you use to find your readers?
(Support groups, Forums, Blogs, Author Networks, etc.)

I don't really use groups; I rely on those who have read my previous books because they really love reading my current ones.

3.  What online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?
(Email, Newsletters, etc.)

I like monthly newsletters to highlight what's new or coming up.

Luke Romyn 

International Best-Selling Author Luke Romyn @LukeRomyn writes Mystery & Thrillers, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy novels.

In today’s writing market, indie authors are faced with the most daunting of tasks: promoting themselves. For myself I rely heavily on social media, with around 320,000 followers on Twitter and over 12K on Facebook and Goodreads, it’s a decent chunk to market to.

Hopefully they, in turn, repeat what I’m posting and it expands exponentially from there, in theory. Beyond this, I blog as often as possible to engage people in all sorts of stuff, from writing advice to humor to short stories. Remember that shouting at people is often ignored, but conversing with them at least gives you a chance.

I’ve never used any sort of emailing system or newsletters, though I know many successful authors who have. I think the most vital thing is to find what you can do in the time you have and stick to it. Grow your audience from there, rather than stretching yourself thin, hoping to catch dribs and drabs of readers from each source. But that isn’t to say you shouldn’t expand where you can. Set up online author pages, the ones you don’t have to maintain on a regular basis, wherever you can linking back to your website or Facebook author page. They’re pretty standard, but exposure is exposure, and free exposure is the best any indie author can ask for.

Jan Romes

Author Jan Romes @JanRomes  writes Romance fiction novels. She is a member of Romance Writers of America.

Anyway, here is my two cents if you still want it.

I have a strong Twitter presence, a mild Facebook presence, and I'm almost non-existent on Goodreads. Because of my affection for the Twitterverse, I tweet information about my books but I also am happy to tweet other authors as well. And I don't stick solely to my genre when tweeting other authors.

As a reader, I like all genres so as I tweeter I do the same. I am cautious, however, about erotica. I'm not a holier than thou person, but I hold back if the tweets are distasteful. I do interact with other tweeters but I have to admit the bulk of my tweets are book related.

When it comes to Facebook, I do not have an author page and a personal page. My followers are family, friends, other authors, etc. so it only stands to reason I manage one page. I share some personal info but I limit what I tell the whole world. I don't beat folks over the head with book information, but I will slide it in occasionally.

Regarding the groups I use to find readers, hmm, good question. But I don't have a good answer. I belong to several Yahoo writing loops and some groups on FB but I don't actively participate. I'll throw in a comment from time to time, but that's about it.

I don't send out email blasts or newsletters. Perhaps I will at some point, but I don't at present. Maybe I'm missing the boat by not using those tools, but truthfully, I'm not sure folks read that stuff. I don't when other authors send me theirs. Not enough hours in the day is my excuse. Plus, some authors have added me to their correspondence without my permission.

Lizzy Stevens

Amazon Best Selling Author Lizzy Stevens @LizzyStevens123 writes Paranormal, Romance and Woman's fiction.

All authors have to find their own way, but for me I mostly use twitter. That's my favorite social media outlet. The key to finding an audience and a following is to be yourself. Get on twitter and chat with people. Start conversations. Don't go on there and say "Buy My Book" every time you tweet.

"Buy my book" "Here's the link to my book" "My book is on sale here" People get tired of that fast. You are an author so sure tell everyone your book is up for sale, but don't overdo it. Building that connection and getting that lifelong friend is going to help you throughout your life as an author. Have conversations. Tweet to people and make connections with new people daily not just every now and then. You need to be consistent. 

My second favorite thing is to blog. Host guest bloggers on your blog. You will pick up new readers when people come to read what your guest is doing. Cross promotion like that is a very helpful tool to pick up new readers.

Jade Varden

Crime and Horror Author Jade Varden @JadeVarden is the creator of the Deck of Lies book series

1. How do you use social media programs to build a reading audience?

I look for users who like books and movies that are similar to my work, usually through hashtags or certain keywords. If I find their profiles to be interesting, I follow them and hope they’ll follow me also. I also look for followers of profiles that I follow. I focus most of my efforts on Twitter, because as a YA author this is where I will find a big potential audience, but I’m also active on Goodreads.

2. What groups do you use to find your readers?

Most of the forum groups I join I use to connect with other authors and readers who like the same sort of stuff as me. I don’t do a whole lot of promotion in forums, except where it’s appropriate and asked for, but I do find a lot of review sources through them.

3. That online tools do you use to develop and keep reader relationships?

I maintain a regular blog where I write about self-publishing, being an indie author and books. I get a good amount of conversation on my blog and through Goodreads, which has a feed for my blog. Of course, you’ll find information about all of my books in both places. I also promote my books regularly through tweets, which I write daily.

Patricia Zick

P. C. Zick @PCZick (Patricia Zick) is an award-winning writer for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction.

James, Thank you for doing this study. I'm afraid I don't have any magic formula. I experiment. I write. I publish books. Perhaps my focus is too spread out as I write novels about Florida and the environment and I've published several nonfiction books on various topics. I'm feel most days I'm floundering as I search for the magic to gather readers to my books. I eagerly await your study to see what other authors have discovered as the way to attract readers.

Quick Summary of the Takeaways of our Study

1.      Write a good book
2.      Look for exposure – Do interviews
3.      Reply to comments – keep in touch
4.      Keep building Relationships
5.      Attend conventions, conferences and festivals
6.      Know your audience and market to them
7.      Be yourself, don’t oversell your books
8.      Comment on blogs, share posts and retweet
9.      Do guest blogging
10.  Use cross-promotion and links
11.  There is no Silver bullet. No magic formula. It takes hard work.

Some sources from the HBS Author’s Spotlight Crew

Matthew Iden - Telling Your Tale
M.R. Mathias - The First Ten Steps
Joanna Penn - How To Market A Book   

eBook Author’s Corners  Related Posts

Or EMAIL at:
Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight
Or my Mystery blog: HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novel:

Coming Soon: Another Jonathon Stone Mystery:
Game Of Fire

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