Excerpted from How to Find Your Next Thousand Loyal Readers by Eva Gantz
Ever look at your colleague’s Twitter or Facebook page and wonder how exactly they got such a large following? Or maybe you’ve watched other authors effortlessly (or so it seems) sail to the top of Amazon’s top 100 books, and wondered, “How can I do that?” It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start comparing yourself to other authors, especially ones who have been around much longer. It can help to remember that some authors have marketing experience, and/or a PR firm backing their efforts. One of the reasons I’m so enthusiastic about social media is its potential to level the playing field. With the right tools and tactics, every author can grow a large, dedicated following.
Rule of 1000
There’s a school of thought in creative sales propounding the idea that if you can get one thousand “true” fans, you’ll be set. The idea is that a small(er) group of dedicated fans is far better than millions of readers who are sort-of or sometimes engaged. Think of it this way: what if one thousand people immediately and eagerly bought every single one of your new releases, and shared it with their network? Your income would be more steady, and the books would rise quickly to the status of best-seller, where even more folks would discover and buy them. One thousand fans probably still seems insurmountable, but if you approach it as a gradual process and through multiple channels, it looks a bit less terrifying.
How to find your next 1000 readers
First of all, you don’t just want numbers. You don’t need 1000 random followers, or people who happen to follow you. You want the right folks, and you want them to care about what you have to say. This requires creative thinking, targeted research, outreach, and lots of patience. Every online platform has different tactics for growth, so I’m going to break it down by each individual network/platform.
Email has the highest conversion rate of any platform. It’s also, in my experience, the hardest one to build. One of the unique benefits of an email list is that you, and you alone, own it. If you have one million followers on Facebook, that’s awesome, but ultimately Facebook owns those fans. As they’ve demonstrated in recent years, they can choose to make you pay every time you want to reach them. With email, you’ll never have to worry about paid advertising or shady social networks changing their policies.
If you don’t already have a newsletter system in place, I recommend Mailchimp. It’s a snap to create newsletters, and their designs for the emails themselves are beautiful and simple. You can start with one of their templates, or make your own from scratch; either way, you simply drag and drop boxes and elements like pictures and text around until you have something gorgeous. They also facilitate simple integration with Google Analytics. You can check where people are clicking in the email, and follow their actions onto your site (creepy, but cool).
Make sure you have an opt-in (as opposed to opt-out) list-building strategy. People should actively choose to sign up for your list, not be auto-subscribed. A wonderful example of organic (not-paid) growth of email subscribers can be seen in this article from Buffer. The key is awesome, incredible can’t-find-it-anywhere-else content, paired with gentle reminders with easy ways to sign up. Depending on what you use to build and host your site (i.e. WordPress or Blogger), you’ll be able to enable a newsletter signup in your sidebar, footer, as a popup, and/or at the bottom of every post. Your goal should be to “capture” every new person who visits your site, even if they only read one page. Make “newsletter signup” an entry for contests/giveaways, even on other people’s blogs.
Be sure to tell your audience why they should sign up. How often will the emails be? What kind of content can they expect? Are there freebies, sneak-peaks, or even exclusive content only for subscribers? Or maybe there are behind-the-scenes looks at your writing process. There has to be a special hook, because at this point, we’re all jaded. Think about it: you don’t give your email out without a good reason, so neither will your clever, discerning would-be readers. Do your absolute best to stick to those promises, and remain consistent in your emails. You can collect tidbits throughout the month/week to include in your emails, so it isn’t a mad dash to throw something together come newsletter day.
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