How does an author connect to readers and what does that really mean?
There are many answers to this question depending upon the author, the size of their following and any public relations support they have. Do they live in a city like Las Vegas, Nevada where population of the city and surrounding area is well over 2,000,000, a big city like Los Angeles, California with population near 4,000,000 or a small town like Algona, Iowa where the population doesn’t quite reach 6,000.
Is the author a small fish in a big pond, or a humungous fish in a small pond. More on point, is the published author someone who “writes, too,” or a local celebrity? Big city vs. small town. Today’s column is an eye-opener for independently published authors, first-timers and those who are published by a small or medium press and are seeking more visibility. Book signings, participating in panels or giving talks or workshops, and networking through book clubs and writers groups is important, but you can cast a wider net. Among the many internet sites, there is a website caled Library Thing.
What is Library Thing?
Based in Portland, Maine it is a web application for storing and sharing book catalogs and various types of book metadata. Developed by Tim Spalding, Library Thing went live on August 29, 2005. As of April 2011 it has over 1,300,000 users, more than 61 million books catalogued and is used by individuals, authors, libraries and publishers. Library Thing encourages reader reviews of new books. Yep, the readers you as an author aspire to reach. For the most part they aren’t trained or professional reviewers.
They are the folks who scan a monthly list of books and decide what they want to read. Many of the reviews are not slick or gushing. Rather, these reviews are the true reactions of readers who selected your book from a list of many. For the author or publisher, there is a small catch. You have to donate these review copies in either paperback, eBook, Kindle or PDF. Many readers will choose the paperback, but as reader devices gain popularity, so do electronic copies.
Books by high profile authors and big publishers are offered to the Early Reviewers, but so are books by independent, small and medium presses and authors. The software tabulates the number of requests for each book and it shows on the site. The minimum amount of copies available for review is fifteen and there is a new list monthly. Often far larger amounts are offered. Some books generate thousands of requests, others a minor amount. A drawing is held and the author or publisher is notified of the lucky reviewers who won a copy. They send the review copies to the winners. In turn, the reviewer is committed to post one or many reviews.
What I learned by submitting some books.
Last year I submitted one eBook for review. When I received the list of winners, I promptly emailed them the eBook with a quick note that said, “Here is the book you won. I hope you enjoy it.” That was the extent of my personal contact with the reader. I was inexperienced at this type of outreach, and didn’t even start a mailing list for future communications. After sending the book I looked for the reviews. Not everyone reviewed the book–I’m not sure why. The majority were good, but a few weren’t.Those people said things that surprised me and I did contact them with a friendly email saying I was curious about their reaction and explained some points they questioned.
It is important to realize that if the majority of people who read the book don’t have that reaction you questioned, it’s possible something affected the reader from a personal aspect, or perhaps it just wasn’t their kind of book. For example, someone focused on blood-spattering action adventure isn’t that likely to love a book about an amateur sleuth who mostly bakes cookies but bumbles into solutions. They struggle through, waiting for something blood curdling to happen, then say they found the book boring. If they don’t qualify the comment with the fact that it isn’t their cup of tea, it leaves the author wondering.
Connecting with the reader.
Last month’s Library Thing offering included copies of Devil’s Dance and The Devil’s Due, my romantic suspense books written as Arliss Adams, and my new Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction.
I wrote a long note to the winners of the Arliss Adams books explaining that I was Morgan St. James writing under a pen name, why I was inspired to write the books and included a prequel that is not published. So far, the return response from those who received the books was warm and gratifying. I truly wanted their reaction to my books, and thought it was important to give them some background and more information.They thanked me for my note, the opportunity to review the books and the extra information. By writing more than “here it is,” I’d become a person, not just a name without personality.
As for Writers’ Tricks of the Trade, my note explained my background, how I’d come to write fiction, give talks and workshops and ultimately write the book. I told them what I hoped it would do for them as a handy reference. Many wrote back to tell me that after receiving my note, the book had moved to the top of their reading list.
The gratification and knowledge that comes from personal contact
We all have busy schedules. It is no secret that more hours in a day or a few extra hands would really help. Despite that, one of the best things you as an author can do is to take that extra time to let your readers know you care. They are taking the time to read your books–you should give back by taking time to personalize a note.
It is important to me to know how I’ve touched people. Whether it is positive or negative, I always look forward to the feedback. I want to share highlights of a note I received yesterday about the Arliss Adams books. This reader’s review is already on Amazon. He only received the books two days ago and would never have found them if it weren’t for Library Thing. Be sure to visit their website.
John Reese said he was “not good in English and hoped his writing would pass.” It did more than pass. It grabbed my heartstrings. John said he was born in the same year as Jen Connor, the protagonist, and had saved a woman from rape. He went on to say, “Without this book I would never have met Jenny and since I am caregiver there times I could reach out and hug Jenny myself. I hate to see a woman cry. I have very large shoulders to cry on.”
I immediately sent a thank you email, wiped a tear from my eye and logged on to Amazon to read his reviews.
MORGAN ST. JAMES is an author, speaker and columnist based in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Writers’ Tricks of the Trade appears every Friday in the Los Angeles edition and every Thursday in the Las Vegas edition. The columns are generally different in each city. On Tueday and Wednesday she Spotlights local or visiting authors, organizations, events in both areas.
FOR MORE INFORMATON visit the NEW http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com, www.morganstjames-author.com, www.silversistersmysteries.com, and http://morgan-stjames.blogspot.com