“Hello, my name is Aberdeen and I would like to sell you a handy-dandy new—“
In case you’re wondering, that was the sound of a door slamming in my face. I can’t begin to list all the mistakes in the above sales pitch—it’s too salesy and annoying—but the main problem with it is that it’s impersonal. I could have been pitching my product to a grumpy old man or a T. Rex with dental problems. A writer needs to know who they’re selling to, and the best way to do that is by getting to know your audience one on one. Isn’t your friend more apt to buy your latest book than that random person you passed by at Walmart?
How to Connect with Your Reader Base on a Personal Level
Connecting with people isn’t easy when you’re an introvert who doesn’t like people. So here are some ways to turn strangers into comrades so you’ll stop disliking them (and if you’re an extrovert, make you like them even more).
• Respond to their comments. When I say respond to readers’ comments, I don’t mean “Thank you for reading!”* Sure, if you want to respond with a ten second reply to the people who have taken ten minutes out of their week to follow your blog, go ahead. If you want to be politely impolite, I’m fine with that. But if you want to connect with them, try putting some thought into your response. Ask them a question, scream over their excitement, laugh at their wit. People are much more likely to keep commenting if they feel like they’re getting a personal response back.
• Read their blogs. Note I said read, not follow. Yes, you should follow them, but if you don’t read their posts, you’ll have no idea of what they’re like. They are your fans, become their fan. Comment when you can, like their posts, and link back to their blog when applicable.
• Follow them back on social media. If someone has the audacity to stalk you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, why not stalk them back? Stalk enough people and you might be able to start your own stalkers club. Interact with them through email, social, media, and more.
• Let them see the real you. A handshake isn’t enough to make somebody your friend. A simple “Hi, my name is” won’t build bonds. You must be willing to show your audience your true colors. Your quirks, your beliefs, bad habits, favorite things, pet peeves—after all, a friend isn’t someone who knows everything about you, but who wants to know everything about you. So give your readers what they want by giving them you.
• Be friendly. This should be obvious, but you won’t gain any friends if you’re aloof, rude, or dismal (eeyore excluded of course). Be nice to people. Talk to them, smile (or in the case of writing, add emojis), be open and helpful. Don’t hide in your box, introduce yourself and ask them what their name is!
• Let them be a part of the process. Friends are often our advisers and fellow conspirators. We like hearing from them and having them participate in our projects. It brings you closer. Don’t be afraid to show readers what you are working on and ask for their thoughts.
• Remember to be genuine. You may want them to be your friends so they’ll buy your books, but that motive won’t build lasting relationships. These are your friends too, so you shouldn’t look at them with dollar symbols. They are people with fears, hopes, and dreams like you. Be caring towards them and use your words to help them. And if you happen to get rich doing it, well, that’s not your fault.
Don’t Overdue It
These people are your friends, but life is more than just friends—there’s family, your health, career, ministry, and many other things that make our life into a rounded one. And, at some point, your reader base is going to grow large enough you won’t possibly be able personal interact with them all and if you tried, you’d never be able to finish your book. Then your readers would become your enemies because they are dying to know what’s going to happen to your characters.
You may not be able to respond to every comment, read every post, or follow every new follower—and that’s okay.
You have a life and a career; people can’t expect you to give them every fleeting moment of your time. Golly, if I read every blog of everyone who followed me, I’d be following a hundred blogs! If they each posted every week, and it takes me five minutes to read each post, that’d be over five hours (and that doesn’t include commenting). Instead, I choose to read my loyalist followers, and out of those I pick a few to comment on whereas the others I simply read.
You know what you can handle, so don’t try going up to every person and shaking their hand. It’s awkward and will wear you out. Do what works best for you, and if these people are really your friends, they’ll understand and respect that.
Sell by not Selling
“Hello, my name is Aberdeen. I eat books and sit on people. What do you enjoy doing?” Will more likely get the person interested than a sales pitch. They see you as a friend coming to visit instead of a person interrupting their favorite tv show. You’ll notice though, I’m not trying to sell the person anything, I’m simply introducing myself and telling them a bit about me. That’s because the best way to sell something is by not trying to sell it. Instead, you let them get to know your lovable personality and that will make them want to read your lovable books.
*This does not include those people who simply write “I love this post!” After all, you can’t very well respond with, “of course you do, because I wrote that post and I’m brilliant.”