Your mom is your number one fan, but is she your only fan?
As an author (and an artist), it’s important to surround yourself with people who will support your work. Not only will their encouragement motivate you to create more stories but it will also secure your financial future. People who love your writing are much more likely to buy your next book.
The purpose behind building a fan base isn’t to feed your vanity but to share your gifts with others, and hopefully, they will share their gifts (i.e. money) with you.
In this post, we’ll share tips on how to build a fan base from scratch. Let’s get started.
Don’t Think of Your Fans as “Fans”
Let’s start off by challenging the word “fan.”
“Fan” has a negative connotation. Short for fanatic, the word itself suggests that your supporter is a hopelessly devoted groupie. Almost like a stalker.
That description doesn’t match your average reader.
Your reader is more like a fellow genre aficionado. “Fellow” because you also love your chosen genre as well. They are interested in the same types of stories that you are. The principal difference is that you write it and they read it.
Your reader is also someone who appreciates the way that you tell stories. They have a natural affinity for your brand of storytelling. Because of this, your reader is similar to a friend. It’s better to think of them in that way, especially if you’re hoping to build authentic and longlasting relationships.
And since we’re on the subject, let’s also challenge the term “fan base.” Even though we’ll use the term in this post, think of your “fan base” as your community. A community is focused on meaningful engagement.
Where to Find Your Community
Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of building your community. Where do you find readers who are eager to read your stories? They don’t just appear after you’ve published your book. You’ve got to go out and find them, but how?
Start by defining your ideal reader.
- What is their age group?
- What genre(s) of books do they love?
- Who is their favorite author?
Then define your writing.
- In what genre is your book written? (This should match your reader’s preferred genre.)
- What is the age group of your protagonists?
- What/ who inspired your story?
- To what other books or authors would you like to be compared?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll have a good idea of which direction to go to find your people.
These days, the easiest place to find your people is on a social media community. You can go about this several ways:
By Age: Research which social media platform appeals the most to your target age group. Here’s a look at social media use by age in 2018 (the most recent year available). This can give you a good place to start building your base.
By Genre: To find people who enjoy a particular genre, check out groups by genre on Goodreads. You can also search for groups by the author on Goodreads. Get involved in the conversation by sharing your thoughts— but don’t promote your own work. At least, not immediately. Take the time to add something to the community before you ask for them to buy your book.
By Similar Title/ Author: To find people who are chatting about a particular book title or author, head to Twitter. Twitter’s use of hashtags makes it easy to find people who are interested in particular titles or authors.
You can attract these people by simply following them on Twitter. They’re going to take a peek at who’s following them so be sure that your Twitter page is set up to highlight yourself as an author. Link back to your website or book’s sales page and also have a tweet about your book pinned to the top of your feed.
By Subject Matter: If you’d like to find people who are interested in your books’ subject matter, search Facebook groups. You can also do a Google search for active groups or forums about the subject matter (for example, “true crime forum”).
Just like with any group, don’t immediately self-promote, but focus on exchanging ideas and networking with people in that community. Give more than you take.
Also, don’t pretend. Be who you are and use it to your advantage. As an author, you likely have a different perspective on a story or its characters. Because of your unique assessment, you may be able to pull in new readers.
Set Up Your Own Group
In addition to finding already formed groups and conversations, you can start one yourself. Build a community around your brand, book, genre, or subject matter. The easiest place to start is on Facebook.
Why Facebook? Everyone and their mama have an account on Facebook. That means that it is easily accessible for most folks. Plus, it’s free to create a fan group on Facebook.
And yes, it’s totally okay if you start your own “fan” page. You don’t have to call it that, after all. You can simply call it “Your Name” + Readers (i.e. Jason Jones Readers).
You then become the admin on your group page.
Once you’ve taken five minutes to create a group page, it’s time to start building your community. How? Follow these tips:
Link your Facebook group to your author page on Facebook. This allows people who find your author page to see your connected Facebook group.
Link to your Facebook group in your bio on other social media platforms, too. Do the same with your Amazon Author Page.
Add a link to your Facebook group page on your email signature.
Promote your Facebook group page on your website (on your contact page, on your sidebar, or as a special mention on a blog post).
Invite people to join your Facebook group whenever you’re interviewed or if you guest blog.
By the way, it’s also a good idea to encourage your Facebook community to join your email list. This way, you can continue to communicate with your community members, even if Facebook goes down.
Enter Writing Competitions
To build a community, you must expose yourself to others. A great way to do that is by entering writing contests.
Winning a writing contest, or even placing, is not about validation. You’re a writer as soon as you put words on a page and convince yourself that you are. You’re a good writer as long as you’re pushing yourself to be better.
Winning a writing contest is about getting folks to notice you. People who like your short-form fiction are definitely going to consider your novels and other literary works.
Here are a few writing contests to consider:
- Crucible: Poetry and Fiction Competition
- Drue Heinz Literature Prize
- The Iowa Short Fiction Award & John Simmons Short Fiction Award
- The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
- Young Lions Fiction Award
Add Your Contact Details to Your Book
After you publish your book, encourage your readers to find your online community.
If your book is in print, be sure to keep the link to your details as short and memorable as possible. In this case, use an easy-to-remember website address such as www.YourNameAuthor.com (i.e. www.JenniferJacobsAuthor.com). Then, on your home page, direct your visitors to your community page.
Don’t go yet! Check out these related posts for more information about building a community and increasing your exposure:
- How to Use Social Media to Market Your Book
- Crowdfunding for Authors: Should You Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Novel?
- How to Market Your First Book: 9 Tips You Need to Know