Writer Wednesdays

Writer Wednesday – Building An Audience From Scratch

Building an audience is one of the most important aspects of writing. As a writer, you can do this yourself or hire a marketing manager, but if you are just starting out and you’re not yet earning a full-time salary, you might not be able afford to outsource that.

If you are an indie author, know that small presses can only do so much to help you gain exposure, due to limited resources. The rest is left on the shoulders of the author to build a brand. Undertaker Books is committed to indie authors and helping them succeed, whether they are signed with us, another press, or even self-publishing–that’s why we do these posts!

Here is the truth in the matter… There is no wrong way to market, except not marketing.

Here are a few nuggets of information that will help you get started building an audience and a brand:

Start with a website: This can be a free WordPress or Wix site; it also can be a blog on Substack. It doesn’t have to cost money, unless you have money to spend. Most new authors do not, so start with a free option; you can upgrade later. You need a place for readers to visit to learn about you. All authors should have a website. Period.

Create an email list: Find a company that allows you to build a reader list. Sites like Substack, which are free, have one already built into it. I also recommend Mailerlite. They have a free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers. Why pay until you are ready for the big leagues?

Write a reader magnet: A reader magnet is a piece of writing you give away in exchange for an email address. Email addresses are golden. While readers can unsubscribe as soon as they sign up to get your free book, that number is minimal, especially if they like your writing. Many authors will give away a short story, a novelette, or novella. Some may give away something from their back catalog, possibly a novel, that isn’t really earning much money anymore in the marketplace*. 

Give your work away: There are a couple of ways to give away your work in exchange for an email address, but the easiest and most simple way is to join a place like Bookfunnel. This does cost money, but the ROI on it cannot be beat. You list your book on Bookfunnel, join a few promos and author exchanges or swaps. When someone downloads your book, the system collects each email address and you can then export them and import them into your mail list. There are also Facebook groups that you can post to, but by joining Bookfunnel, you can just link your free book in all the groups instead of manually collecting email addresses. Spend more time writing instead of doing the administration aspects of the writer biz.

Publish your newsletters: The collection process may be slow, so don’t think you need to write a newsletter every week or even every two weeks. As you collect emails, start with a once-a-month newsletter to check in with your readers. Give them an update on what you are working on, plus if you have a back catalog of work available for them to purchase, send them to Amazon or wherever you sell your books. Don’t slam them with sales. Tell a funny story…talk about a character, or your WIP. Readers want to connect with an author, not see spam on what to purchase. As your readership builds, you might want to increase the number of emails… but at the same time, if you are a slow producer of work, you might want to keep it to once a month. There is nothing I hate more than reading an author’s newsletter about spending the day with their significant other and getting no new information on their writing.

*Earlier, I mentioned why sometimes you may give a full novel away. If you have books that are sitting on Amazon and not earning you any money, they are considered dead for the most part, but they are not buried. Bring them back to life by offering them as a reader magnet, especially if you have access to formatting and your backmatter can be updated. By offering a dead title, you bring your work to new readers, and at the end of the book, your backmatter should link to other titles to purchase. Even if you can not adjust the backmatter, you are exchanging the dead book for gold. If it’s no longer selling on Amazon, it’s collecting metaphorical dust. Email addresses are live people who thought the story sounded good to them. Use those email addresses to expose readers to your new work, or even other dead titles in your back catalog.

Repeat: There are only so many people on FB or Bookfunnel, and a lot of them are watching the same promotions or groups. If you continuously promote the same book, it will lose steam. If I didn’t like the premise once, I won’t like it the next twenty times you share it so I won’t sign up. Write another short story with the plan to give it away. Repeat the process of giving it away, as well as offering it to your current readers as a thank you for sticking around. 

In less than two years, this practice has earned me 1600+ subscribers, and many of them are die-hard readers now because they like my work now that they have seen it. By doing this yourself, you will learn who your dedicated followers are and they will provide you with great reviews if you reach out to them during the ARC process. Author/reader connections are so important. Your publisher can only do so much; the rest is on you.

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