March 3, 2016

Self Publishing? What’s Your Plan to Keep Readers?

Stick figure at a chalkboard with text: What's Your Reader Retention Plan?

It’s time once again for my monthly guest post over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. We’ve been exploring the choices for what path we want to follow in our indie publishing career, and today, we’re going to talk more about how to walk our chosen path.

My series about Indie Publishing Paths at Fiction University has highlighted some of the choices we have to make and given us a few guidelines for figuring out how to make the best decisions for us.

We started off talking about knowing our goals. There’s no end to the conflicting advice out there about self-publishing, and to add confusion, the “rules” from retailers and others change frequently. So we need to have an understanding of why we’re choosing certain paths so that we can adapt as the industry changes.

After we know our priorities, we might make different choices about distribution, release schedules, or pricing. I focused on each of those areas in the previous segment of the series, calling them the where, when, and how much of our decision process. Now let’s talk about how to make the most of those choices we made (or in the case of traditionally published authors, how to make the most of the choices their publisher made)…

Janice Hardy's Fiction University banner

During our discussions of what pricing strategy we might want to use for our books, we touched on when a freebie might help sales of our other (non-free) books. However, as we mentioned, that strategy works best if we engage those freebie readers right away.

Engaged readers will learn about our other books (potentially buying our other books) and will hopefully continue to be our readers into the future. As the advice goes, we sell this book with the packaging (cover, back-cover blurb, etc.) and this book sells the next book.

So whether we prioritize income or reader numbers—and whether we self-publish or have a publisher—we want to hold onto our readership.

Obviously, the first thing we have to do to keep our readership is write a great book. But we can also look at how we can keep readers engaged—even after they reach “The End” in our story.

The straightest path for holding onto readers is to lead them directly from one book to the next. In some cases, we might even mean that literally, as we include an excerpt for another book at the back of this book.

I didn’t get a chance to go into the pros and cons of including excerpts in my guest post this month, but I’ve discussed here before why excerpts might be a bad idea for certain kinds of series.

Also, as I mentioned in my post for Janice last month, excerpts can disappoint readers when the main story ends sooner than they expected. Luckily, we’re not limited to the excerpt option, and there are other ways we can lead readers to our other books, as well as ways to encourage them to engage with us.

I hope you’ll join me at Fiction University for this month’s post!

Do you read (or at least buy) other books from the author when you finish a story? What methods have you seen authors use to lead readers to their other books? Do some methods work better than others on you? Do you enjoy excerpts? Why or why not?

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You retain readers by getting them to “connect” with either your writing in a particular book or series, or with you as an author.

Before deciding how to “connect” with your audience, you must first define what you mean by “connect”.

Some folks just want to read—and this group is divided into:
1. those who want to read X (some specific thing, character type, worldview, etc.)
2. those who want to read not-X (some specific thing, character type, worldview, etc.)
3. those who just want to be entertained
4. those who just want to think

Well, to be read, you have to be available to be read. The current demographics of the generation that’s my primary audience = one reason I use Wattpad so heavily.

Then there are readers who want to connect with a person, be it an author or a character who feels like a friend or who they admire/respect. Wattpad gives me opportunities to advise and encourage others. More than one person has said I’m the reason they’ve resumed (or started) writing, themselves.

I have fans that I consider friends. I am a fan of some folks that I consider friends.

I want all those types of connections. Not everyone does, and the methods they use reflect that.

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