Having loyal readers can make it easier for an author to sell subsequent books. While reader loyalty is primarily fostered from the love of an author’s books, it can also be cultivated through online engagement. Getting readers to engage online takes time and effort, which may not yield immediate revenue, and the ROI of these efforts can be difficult to measure. However, there can be significant long-term gains from having loyal fans who are willing to preorder, review, and enthusiastically tell their friends about a book. In fact, 84% of readers purchase books because they’re by an author they already like.
So how can authors engage with their existing readers online? Here are some creative ideas we’ve seen authors employ. We hope these ideas help you brainstorm some new ways to interact with your own readers, so you can test which strategy would be most successful for engaging your unique audience.
1. Ask for fans’ opinions
One creative way to engage with fans that takes minimal effort is to post a question asking their opinion, even if it’s not directly related to a book. This can make readers feel appreciated and engaged with the author’s online persona. Consider pairing the question with an image — Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than those without images, and Buffer recently found that its tweets with images get 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets.
Daniel Arenson frequently posts interesting trivia, photos, and videos relevant to his target audience of sci-fi/fantasy readers on Facebook, and often asks for his fans’ opinions, usually pairing his question with a relevant image. These posts usually get dozens of comments (if not more!), as fans love sharing their thoughts — and when it’s time for Daniel to promote his books, they pay attention.
Diana Gabaldon often asks for her fans’ opinions. Once she shared a review which sparked a debate, and asked her Facebook followers to chime in with their opinions.
2. Run discounts to encourage reviews
Reviews are a valuable form of reader engagement, since they can help convince other prospective readers to buy a book. In order to get more reviews, many authors discount their book and update their back matter to ask readers to leave a review. Our data shows that this is an effective strategy — 70% of authors who discounted a book and ran a Featured Deal saw increased measures of exposure, such as reviews, Facebook likes, and email list sign-ups. And 84% of authors who asked readers for a review in their back matter saw an increase in reviews.
Mark Dawson explained the importance of reviews in the back matter of The Cleaner, asking his readers to consider leaving an honest review.
Kelly Oram encouraged readers to review her novella Sixteen Kisses in its back matter. Like Dawson, she explained why reviews are helpful for her.
Authors have also had success getting reader reviews with other strategies, including asking in their mailing lists, on their social media pages, and asking their street teams, among others. Check out our guide to getting more reader reviews for more.
3. Run a creative author Q&A
Colleen Hoover encouraged fans to ask her questions for a combination Q&A and contest — each fan who asked a question would be entered to win a signed copy of her latest book. She coupled this with an image to catch readers’ eyes. As you can see from her comment, this was an off-the-cuff promotion, as she’d been planning a Facebook Live Q&A. But despite the last-minute change, this post had 1.6K comments and 1.2K reactions!
Veronica Roth hosted an Instagram Live Q&A about her books in the Divergent series. She allowed her fans to ask her nearly anything about her books. She included time stamps so viewers could easily navigate (and avoid spoilers), and later reposted the video on Facebook — which earned an additional 6.1k views.
Victoria Aveyard hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, allowing fans of her Red Queen series to interact with her directly. Aveyard’s thread received over 200 comments, from plot questions to writing tips to questions about her own literary and entertainment preferences!
4. Interact with fans through BookBub Recommendations
When you recommend a book, your recommendation will be featured on the book’s page on BookBub.com. Recommending will also make you eligible to be included in a readers blog post, and get you suggested to readers who recommended the same book, among other perks! Readers also get a notification when an author likes or comments on their recommendations, which helps authors build relationships with their fans.
R.E. Hargrave took the time to thank a fan for their review of Ribbons &Os.
5. Use videos to make interactions more personal
Video is a great way to grab readers’ attention and engage with them in a personal way. Buffer and BuzzSumo found that 81% of 2018’s 500 most popular Facebook posts were videos, and according to Twitter, tweets with videos attract 10 times more engagement. While creating videos might seem like a lot of work, many engaging videos from authors are under one minute long and are not professionally produced — fans seem to love them!
Emily Giffin published this casual video asking fans for ideas on what she should write her next book about. This was a great way for her to make her fans feel involved in her writing process!
6. Run a trivia contest
Trivia contests can be a great way to engage existing fans who’ve already read a particular book. Becky Albertalli ran a trivia contest for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda on Tumblr, where the winner would receive a free ARC of her next novel, The Upside of Unrequited. Participants needed to email their responses to Becky, and each correct answer was worth four points. Read more details about the rules here.
“I love to design special swag or run creative contests for prize giveaways. I’m not sure these efforts directly reach new readers, but it’s really important to me to let my existing readers know how important they are to me. This [trivia contest] got a really good response, and I think that was mostly because people liked being challenged (i.e. more about the process than the prize).” — Becky Albertalli
7. Get fans to create teaser images
Want to crowdsource some book marketing assets? Run a contest where fans need to submit teaser designs as their entry! This can be fun for loyal readers who want to show off their design skills.
In Kate Canterbary’s street team group on Facebook, one of the moderators announced a “Create a Teaser Contest”. She provided two quotes from one of Kate’s books and encouraged participants to post their entries in the comments. Other group members could vote on their favorites to choose a winner.
This contest resulted in a bunch of creative entries!
8. Run a giveaway that requires entrants to tell a story of their own
Having giveaway entrants “like” or share/retweet a post is an easy form of entry, but their friends might find actual content from them more interesting (and might chime in as well!). Plus, posts with more comments tend to get more reach on Facebook. So consider getting participants to tell you something about themselves.
As part of her Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway, Debbie Macomber asked participants to tell her about their favorite Christmas story from their childhood for a chance to win. This post got more than 1.6K comments, where many fans shared what their favorite Christmas story was, and why.
9. Host a fan art contest
Hosting a fan art contest can be a great way to get loyal fans to feel more involved in the creative process for a book — and can also help you gather some great artwork to share on social media to build buzz. V.E. Schwab and her publisher Macmillan launched a fan art contest for A Gathering of Shadows where participants submitted fan art for its predecessor A Darker Shade of Magic for a chance to win an ARC. Participants submitted their art via an online form, and Macmillan created a Tumblr page to display all of the entries here.
Another way to collect entries is to create a hashtag, so participants can post their own artwork on Instagram and Twitter, and you can easily find them. This can be a great way to get fan art more exposure. Hoddersscape launched a fan art contest for the Wayfarers series asking participants to add a picture to Instagram or Twitter using the #WayfarerFanArtComp hashtag.
Readers sometimes make unsolicited fan art, especially around the time of a new release. Fan art outside of a contest is still free content and a good way to engage readers, so keep an eye out for it.
10. Run a scavenger hunt giveaway
Running online scavenger hunts can be a fun way to get existing fans (and new ones!) to learn more about your books while vying for freebies.
Kate Brauning, a YA author and editor at Entangled Publishing, ran a giveaway where participating readers needed to follow the #EntangledBookHunt hashtag on Twitter to see her questions. They could find the answers by visiting specific pages on her website. Several authors published by Entangled Teen also participated in the hashtag by answering people’s questions.
Here is one of Kate’s tweets promoting the giveaway:
Here are the instructions Kate posted to her website (read the full giveaway announcement here):
This Twitter scavenger hunt had a ton of participation, which you can see by scrolling through the hashtag here.
11. Create a reader community
Giving fans a dedicated community space can help them feel more connected to a book and author. While these communities might only have a few dozen fans (though some have hundreds or thousands!), those who participate often become loyal advocates for the author. Many authors and publishers use Facebook groups to house these communities.
Megan Erickson created a group called Meg’s Mob where fans can gather to chat. One of the perks of membership is interacting with Megan in a closed setting. She sometimes runs live video chats to answer fans’ questions. Here’s a post where Megan asks fans when they’re available for a live video chat:
She also regularly posts asking for members’ opinions on books and a variety of other topics (with themed days of the week, like “Wild Wednesday”)!
Authors, how else have you successfully engaged with your readers online? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to share this post? Here are ready-made tweets:
Click to tweet: Check out these creative ways authors have boosted online engagement — and created a more loyal fanbase in the process #bookmarketing #pubtip http://bit.ly/2AwBaQi
Click to tweet: Have you used any of these strategies to boost reader engagement online? http://bit.ly/2AwBaQi #bookmarketing
This post was originally published on December 6, 2017.