Building Your Community as an Author

To finish up this series on investments to make as an author, I want to talk about building relationships through your author career. Relationships are another integral part of succeeding as an author, in all areas, so let’s talk about what kinds of relationships you need and how to build them up effectively.

Building Relationships With Readers

There are multiple ways to connect with readers, but the most obvious way is through books. Joining reader groups can be a great way to find the right readers for your book. Join groups that discuss the genres, categories, and styles of books that you write. (I’ve recently found the “Lorehaven Guild” on Discord a great place to chat about books and storytelling.) Participate in conversation, discuss books that are similar to yours, etc. Connect with like-minded readers on social media and engage with their posts. Make your own posts about books you’re enjoying.

You can do the same thing with things like TV shows and movies, as well, and find readers whose media preferences overlap with the content of your book(s).

Of course, you can connect with readers through your books. Your books introduce you as an author, whether readers find your book before your platform or they find you talking about your book on your platform, and you can take advantage of that to make sure that readers know what to expect and know why they should care about you and your work. This is where you want to connect with them and make yourself recognizable to the readers who want what you have to offer.

I spent 6 months hyping up Calligraphy Guild by highlighting exactly what kind of book it is and how my personal values went into making it what it is. I was therefore able to connect with readers who share those values and are looking for the kind of book that I wrote with Calligraphy Guild. I talked about my love for music, the value of being counter-cultural, the value of community, the fact that Calligraphy Guild is slow-paced and character-driven, the fact that it bypasses a lot of common YA tropes to highlight strong relationships, etc., etc.

You can also discuss non-media topics related to your book. To use Calligraphy Guild as an example again, I might start conversations about tea, dragons, writing, community, the arts in general, etc. Discuss things you find interesting, and interests that have made their way into your books.

Once you’ve connected with people, you can determine whether they’re the right audience for your book and, if so, find more natural opportunities for recommending your book than if you were just trying to market it “into the void,” so to speak, via social media and the like. You’ll know you’re talking to the right people, and they’ll know, like, and trust you when you recommend they try your book (as well as future books you publish).

Part of the trick is then to maintain those relationships and not let them just fade away after you’ve promoted your book, only to reappear when you have a new book to offer. This should go without saying, but build relationships for the sake of the people, not just for the sake of your book. This doesn’t mean you have to message all of the people you’ve met on a weekly basis or something, but you do want to keep commenting on their stuff, checking in now and then, etc. And these are the sorts of people you’ll want to invite onto your mailing list, as well, so that you can keep connecting with them through your newsletter emails.

Building Relationships With Fellow Authors

It can be easy at times to envy fellow authors and see them as competition, but resist that urge. You need authors just as much as you need readers. Building relationships with authors will help you to find critique partners, endorsers (authors who write positive review blurbs to print on your book), reviewers, and people who can share your books with their own audience of readers.

Join groups of like-minded authors where you can exchange feedback and discuss the craft. Engage with authors on social media and through their newsletters. Go to conferences if you’re able. Reach out to authors directly to thank them for their books or share what you appreciate about them. Reach out once you have your own book and invite people to participate in promo for your book (having done your research so you can explain why they’re the right fit for your book), whether requesting an endorsement, review, or just that the author share your book link and graphics.

And hey, guess what. Authors like a lot of the same things readers do, and they’re human just like you. Even bigger-name authors are really not as scary to reach out to as you think they are. (In my experience, it’s scarier if you get ahold of an author’s agent than if you talk to the author themselves. But maybe I’ve just gotten the scary agents, lol.) So if fear is holding you back, kick it to the curb and reach out anyway; the worst an author can say is “no.”

Building Relationships With Other Artists

I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other artists and the like when I put together my Calligraphy Guild book box. That was a really expensive project and I don’t think I would normally recommend it to authors early in their careers because there’s no guarantee whatsoever that it’ll return on the financial investment (full disclosure: mine hasn’t), but for me it was a great experience to shape my own team of artists and put together a box of goodies for readers, and I’m glad that I had the money to do that for Calligraphy Guild. If you do have the funds, character art and the like are great for getting to know new artists and potentially connect with them as readers as well as artists.

You can connect with artists for cover art, character art, bookmark designs, promo graphics, custom products like candles and teas, etc., etc. Think outside the box and consider mediums that coordinate with your book.

Building Relationships With Other Professionals

Other artists aren’t the only professionals to build relationships with. As discussed in the first post in this series, building a rapport with a quality editor is one great long-term investment to make. And as you look for that perfect fit editor, you’ll probably work with several editors who aren’t such a good fit for you, and you’ll build relationships with them, too; even if they’re not right for your book, they might be perfect for a friend’s book, they might still be willing to help with the promo of your book once it’s ready, or they might just turn out to be a good friend.

Virtual assistants are another group of professionals you might work with. If that term is foreign to you, a virtual assistant is someone who helps with your “virtual” presence–your social media, sometimes your newsletter, etc. A VA helps you with your online content so that your time can be freed up for things like… writing. VAs aren’t for everyone, but VAs are also adaptable, so sometimes even if you don’t want to hand over all of your social media content to an assistant you can still get their help with the tedious work of scheduling posts (for example). Regardless, VAs are great to build relationships with, whether you intend to work with one down the road or you want to know who to recommend to other author friends who ask. (Speaking of VA recommendations, I have an email going out tomorrow highlighting a couple of my VA friends, so sign up if you’re interested in learning more!)

Book/business coaches are also great to work with! Some specialize in particular genres (like Nicole Whisler who does fantasy novel coaching) or aspects of the writing process (like Andrew Wall who does worldbuilding coaching), while others work more generally or focus on business more than the craft of writing itself. Again, it’s great to build relationships with people who have this kind of expertise, whether you purchase their coaching services or not; they’re great contacts to have for other authors, for book promo, for questions outside of a coaching context (if they have an online group or newsletter), etc. And, going back to the obvious point of building relationships for the people, not the opportunities, they’re just great people! I’ve personally spoken to three writing coaches (these two and one I’ve worked with on a more regular basis, Abigail Hays), and they have all been fantastic to work with, incredibly personable, passionate about what they do, encouraging, thoughtful, etc. and I’m very grateful for the relationships I’ve been able to start and build up!

How have you built up your community as an author? Comment below! And let me know if a newsletter covering some places to find fellow authors and readers would be of interest. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t already!)

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