How to Go Beyond the Book and Engage Readers with Your Author Brand

by Ron Vitale

I would like to welcome guest blogger Dana Sitar to my blog. Dana is a freelance blogger and author of A Writer’s Bucket List: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket. In the following post, she's shared some great ideas for writers looking to engage readers in this ever-changing publishing world. Let's read on and I do hope you enjoy her post!

Regardless of whether you’re a novelist or a non-fiction author, when you share a book with readers, it becomes much more than just a single book.

A book can be the central piece that represents your brand as an author.

Your book will catch readers’ attention much more quickly than you as an author will. To many readers, your book is who you are, how they identify you, why they pay attention to anything else you do. That’s okay -- just make sure the book represents you the way you want to be represented, and use the attention it gets to your advantage. For example, you might be able to easily get readers interested in a book titled 12 Quick and Easy Ways to Make Money Online. But if your brand is actually focused on writing and publishing fiction, that book will send the wrong message and attract the wrong readers. Write the book that appeals to the readers you want, and figure out how to draw those readers to it.

Rather than build a community of followers and try to sell them your book, build a community around your book.

You don’t have to wait until you write the book to do this! In fact, you shouldn’t wait. Once your book is in production, begin building your audience around it. You can do that blatantly -- for example, by sharing your process with readers, posting samples of the story, revealing the cover, etc. Or, you can do it subtly, by shaping your brand around the central idea of the book and drawing readers into that. Choose what works best for you, but in general, I recommend the blatant approach for fiction and the subtle, brand-based approach for non-fiction.

How to use your book as a catalyst to engage readers with your brand

1. Create action prompts based on the book. Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, figure out what your readers love (or will love) about it, and take that beyond the book. Create activities, discussion, or games around it. For A Writer’s Bucket List, one thing readers say repeatedly is that they love how the book prompts them to try something new when they need motivation or inspiration. To that end, I created A Writer’s Bucket List Action Team, a writers group where we discuss the tasks in the book, and members get an action step every week to work toward crossing items off the list. We’ve also got a monthly Twitter chat to discuss various aspects of the writing life.

2. Engage readers with your main characters and themes through social media. If your book is fiction, you can pull out non-fiction themes to guide discussion groups and activities. Or you can engage readers with the main characters through social media! Make them speak through your Twitter feed and Facebook page, and create related boards on Pinterest for readers to get to know them. For non-fiction, ask questions to get readers talking about the information and issues in the book. For example, I draw on the “forge your own path” theme in A Writer’s Bucket List to engage readers on Facebook and Twitter with questions like, “What’s the biggest barrier you face to following your writing dreams?”

3. Make your book the central theme of your blog. Through your author blog, share your process, your successes, lessons learned, and updates on the publishing and writing process. You can also share excerpts from your work-in-progress to tease readers with your upcoming book. Or, like I’m preparing to do with A Writer’s Bucket List, launch a blog on the theme of your non-fiction book. Use blog posts and conversation with readers to expand on the ideas introduced in your book.

4. Go beyond the book; build a brand. Few authors make their living as authors. The income from books, even when it’s steady, is usually too low. If you want to make money as a career author, you’ll probably have to find other ways to expand on the themes in your book. You can be hired by others as a speaker, teacher, or consultant. You can build a business around your book by creating webinars (or old-fashioned live seminars and workshops) and courses on the topic, or selling related products like workbooks. If you’re a fiction author, your focus may be on helping others write fiction -- offer your services as a publishing coach, teach writing classes and workshops, etc. Or, maybe you can build a brand around the real-life issues in your book -- like one of my favorites, Jody Lamb, has done with her YA novel Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool and the issue of alcoholism in the family.

Use your book to launch your career as an author.

Some writers will spend their whole lives perfecting just one book, writing, polishing, and publishing it, and praying it succeeds. That’s a lot of pressure on a book! Think of your book as an important piece in your brand, rather than the be-all and end-all of your writing dreams, and you can launch a rich writing career that does far more than offer just a bit of entertainment or information for a few readers.  

About the Author

Dana Sitar is a freelance blogger and author of A Writer’s Bucket List: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket. Buy the book for Kindle this week, and get a bonus bundle of 6 free ebooks for writers!