Cristina Deptula serves as executive director of the green social enterprise Authors, Large and SmallShe enjoys a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, from Bill Bryson to Toni Morrison to Abraham Verghese, and believes there is a place and an audience for every book.
In the American classic film Field of Dreams, the spirits urge Kevin Costner's character, "if you build it, they will come." Many emerging, and established, authors soon find, though, that it takes more to generate interest in their books online than simply creating a book, being ready to answer questions about it, and building a web and social media presence. Often, with so many new, quality titles available, writers need to go out and participate with their audience, where their readers are already gathering.
The first step towards doing that is to seek out communities of readers. These will likely be different from the places where you meet and network with fellow writers in your genre, which you should do as well. You can find these by searching for groups and fanpages on Facebook, and hashtags on Twitter. Try a query such as 'mystery lovers' or 'fans of international fiction.' You can also go to the fanpages and Twitter profiles of other authors in your genre and see what groups they, or their fans and followers, have joined and where they participate. A search for Pinterest boards, LinkedIn communities, or blogs for readers of your type of book could also prove worthwhile.
If you're not finding much in the way of readers' and fans' groups, or even if you are, you can branch out and find online groups on social media related to your book's themes and topics. Look up something related to events and circumstances in your book, such as immigration, or fathers and daughters, or adoption. For example, our client Michelle Carrithers, author of coming-of-age novel Summer Justice, covers thematic material that includes race and class, the bonds of family loyalty, and the criminal justice system. So we are seeking out hashtags and groups related to these issues and recommending her book, as part of our participation in the communities. And don't be afraid to get a little creative with this process. Even a character's pet, or favorite song or food can become a venue to interest someone.
Also, go beyond the usual book review blogs to find topical bloggers dealing with the subjects in your book. Ask around and look for the blogs your audience would read. For example, if your novel has a weather reporter as a main character, identify the main meteorology blogs that weather buffs would likely have bookmarked on their computers. Contact the blog owners and suggest they review your book - some bloggers appreciate the suggestion of new content! Make sure to read at least a few blog entries and leave comments first, though, so you don't seem like a spammer. And, please return the favor and make your email and contact information clearly visible on your author website so other writers can contact you and ask for reviews and mentions of their books.
You can always ask your audience, starting with the first couple of people who buy and read your books, where they find others who share their interests. We are starting to do that for several of the authors we work with. For example, Phil Siracusa's Horsefly Chronicles, a memoir of the writer's journey to heaven and hell and back, attracts spiritually minded people who may not belong to an established religion. Initial response from reviewers we have found suggests that the book has real potential and that his storytelling grabs their attention. We are planning to ask each person who enjoys Siracusa's book whether they have read other books with similar themes and where they found out about those other titles, and explore those venues for our own publicity. I would guess, based on our own connections and research, that those interested in spiritual and paranormal topics connect online or through radio shows or podcasts, but we will ask to find out more about how this interest group works.
When brainstorming potential venues for reaching your audience, remember to consider the level of tech savviness and interests of your readers. The average audience for some types of books might spend more time offline than on the Internet, and there are plenty of offline venues for publicity. You can reach out to libraries and local book clubs, offer your book as a donation to charity fundraisers, or give it as a gift to doctors, therapists and dentists for their waiting rooms. Don't forget to give your book out in person, even if your audience does congregate on the Internet. Meetup.com is a great website to find in-person social events in many cities. We are promoting Linda Baron-Katz' memoir Surviving Mental Illness: My Story, which relates how the author navigates life with bipolar syndrome, and the site has listed dozens of mental health, women's empowerment, and other related support groups within her zip code. And, again, think of where your readers would go - parents' clubs, survivors' organizations, windsurfing groups, etc rather than just choosing the largest groups or those which you personally find most interesting.
In upcoming columns, I plan to discuss how to make the most of networking in-person about your book: with friends and family, at writing conferences, at local interest-based groups and events, and at open mics and signings. What to say, and how to come across as genuine and confident, rather than pushy, while articulating your message and story.