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Connecting with your readers, especially in the time of technology and indie publishing, is a crucial way to gain a readership for your work. Some very successful indie authors such as Ksenia Anske, Hugh Howey and Chuck Wendig have built their readership through social media, and still maintain personal contact with readers on a regular basis. Even authors such as John Green and Stephen King have active Twitter accounts. It’s especially important to connect with readers as a fledging author, because those fans will be the ones who review your book, share it, comprise your street                                                                                   teams, and champion your work.

Here are some great ways to connect with readers and build a personal, lasting relationship with fans:

1. Website

Your website is a great way to connect with readers, and perhaps the best way to do so without actually meeting in person. You can design your site to evoke your style, as well as to share blog posts, add pictures of yourself, and update readers on how your writing is going. Hugh Howey has a sidebar on his website with all of his current projects and their word counts listed. This is a great way to not only receive encouragement from readers to continue working on them, but also to increase anticipation for upcoming books.

2. Conventions

Many of my indie writer friends (Ksenia Anske and S.C. Barrus, to name a few) frequent conventions such as the latest OryCon in Oregon to meet potential readers, other writers, and make sales. Ksenia is known to wear tutus and dance up to new people, enticing them with her free spirit and silly attitude. Be yourself, have fun, and I guarantee readers will love you for it.

3. YouTube videos

Filming videos are a favorite of mine—I’ve made five to date since this summer, I believe. The reason I’m such a strong believer in posting YouTube videos is because readers really enjoy putting a face to a name, as well as to see what your voice sounds like, how you carry yourself, etc. I know I do. Hugh Howey has posted numerous videos, and it’s really helped me to feel like I know him better and made that much more of a dedicated fan. You can talk about writing, or your life, or even do something silly (I made a video about my “first and worst kiss,” because I’d promised to do so if I received 10 subscribers in an allotted time). My “kiss video” is one of my most popular videos so far, and I’ve heard great things about my candidness from readers.

Here’s the link if interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxjpulTKXHY

4. Book Signings

Here is another option to connect with readers in person, while also selling books. I don’t have a lot of experience in this arena being a debut author, but I do know some local bookstores are open to indie authors holding signings at their locations, and usually the author does a reading from the book as well. Indie author Ksenia Anske has done two readings in local bookstores, and reported turnouts of more than 30 people on her blog.

Not to mention that those who are browsing the store during your signing may come by to see what is going on, which could potentially mean a new reader for you. Just remember to bring numerous writing utensils for signing your books, to dress nicely, and have fun!

5. Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts are also a great way to connect with readers in numerous ways. One option is to do a “Live Hangout” so that readers can actually join in on a conversation you are having live (with a video feed) and comment, or even link their own camera for a video chat, if you enable that option. Also, once the Live Hangout is over, the video has been automatically recorded and turned into a YouTube video so that it can be watched and shared at a later time by readers.

6. Reddit forums

I’m not too familiar with Reddit, but it is a forum/website where links can be posted, discussions had, and other content commented on by anyone visiting the site. Hugh Howey has held numerous “discussions” about his work on Reddit during designated times, when readers could communicate with him about his books and have candid discussions that others could join in on. This is another great way to meet and connect with an audience, and perhaps a more male one due to Reddit seeming to have a strong male following.

7. Twitter hashtag parties

Twitter hashtag parties are events you can schedule online when readers can link into a conversation or cause by using a specific hashtag. You can schedule designated times for these, such as your book launch day with the hashtag of your title (for instance, my book “The Charismatics” is releasing on December 13th and I will encourage friends/readers who live in other places and cannot attend my launch party to join in online with #TheCharismatics), or perhaps just another discussion you want to get started surrounding you and an event.

8. Blogging about/sharing personal stuff

Author blogs are chockfull of different info for readers. Some focus on writing, some focus on book reviews, and some focus on the publishing industry as a whole. Every so often however, a personal post that doesn’t have much to do with writing/your work can really warm the hearts of readers. Struggling with a breakup? Illness in the family? Discouragement about your writing? Share it with people, because I can guarantee that others have dealt with similar hardships as well. Divulging this information in a way that is personal (but not whiny) makes you human, and likeable. Possibly offer ways that you have overcome these issues, so that readers still feel they have “gained” something from the post and not that it is a “complaining journal entry.” Ksenia Anske has posted on her blog about her struggles growing up in Soviet Russia, and it has endeared many readers to her and her cause (myself included) and grown a supportive, loving readership for her because of it.

9. Instagram pics

Instagram is another way to connect with readers, by sharing what your daily life includes and things you’ve been up to. This is another great way to be “human” in your readers’ eyes. Why do so many celebrities have Instagram, with thousands upon thousands of followers? Because people want to SEE what you are doing. Having a great hair day? Share it. Watching a beautiful sunset? Share it. Just got your debut novel in the mail from CreateSpace? SHARE IT! (I have done all three, to positive responses).

The main takeaway here when it comes to connecting with readers is this—be yourself, and let people in. Readers want to know you, because if they feel like they know you and LIKE YOU, there’s a much higher chance that they will buy your books and give them rave reviews.

Until next time, keep writing and keep dreaming!