There’s nothing she loves more than connecting with her readers, which is why I asked her to sit down and answer some questions about author/reader relationships.
Melissa, what do you think defines a good author/reader relationship?
I think a number of things come into play. As an author, we have to think about how to engage the reader. The goals is to keep them turning the pages, and to leave them craving more. Without knowing every reader personally, it leaves a lot on the table for interpretation (guesswork?). I think a good reader/author relationship (when we don’t know the reader) would be built on trust. The reader has to trust that the author will deliver a solid, entertaining read, while keeping in the general confines of what we have written prior. That doesn’t mean genre, but rather style of writing. The author builds trust based on writing well.
Then, assuming an author already has written a quality book, what can new authors do to gain this trust? Or to even get readers to give them a chance in the first place?
I think it’s important to remember why we write. Some write for money, but I think most write because they want their stories to be read. As a new author, the goal is to get your books out to readers, so for every review that you receive, offer to give away books. Every blog tour, every promotional event. That doesn’t have to be a pricey adventure. Giving away ebooks works just as well. Connecting with other authors to do a “buy this book, receive this one for free” also works to help spread the word. Working with bloggers is an excellent way to do this.
New authors should take every opportunity they can to write articles, answer interviews, and appear at in-person event. No one will sell your book like you will.
Have you ever experienced any truly unique or touching moments with a reader?
OMG way too many to list. When I published Megan’s Way, readers connected with the loss of a loved one. I have had readers email me with such heartfelt stories of their lives, such hope and thankfulness for someone finally “getting” what they meant when they said they “felt” the presence of their loved ones. Every one of those emails and conversations touched me beyond words. I have become very good friends with many of those readers.
I read every email I receive, and I receive pages and pages each day. I read every tweet, FB message, and answer phone calls. Connecting with readers is the biggest bonus of being a reader. We get to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, and all of it touches me. Someone took the time to read what I’ve written and to track me down. Priceless.
Do you think there is a line an author can cross with a reader that they shouldn’t? If so, what is that line?
Another great question. I’m not really sure. I think that depends on the reader and author.
Do you think, with today’s technology, all of the social media sites and networking online, that authors today can develop stronger relationships with readers than those before us? Or do you think this form of media lacks a certain personalization. If so, then how can an author prevent this?
I see it both ways. I think, without a doubt, we have more access to readers than ever before, which opens the door for wonderful relationships. This also opens the door for less writing time, because if you’re truly connecting (and not paying someone to do it for you), it does take time.
The only way to not lose the sense of personalization is to be present. Readers are smart, and they’re people, like you and me. No one likes a brush off, or to be ignored. It’s hard to find that line to draw in the sand of claiming your writing or family time while connecting with readers, but it can be done.
One might consider having an author chat day each week, when readers can count on conversing with the living/breathing author.
It seems (to me anyway) that a lot of Indie authors, the are much more personal in their online presence and relationships with readers. The reader can get to know the author and not just their books, whether it be through their blog, Facebook, or twitter. This personalization seems to be something a lot of the popular, traditionally published, authors lack. Do you think in the long run that will work to the Indie author’s advantage. Or do you think it’s just not that important?
I think it’s of utmost importance, and that those who don’t take the time to get to know their readers are not only hurting their reputations, but also losing out on a very fulfilling part of being an author.
Having said that, do you think when/if the traditional publishing world, as we know it, collapses due to the ebook phenomenon, these big name authors will be forced to get more personal to market themselves? Or do you think it doesn’t matter for them?
I don’t happen to buy into the notion that traditional publishing will collapse. I believe it will change, morphing into something that is more digitally related, but I do believe we’ll see it disappear all together. A few will likely remain.
We are already seeing big name authors self-publishing. It’s faster, easier, and they’re already established, so they’re audience is at the ready. I don’t think it will hurt the Stephen Kings of the world.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I value the reader/author relationship on more than a sales level. Readers offer insight that, as authors, we cannot see clearly. Interpretation of our books can go so many different ways, and each unique interpretation adds an interesting way to look at our own writing. I learn from my readers. I learn what readers want, what they gain from my writing, what I might do better/different, and of course, I gain a sense of confidence in my writing, urging me to write more.
Some of my readers have become my beta readers. Others have become my Women’s Nest sisters, who offer support on those difficult writing days. Readers are people, authors are people, there’s a natural avenue developed by our writing. Why would we ever want to put up a barrier?
Readers and authors uniting. What could be better?
Melissa Foster is the award-winning, bestselling author of three novels, Megan’s Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and WoMen’s Literary Café, a literary community. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way. Melissa has written for Calgary’s Child Magazine, and Women Business Owners Magazine. She hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa is currently working on her next novel, and lives in Maryland with her family.
Join Melissa and 35 other authors for the 99 Cent Book Event, in celebration of the release of her latest novel COME BACK TO ME, Tues., Nov. 1 – Thurs., Nov 3. ALL BOOKS 99 CENTS, ebook giveaways, and more! www.womensliterarycafe.com