There are lots of ways to build an author community. This is essential to your author platform, which will be a prime marketing vehicle for advertising new books to current fans and drawing in new readers. It also gives you a way to speak to your fans and for those fans to talk amongst themselves, which just helps generate more sales. While there might be many ways to build an author community, there are just as many pitfalls that authors fall into. Not only that, but some of these pitfalls seem like they might be good ideas until you understand the reasoning behind them.
That’s right, build your community slowly. In today’s Internet age, it seems like everything should be fast, right? You should already have a blog, forum, various online groups, T-shirts, advertising materials and promotional events all planned out before you put a single word down to paper (or word processor). While it’s good to be ready for promoting your book before writing, and while you should get at least a blog ready before publishing, you should work slowly to build a community.
People tend to be fickle, and they are easily swayed by small details. Let’s say that you’re a new author and your book was just published a few days ago. Pushing someone to join your group will seem overly pushy. You won’t create a community. You’ll just create aggression and avoidance.
Start slow and let people come to you. Those people will invite their friends, and the group will slowly increase until it’s a viable marketing machine. Don’t expect to get hundreds of followers in the first few months. Just keep a slow and steady pace.
Avoid Your Website
This is one pitfall you might have a hard time understanding. Many people build forums into their website or blog in the hopes of creating a community on their website. This could be viable if you have a huge bestseller (like Harry Potter or Twilight fandom), but you should avoid your website as a means of creating a group.
Why? It’s fairly simple. Let’s say that you put a forum on your website. Chances are that only a very small margin of your followers are going to join the forum. This is the same for every author, regardless of popularity. If you have 100 followers, then maybe five will join the forum. There’s nothing worse than an empty forum for marketing. This will affect your whole website by making it look bare and empty.
It’s best to go where the people are until you have a good number of followers. Make groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and GoodReads. People are already there, and they’ll be more than willing to join your group. This takes much less effort, but it will still positively affect your marketing.
So, where’s the best place to start? You can try FB Groups, making a group on GoodReads, participating in genre forums (like SFFWorld’s forum for SF and fantasy, or LikesBooks for romance), creating a group on LinkedIn or even making a Pinterest group for food or fashion books. You should also link to your blog occasionally so that people know where to get more updates about your writing career.
The Right People and Topics
What topics and themes are central to your book? Find people who are interested in those topics to bring them into your community. You’ll have a hard time getting a chemist to read your period romance book (unless it has good chemistry), but he’ll definitely be interested in a sensible review of current chemical theories.
If you go to people who are interested in your book, then it’ll be much easier to bring them to your group. Not only that, but you should find the right people. While targeting authors might be a good idea for some books, it’s better to target readers so that they’ll actually buy the book.
Be a Participant
Even the most popular, busy authors have to find time to participate in their groups. While the community might build itself and have great conversations, it will eventually taper off if you never answer questions or create topics. Being a participant allows you to talk about new books, answer readers’ questions and be someone that generates conversations.
If you aren’t going to participate, then there’s no reason to create an author platform because it will quickly crumble.
Making your own community isn’t tough, but it will take time and effort. You just have to build it at the right speed, go where the people are, select the right group of people to target and participate in your own group. Author platforms and communities are incredibly powerful because they give you a way to market your new and old books, but only if you’re willing to make it the right way.