4 Ways to Build Healthy Relationships with Your Readers

I wrote Anne Rice an email. She wrote me back fifteen minutes later. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, a stranger, and she immediately wrote me a kind, friendly note.

(Word count for novels explained.)

Having a positive relationship with your readers pays off. Readers are more likely to buy your book if they feel a personal connection to you. They’re more likely to mention your book to their friends, because they want to brag about how they interacted with the author. I’ve had readers introduce me to reporters, set up book signings and get me speaking engagements.

Here are 4 simple points to help build healthy relationships with your readers:

 

 

      

Guest column by Matt Mikalatos, author of multiple novels, the
most recent being the middle grade fantasy THE SWORD OF SIX WORLDS.
He blogs regularly at mikalatos.com and is on Twitter. You’re welcome to
write him at matt.mikalatos(at)gmail.com. Matt is also the author of
IMAGINARY JESUS.

 

 

1. Be Accessible. You can use any medium you like for communication, so long as your readers know how to contact you. It can be a submission form on your website, an email address, or writing a letter care of your publisher. When some readers reach the end of your book, they want to tell you about how it impacted them. So let them. I include a page in the back of my novels that tells readers my preferred way to be contacted. It’s okay if you’re not on Twitter, so long as your fans can find you.

2. Respond to those who contact you. If you were at a signing and someone said hello, you would reply, right? If someone writes you an email, or sends you a tweet, or makes a comment on your blog, jot them a quick note. If you’re busy it can be something simple, like, “Thanks for the note, I’m sorry I don’t have time to write more, because I’m writing the next book. I appreciate your kind words.” Or, if you have the time, write back and start a true interaction. Your fans will be bragging about this to their friends.

(Read a previous guest column of Matt’s: 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves.)

3. Be polite. I have a Google alert set for my titles, and when someone writes a review I stop by their blog and thank them for the review (whether positive or negative). Once I came across a particularly vicious review, but I left a comment anyway, thanking the reviewer for reading and reviewing my book. The reviewer responded, surprised that I was being nice about the whole thing, and we had a long, interesting conversation that illuminated the book for him and pointed out some weaknesses of the book for me. He turned out to be a good reader. I sent him a copy of my next manuscript before it went to print, and we had a phone call afterwards and I incorporated several of his suggestions. He gave my second book a strong positive review. He’s more a friend than a fan now. It’s surprising how far politeness will go in your interactions. Be a nice person in addition to a great writer, and you’re on the road to a loyal fan base.

(Can you re-query an agent after she’s rejected you in the past?)

4. Set personal boundaries. Our readers feel they know us well because of how much we reveal about ourselves in our work. It can create a false intimacy that is uncomfortable for the author. It’s wise to set boundaries for your interactions with fans. I’ll gladly talk about my writing, answer questions about my novels or Skype with a book club. I won’t, however, interact with fans about my kids. I won’t gossip about people I work with in the industry. I won’t share anything about new projects that I don’t want shared publicly.

Building relationships with your readers can be fun. Last week, a mom sent me a picture her daughter drew while reading my kids’ fantasy novel. It was a really sweet moment for me, and I sent them both a thank you note. It’s satisfying to see my words ignite someone else’s imagination. And, of course, if you have any thoughts about this post you’re welcome to write me or leave a comment here!

(Read another guest column of Matt’s: “How I Got My Agent” — Matt Mikalatos.)

 

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7 thoughts on “4 Ways to Build Healthy Relationships with Your Readers

  1. DanielJayBerg

    I appreciate these comments. With so much emphasis on building a “writer’s platform” (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube channel, whatever), it’s important to remember that building relationships is key.

    My question is this: How do you maintain a healthy balance between correspondence with readers and time/energy to your creative work?

    Thanks!

    1. mattmikalatos

      Great question, Daniel. I’m sure this is different for different people, depending on what sort of work schedule makes sense for you as a writer. For me, I tend to write mostly at night after my day job (or, like right now, when I wake up before work). A lot of my social media stuff I do “as it happens”… trying to respond to comments when I get a notification. It just takes a couple minutes that way (and I don’t have millions of fans, which helps).

      I try to post on my blog five times a week (M-F). As much as possible, I try to keep writing those posts down to twice a week, scheduling them and spreading them throughout the week. Often, when I’m working hardest on a book (right now I’m under contract and have a book done June 1), the blog will be more infrequent. If it gets really tight I’ll just put a note on the blog telling people, “Hey, I’m writing, I’ll be back June 1.” My fans on the blog like mybooks typically so they’re pretty understanding when I need to take a step back.

  2. vrundell

    Definitely great suggestions! And, I’d encourage writers to write to other writers frequently–if a book makes an impact, you should tell them so!

    1. mattmikalatos

      That’s a great point. I love hearing from and interacting with other writers. I’ve been trying to get up the guts to write my favorite author, and I know he would be great but I’m intimidated because his books have meant so much to me.

  3. Evelyn

    This is great stuff! I’m writing my first novel now (also middle-grades SF), so it may take some time for me to implement all these suggestions, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to make sure I interact with my blog readers. I’ve been meaning to put my email address out there and keep forgetting; doing that *right now*.

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