Guest blogging today at ROMANCE UNIVERSITY

Good morning, RU! Today, I’d like to welcome fellow Sourcebooks author Emery Lee to the classroom. I first met Emery, not through our mutual publisher, but through her fabulous Goodreads forum. Emery is here to talk about the many ways in which authors can connect with readers.  Emery, the class is yours!

You are brimming with hope, joy and anticipation. Your beautiful shiny new novel, the work of your blood (if you count paper cuts), sweat, and tears is about to launch  – into the vast sea of a gazillion other beautiful shiny new novels – many by authors far better known, with many more books under their belts.

The image is both daunting and dismaying. With thousands of authors and tens of thousands of books being released each year, the good news is that the popularity of romantic fiction continues to grow. An estimated 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel per year according to a 2008 RWA Reader Survey. Furthermore, projected romance sales are estimated to exceed $1.3 billion this year. But with over 8,000 traditionally published romance titles released last year, in addition to the recent glut of self-pubbed books, how can we “newbies” avoid drowning in this tsunami?

We all know (or certainly should by now) the importance of social media in book promotion. Yet, if we take only a brief time to observe, we find that everyone is shouting and no one is really listening. Facebook and Twitter are barraged with messages: “I have a new release. Buy my book. Giveaway on my blog. Look at the great reviews.”  We all do it. We have little choice. But how effective is this? For a debut author, not very. Most readers have learned to tune it all out and continue to gravitate to those authors they already know and love. So what’s a new or emerging author to do?

I believe it all begins with a bit of self-examination. As writers we each have a unique voice and style, and our own stories to tell. We all offer a certain “brand” of romance. So ask yourself these questions:  Who am I as a writer? What makes me unique or sets me apart? Who are the authors most like me?

The next questions involve your potential readers: Who is my target audience? Who are their readers? Lastly, and most importantly – WHERE are those readers and how can I engage them?

As a debut author whose work straddles two genres (historical fiction and historical romance) and does not fit neatly into either category, the question of “branding” and finding readership was very difficult. Knowing this, prior to the release of my second book, FORTUNE’S SON, I set out on a deliberate course to find and engage potential readers. In the process I discovered a niche between historical romance and historical fiction that is filled by some wonderful authors, authors who write the kind of books I most love to read, and the ones I want to write.  Thus, eighteen months ago Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers was born, a group that began with a handful of members comprised of authors and readers I sought out for our common interests in books combining real history with romance.

Beginning as an endeavor to simply compile a great reading list of romantic historical fiction titles, the group has expanded into a discussion forum for over 800 avid readers, book bloggers and authors.  In addition to our original Goodreads site, we now have a very active Facebook group with over 200 members, as well as a weekly news digest, and a monthly book club featuring live author chats. It has become a thriving little community and tons of fun with lively interaction between authors and readers. For me, the answer was not costly and mostly ineffective advertising (Having spent a huge percentage of my first advance, I speak from experience!) but in relationship building.

Mohammed must go to the mountain folks! Go to the watering hole if you write westerns or to the water cooler if you write contemporaries. There are myriad opportunities if we only look for them.  Target a couple of discussion forums and groups and become an active presence there. No one will be interested if you simply introduce yourself, your book, and leave. In truth, many group moderators are insulted by this kind of author behavior. As authors we all love books. Talk about them! The genres we love, the types of heroes and heroines we adore, the era’s we most enjoy, our personal favorite DIK books. My advice to others just starting out is to engage the readers on a personal level and in time, you will find your own niche and your own following.

Statistics courtesy of RWA:***




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s