Did you know that The Great Gatsby was a complete flop?
When F. Scott Fitzgerald died, his last royalty check was for a mere $13.13. Copies of the second printing of The Great Gatsby collected dust in his publisher’s warehouse.
Now, Fitzgerald did have a small audience for his book. There were a few literary readers like Gertrude Stein who loved The Great Gatsby.
However, popular reviewers thought Gatsby was some sort of weird crime novel, and not a very good one. The New York World review headline said, “Fitzgerald’s Latest A Dud.”
Eventually Gatsby found a wider audience, really by chance. And now it’s considered to be one of the greatest novels of all time.
It’s a really great story, right? Unless of course you’re F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It suuucks to be Fitzgerald!
Who wants to toil away, cranking out brilliant content, only to be recognized for it YEARS after you’re dead? No one, that’s who.
It’s a good lesson in how an audience can make all the difference.
Sadly for Fitzgerald, those were different times. There was no “Fans of Fitzgerald” Facebook group. And Gertrude Stein didn’t have an email list.
However, for authors today, it’s never been easier to build an audience around your book.
We’ll talk about exactly how to do that in just a minute. However, first, let’s talk about the long-term vision, and why it’s so important to start building your audience now.
The big picture: Why audience matters
Having an audience for your upcoming book launch certainly helps with sales.
However, it’s not just about book sales. Your book is just one project. Your audience is a long-term asset.
Without an audience, you can’t reach out to your readers in the future and have a conversation with them.
What kind of conversations? Conversations that give you market research for future books or products. Conversations about their biggest pain points. And conversations about the new thing you’re about to launch, whether it’s a book, a product, or a course.
And building an audience with an email list or Facebook page is your way of having those conversations.
So let’s talk about the nitty gritty details of two different ways to engage them and have these conversations.
Method #1: Build your audience with an email list
The most “traditional” method of building an audience is by getting them to subscribe to your email list.
To do this, the first thing you need is a website. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. You can set up a page for free on WordPress or Wix.
You’ll also need an email marketing service like MailChimp or Aweber. MailChimp offers a free account for up to 2,000 subscribers, and Aweber offers a free 30-day trial.
Now, just in case you’re thinking, “I’ll just use my personal email account,” a word of warning: that might be fine for 10-15 subscribers. But what about when you hit 5,000 subscribers?
What if you’re the next J.K. Rowling? You’ll end up shutting down your personal account and declaring email bankruptcy.
Once those things are in place, now you need to collect emails…
How to get people to give you their email address
On your website, include information about your book, along with an email opt-in box.
The email opt-in box is a short form that asks for their email address, and it’s connected to your email marketing service account. In WordPress, the opt-in box is a simple plugin you can install.
However, if words like “opt-in boxes” and “plugins” and “email marketing” sound like Greek to you, go onto Fiverr or eLance and hire a Greek-speaking geek to set it all up for you. Just make sure you do your due diligence before you hire someone.
Now, in exchange for their email, you want to offer some sort of giveaway.
This can be any number of things. But no matter what shape or form it takes, it MUST be something incredibly valuable to your audience. Valuable enough that they’re willing to give you their email address. And the giveaway should be something you can only deliver via email. That way it makes sense that they have to give you their email address.
For instance, Stacey Robbins wrote a book about the emotional side of living with an autoimmune disease. Below you can see that her opt-in giveaway is a video on how to get through an anxious moment.
Here are a few more examples of giveaways:
- If your book is about how to budget, offer to send formatted budget spreadsheets
- If your book is about auto repair, offer how-to videos of the 5 most common repairs
- If your book is about personal development, offer to send them daily worksheets
Once you have your website, your giveaway, your opt-in box, and your email list in place, the next step is to promote the heck outta your website!
When you’re writing your book, include a link to your site, and mention the giveaway: “And you can download a free budget spreadsheet on my website…”
When someone interviews you, ask them to include a link to your site.
Make sure everyone knows about your site and your awesome giveaway.
Retarget your website visitors
You know how sometimes you’re shopping on Amazon for a new pair of shoes, and the next thing you know, your Facebook feed is showing you an ad for THE EXACT SAME PAIR OF SHOES?
Is it some sort of internet sorcery? Is the NSA selling online ads now?
No and no. It’s retargeting. And you want to do this with your site, too, so you can build your audience.
Basically, you put a Facebook tracking pixel on your website. People visit your site, and then they end up on a super secret list owned by Facebook. When people on that super secret list log into Facebook, Facebook shows them your ads.
Google does something similar, only they run ads across lots of sites, whereas Facebook ads only run on Facebook.
You can learn more about the Facebook pixel here. And you can learn more about how to retarget with Google here.
Method #2: Build your audience with Facebook
Another method to build your audience is by creating a Facebook page.
You’d still want to buy a website domain, and you still want to retarget site visitors. But you’d redirect your site to your Facebook page.
As far as setup, it does make things a bit easier because you just use Facebook’s platform. Another benefit is that people spend a lot of time on Facebook already, and you can get some group engagement with conversations in the comments on your posts.
However, keep in mind that you’re playing in Facebook’s sandbox. Facebook is in control, and they can change the rules at any time.
For instance, Facebook controls how many people see your messages when you post them. So not all of your fans will see your posts in their newsfeeds. To reach everyone, you have to pay for Facebook ads.
Also, you don’t own your own email list. In fact, you don’t have a list at all.
That’s a huge downside, which is why I strongly recommend method #1, the email list. It’s always best to own your own list and control your messaging. However, if you’re really opposed to doing that, at least setup a Facebook page so you can start to grow your audience.
Once your page is up and running, you or someone you hire will need to post regularly to keep engagement up. At minimum you should post once per week.
No matter which method you choose, the big idea is that audience matters. And the bigger you grow your audience, the more conversations you can have with people who are hungry for your books, your products, and the great stuff you’re putting out into the world.
Not to mention that it also might mean the difference between Jay Gatsby kind of money, and a measly $13.13…