10 questions to ask readers

In 2015, I wrote a brief post based on a business book titled Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Surely trust is a critical component for authors as well. Readers want to trust an author to deliver a compelling story and to do so in a way that is consistent with the author’s brand and their previous experiences with novels by that author. We’ve all heard comments like: ‘but the author’s latest novel didn’t live up to my expectations’ or ‘the story is nothing like what he/she usually writes’. Moreover, readers have expectations of an author’s social media presence, their platform and public appearances, their accessibility, and so on.

In a world where anyone can connect to anyone else, authors have the opportunity to match their content – such content includes but is not limited to books – to consumers who are looking for it. Readers expect to be able to find authors that interest them, to learn about those authors, and to engage with them.

What that suggests to me is the need to make sure that your digital footprint and behaviour is communicating what you want and building trust with your readers. Of course, trust is built over time. Think of this as you engage with different communities, develop your blog or website, publish your thoughts on social media and so on.

Image source: Mather Consulting – love the words this company uses

So what about those 10 questions I promised? Questions to understand readers, both current and potential, and to discover ways to create conversations, to build relationships and trust.

  • Who or what do you trust for book recommendations?
  • Where do you talk about books? What makes those conversations interesting?
  • What materials can an author offer to enhance your reading experience? Personal stories? Research information? Historical details? Character profiles? Photos? Thematic reflections? Sources of inspiration?
  • How can authors connect with readers in a meaningful way? Social media? Author website? Podcasts? Interviews? Bookstore appearances? Book club participation? Online communities?
  • Who are your favourite authors?
  • What books have you read recently that you really enjoyed? Really disliked?
  • How did you discover my novels?
  • What did you enjoy about the titles you’ve read? What detracted from your enjoyment?
  • Would you recommend my novels to your friends? If not, could you tell me why?
  • Would you be interested in reading an early draft of my next novel? Or providing input as the novel develops?

I’m sure there are many more!

Readers love to tell others about what they’ve read. How can they become your advocates? Avid readers love to talk to authors. How can you enable such conversations? The digital space is like a big focus group. What questions and dialogue do you want to have with your reader focus group?

Social media closes the gap between authors and readers. A reader that hits a ‘like’ or ‘follow’ button is opening up the opportunity to have a direct relationship with an author. If all the author does is blast back special offers and one-way newsletters, you’re not encouraging direct relationships, you’re pushing towards broadcast advertising (just in a new channel).

According to Chris Brogan, co-author of Trust Agents, trust has three positive components – credibility, reliability, intimacy – and one negative component – self-interest. Self-interest undermines trust. Social networking is about being part of the network, not about getting attention from the network. Remember, your network can opt-out or spread negative reviews at any time!

Create ways to listen to your readers. Make sure you respond when they ‘talk’ to you. Instead of writing being a solo exercise, writers could bring readers in on the journey of story development. These days, readers are challenged to find the kind of quality they desire because of an abundance of product (books) and an abundance of reviews that may or may not reflect ‘regular’ readers.

Why not be the author that readers trust?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY 

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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