Writing Wednesdays: How to grow your audience when you publish online

When you publish your book online, growing your audience can be tricky. In this post, I share a few tips and tricks.

You guys might notice a theme emerging in recent Writing Wednesdays posts… it’s all about publishing online. 

I’ve already talked about why you should publish online, and why social media is important to build your profile as a writer, and today’s post will take a different angle: how to grow your audience.

(This is where I write my usual paragraph saying that for those of you who don’t know, I started my writing career by publishing a book on Wattpad. Read more about that here if you’re interested, or read on if you already know this whole spiel.)

The Kissing Booth accumulated over 19 million reads on Wattpad over the eighteen months or so it was online, from when I started to when I had to take it down to be published.

Nineteen. Million. (It knocks the wind out of me every time. Sorry. Back to it.)

So I get a lot of messages now from people starting out on Wattpad (and similar sites) asking how they can grow their audience.

The thing to remember when publishing online that if people don’t read your book, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your writing sucks. It usually just means people haven’t found your book yet.
Question people want answered is: how do you make people find your book?

I’m mostly going to make references to Wattpad here, because that’s the platform I’m familiar with, but I imagine other sites are reasonably similar when it comes to these core steps to growing your audience.

My first piece of advice is to start out by posting more than one chapter.

I feel like this worked crazy well for me. I posted the first three chapters to kick things off when I started posting a book. I thought it gave readers enough to decide if they liked the story, and if they did, they had enough to get invested in it enough to look out for the next chapter with a little more excitement.

Also, I figured if people read more, the story would be more likely to stay in their minds, so if they had a lot of books they were reading, they would be more likely to remember mine when I uploaded the next part.

(I know this bit might not be much help to those of you who’ve already started uploading your story, but maybe it’s something to bear in mind for the next one?)

Next crucial piece of advice? Regular uploads.

Another thing I found worked really well. I uploaded once every couple of days, and after a while that moved to once a week. I had to find an upload schedule that worked for me but didn’t leave readers waiting too long between chapters.

On this note, I want to mention that if you’re uploading more than one story at a time, try and update stories on the same day. By that, I mean that you should try and upload Story 1 on Tuesdays and Story 2 on Fridays. Or whatever days you want. Just try to be consistent, to limit confusion for your readers.
I know sometimes life gets in the way, and this is why my next point is so important…

Write in advance.

Don’t start a book and as soon as you’ve got your first whole chapter, upload it. 

This might work for some people, sure, and I’m always impressed when it does, but it takes so much pressure off. If you’ve got studies or work or whatever – it happens. Life can get in the way. You have less time to write. It’s harder to focus. It happens.

(Do you get stuck on knowing where to start your book and how to carry on? Try this post.)

But if you’ve written things in advance, those two or three crazy weeks you don’t get much chance to write, you still have something to upload.

(Also, there’s the danger of you getting five chapters into a story and then realising it’s not really working for you and you don’t want to work on it anymore, and you abandon it. It’s not going to be good for your audience if you have a dozen stories that stop after five chapters. Potential readers might be put off.) 

It’s also important to make sure you talk to your readers.

Tell them if you’re on holiday for the next week with no internet access, or if your grandma is sick and you just need a break, or if you have final exams on. If you know there’s something that’s going to stop you uploading regularly or if you need to change your ‘new chapter’ schedule, tell your readers.

You might also want to check out this Writing Wednesdays post on talking to your readers when you publish online.

They’ll appreciate the communication and they’re not exactly going to hate you for it. They’ll understand. They’ll just like it more if you warn them.

Message them every so often.

Wattpad have that option to ‘Broadcast a message to your followers’. Let them know you’re working on the book, loved reading their comments on the last chapter, a friendly reminder that the next chapter is coming in a couple of days, etc. Communicate. Be human,

And say thank you. 

Reply to say thank you to someone who left a nice message saying how much they love your book. I know it’s not always possible to reply to every comment you get on the story (but try to do this in the beginning!) but maybe reply to any particularly long/nice ones, any constructive criticism, any questions. I used to thank everyone who followed me for following me when I started out (although after a while I’d spend an hour doing this and hardly make a dent in the new followers over the last day, at which point I stopped).

Author notes on a new upload are also important. 

Leave a note at the start of a chapter and the end. Bold it, centre it, italicise it, put a string of stars or hyphens below it. Separate it from the actual chapter somehow. Make it stand apart.

Your message at the start might say, ‘Sorry this one’s a bit late!’ It might recap the last chapter. It might talk about something controversial in this new upload, because it deals with a sensitive topic, and you want to warn readers. Or maybe it’s as simple as ‘Hope you enjoy!’

At the end of the chapter leave another author’s note. 

Format it in the same way as the one at the start of the chapter. Again: make it stand out, make it separate. 

Reiterate that you hope readers enjoyed the chapter, maybe let them know when the next chapter will be up. Feel free to make it personal – ‘I’ve just started a part-time job after school, so things are a bit hectic, but I’ll make time to keep working on this!’

Crucial to your end-of-the-chapter author’s note: you need some kind of call to action.

This means asking your readers a question or asking them to do something. You can ask them to follow you (on Wattpad, Twitter, your blog, whatever – just make sure you use the external link if you’re directing them somewhere else!) and ask them to comment, vote, share, etc. Maybe ask them how they feel about a particular character, or a certain situation, or how they see something playing out. Engage your readers and prompt them into responding to your story.

You can also engage your readers with activities like creating fan art or a cover for your book.

I’ve done this for a couple of my Wattpad books. For one, I asked readers to make a cover, and then shared them in an album on my Facebook page, where I asked readers to vote for their favourite cover by clicking like. It was fun and got people talking about the book and sharing with their friends.

You could try this, or something similar – like asking readers to vote for a certain storyline to happen. I’d maybe hold off doing this until you’ve got a bigger audience – something to hold on to until your second book, maybe? 

Offer your readers bonus content, too.

If you’ve got one book that’s doing really well, or is your most popular, then it’s obviously something people are engaging with, so offer them more. A one-shot for Valentine’s Day. A one-shot for Christmas. Maybe you write a ten-thousand word prequel novella that you share. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and it’s a good shout if the thought of a sequel isn’t working for you.

There are other things to factor in when growing your audience: namely, a social media presence.

It’s one thing to be active on the platform you’re sharing your work on, but people are across social media and they like to follow people on more than one network. We all do it. There’s different content on different channels.

Read this Writing Wednesdays post for more on using social media to boost your profile as a writer, and check out my new blog series, Social Media for Writers, for more content on this topic.

You also need to do a couple of basic things to boost your profile on the writing platform – a killer story description and a cover, for starters. Engaging with your readers is a huge part of the battle, but you also want people to want to read your story. And let’s face it: people will be less inclined to read a book with no blurb and no cover.

Oh, and use tags!

Use them wisely. Take a look at popular stories on the site in the same genre as you’re writing. What tags are they using? Some of them might be unique to that particular story, but it’s just to get an idea. 

Maybe your tags need to be ‘sci fi/mars/romance/angst/disaster/dystopia/apocalypse’. Think about the main themes in your story, the big selling points.

Right. This has been a hella long post. (It’s at four pages on Word…) But I hope I’ve more or less covered everything I wanted to and the big points to help you build your audience when you publish online.

If you think I missed something, or if you want to ask me more about something, drop a comment and let me know!

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.