Most advice for writers includes the concept of building an email list to forge a relationship with readers and to promote future releases. If you go to most author websites, there is typically some mechanism to join their email list. However, if you’re on the email list of hundreds of novelists (like I am), you’d be shocked at how seldom writers make contact. Most readers would be lucky to get one or two emails a year from an author (at best).
Ironically, it seems as if most novelists just don’t know what to write when it comes to contacting their list. Many resort to writing about writing (yawn) or sharing too much about things unrelated to their work (politics, their kids, their health problems, etc.) — neither of which are of much interest to most readers.
So, what kind of information should you send to your email list in order to nurture those relationships to sell more copies of your next novel and your backlist?
Here are some ideas…
Preview chapter(s) of an upcoming release. At the end of the chapter, tease them about what’s coming up or challenge them to guess what happens next (you can even offer a prize to the first person who guesses correctly).
Cover sneak preview. Or let readers vote for their favorite of two or three options.
Audio recording of preview chapter(s) for past/future novels. You can hire a voice talent on Fiverr to record the audio in case that’s not your forte. Also, you can take the audio and an image of your cover and make a video that you can upload to your social media accounts.
Audio recording on how to pronounce various character and location names. If you write fantasy or science fiction, your readers will thank you.
Book trailer/s for upcoming/past titles. You can make a trailer for free in less than 30 minutes with lumen5.com (or check out all the free options on the Indies Unlimited video trailer resource page).
Reader-related memes/images people can share. Put the image in your email and link it to a post on your social media so it’s easy for readers to share it. For example, this image got a lot of shares and likes on the Voracious Readers Only Facebook page.
Share screenshots of posts you wrote or others made about your book on social media. (ex: Check out what John Smith wrote on our Facebook page!)
Q/A from fans, either about your book (or series) or about yourself. You could solicit questions first (either by email or social media) or just have a friend who is familiar with your work come up with questions to ask you. You could also record your answers and offer an audio.
Recommendations for books/movies/shows similar to your novel. Not sure what media your book is similar to? Check your reviews. Readers will often let you know.
Books/movies/shows/art/photos/historical occurrences that inspired your story. Odds are that your story did not just fall from the sky. You probably borrowed themes, ideas, character names, etc. from elsewhere. Tell your readers where those ideas came from and why they resonated with you.
Fleshed-out backgrounds for incidental/minor characters. You might find yourself writing a spin-off novel for one of these individuals…
Content that you liked but had to cut from the novel. Was there a great scene or even a piece of dialog you didn’t think you could live without but ended up excising because it hindered the pacing of the story? People love watching deleted scenes from their favorite movies.
Chapter by chapter audio recordings of one of your books with each email offering the option to purchase all the audios at once vs. waiting. This could be a great way to build interest in a series of which you’re about to release the next installment.
Art submitted by fans. Or if you don’t have any fan-submitted art, look around online for artists whose work matches your story and ask them permission to share it with your audience. Deviantart.com is a good place to start.
If your story were made into a movie or TV show, who would play each character or what real world locations could be used filming? Create a dream cast/location list. Here’s an example.
What would be a great theme song or musical score/theme for your novel? Link to it on YouTube or a music streaming service so readers will think of your novel when they hear that song in the future.
A soundtrack for your book. Pick 10+ songs that you feel best fit the novel’s themes and make a playlist to share with your readers.
Genealogy for your book. For example, Star Wars was George Lucas’ homage to the Flash Gordon serials (he couldn’t get the film rights), and Flash Gordon was created because the rights to John Carter could not be secured. What authors/books inspired your book and what inspired them? For many major authors, you can find their influences listed on their Goodreads profile.
Many of these ideas could be broken up into multiple emails. For example, if you have five scenes you enjoyed but they had to be cut from one of your novels, don’t send all five in one email. Rather, send them out as five separate emails over the course of several days. Or if you’re doing an email on making your book into a movie and which actors would play the main characters, do one email per character. You could even do an email where you list five actors and let the readers vote on the winner. Then, you reveal the winner in a follow-up email.
Also, you could compile a lot of this type of content into a bonus section and add it into the existing novel to create a “deluxe edition.” Or use it as a bonus purchasers of the book can get if they also sign up for your email list.
Larry Froncek is the owner of Voracious Readers Only, a service that connects avid readers with authors in the genres they most enjoy. Since September 2017, Voracious Readers only has made over 65,000 reader-author connections. For more info, visit www.VoraciousReadersOnly.com.