I firmly believe that your readers can be your friends.
I think that if you are a wise author, you are looking at your readers not as someone who bought, read and reviewed your book, but someone who could potentially turn into a raving fan.
The term raving fan was coined by Kenneth Blanchard to describe a customer who enthusiastically promotes a company or service and would be a lifelong fan of the people behind it.
In the writing world, we can have raving fans too.
A writer who has raving fans will have an army or coalition of people who will always buy what they publish, they will always leave good reviews, they may also comment on the Facebook page or communicate with you on other social media. But the most important thing they will do is passionately tell other people about you.
You can’t get raving fans overnight. You have to cultivate the relationship. You have to be friends.
You know, FRIENDS.
1. Be as accessible to your readers as Chandler & Joey was to Monica & Rachel. Your social media presence should be there to nurture relationships, not just push your sales. Carefully consider every way that you and your brand are represented. If it’s not welcoming or easy to find, make some changes. It’s this frequency and accessibility that can build a relationship. Just don’t come in unannounced.
2. Be as generous as Phoebe was when she found a thumb in her soda. In the relationships with your readers, make giving your default setting. Does someone need advice? Give it gently. Does someone have a question? Answer, and do a little digging for them. Give without any expectation of return. Readers will flock to writers who have something to offer — and I’m not talking about your free download. I am talking about your practical advice, your words of inspiration, or your funny stories. And if Ross ever needs fashion advice, make sure you give him the right bag.
3. Be as interested as Joey is when Rachel’s sister visits. But more appropriately. This could be your How You Doin’ strategy. Take the time to ask readers about themselves. What is their life like? What do you have in common? I find that if I turn my purpose from “connect with readers” to “make new friends” not only is it more fun, but I walk away far more satisfied. I also lay the groundwork for future conversations that could evolve over time into rich relationships. Nobody knew in season one that Monica and Chandler would get married in season seven.
4. Be as excellent in your writing as Monica was in the kitchen. This is a pretty important item on the list. If you have entered a relationship with a reader and they have actually paid money for your book, then you better respect that bond! That means your book should be the very best it can be — professionally designed and edited, followed the rules of good storytelling and presented well.
5. Be just as authentic as when Monica and Ross danced on national television. It never ceases to amaze me how much people are drawn to me when I am honest about my weaknesses. It seems counter-intuitive; we think we should hide our flaws. There are some dance moves that should stay in the family room in 1989. But I’ve found that the more real I am, the more my readers (who are now my friends) circle around me to support me. My weaknesses then becomes my strength. Maybe it didn’t for Ross and Monica.
6. Be a soft sell, which means don’t take marketing lessons from Marcel the monkey. This whole “buy my book” mindset of many authors in social media is beyond annoying, like Ross’s pet you can be smelly, loud and it feels like you’re throwing poop at me. I suggest you scrap any sales strategy that is repetitive and one-sided. Instead, lower your expectations for numbers, work on finding readers one at a time and stick it out for the long haul. This type of strategy will work far better for you in the future.
7. Be light-hearted like a couch-centered situation comedy. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Yes, you’ve written a book. That’s a great accomplishment that thousands if not millions do every year. If you insist on that image as a special snowflake then you’re pushing people, and potential readers, away.
8. Be consistent, like Phoebe’s song lyrics. This is also a pretty important item on this list. Your brand needs to be predictable. Your readers need to know that when they pick up a book with your name on it, they can expect certain things. If you’re a blogger, you need to stick to a schedule. Consistency keeps your words in front of your readers so they don’t forget you.
9. Be yourself, unlike Joey’s acting. If you keep looking to the right or left so you can copy what that other writer did, you need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You will never get anywhere by trying to be derivative! Instead write freely, with blinders on, doing the best you can in your own voice. (That doesn’t excuse you from being excellent!)
10. Be unique like Rachel’s haircut. Our lives are filled with unique stories, experiences, struggles, and pain that qualifies us to have a niche in this world. Take the time to find yours. Don’t rush this. Everything that you’ve experienced, good or bad, has been given to you so that you can use it to be generous to others. Your readers need you.
Now, realistically, this could take a long time. Longer than Ross and Rachel’s relationship. But I’d like to argue that the hard work of investing in people, asking them questions, looking for opportunities to be generous to them, remaining authentic, will pay off for you as your platform grows.
What else is there? What else can we do to love our readers? As a reader, how do you like to be appreciated? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!