Building a Loyal Readership by Marilyn Brant

MarilynBrant[1]Thanks so much to Edie Ramer and to everyone at Magical Musings for inviting me to come back today!! I spent several happy years blogging at MM, and I still miss getting to be here regularly. So glad to see you all again :).

A question Edie asked me recently involved ways authors build a loyal readership. I don’t know how much of this is simply my own experience and interpretation, but I think a strong author-reader connection comes down to a genuine sense of community. Creating a welcoming place and the kind of relationship where conversation is truly a two-way street.

I remember how stunned and pleased I was as an aspiring writer when I sent just a few of my favorite women’s fiction and contemporary romance authors messages saying that I’d loved their books. A couple of them actually wrote back! I was thrilled, not only because I could tell them how much their work had inspired me, but also because I knew they’d heard my praise.

A year or two later I went to my first Romance Writers of America’s national conference and met several other authors in person at the big book signing. Nearly all of them took a few minutes to chat with me. To ask me questions beyond just “How do you spell your name so I can autograph this?” I wasn’t looking to make them my new best friends, but I did very much appreciate having a real interaction with them that night. An opportunity to say, “This character you created in this book really stayed with me…” or even to ask a question about what had sparked a particular plot point or choice of setting. It wasn’t so much a matter of needing a lot of time or information from the writer in question, just the mutual recognition that this author—by the act of writing her novel—had initiated a conversation. And I—as the reader—could share some thoughts and insights on her story. That it was a true dialogue.

large cinnamon rollAs a reader, I’ve stayed very loyal to authors like that. And as a writer, the biggest gift of being on social media and beginning to build my own readership is that I get to experience that feeling of shared dialogue from the author’s side now. If a reader ever has a comment for me about a character in one of my novels, a question about something that happened in a story I wrote, or a response to a personal anecdote I shared online, it’s a privilege to get to respond to that. And I do my very best to reply to everything—on Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, and in emails—whenever possible. I want the readers who visit me at one of my virtual homes to feel as welcome there as they would if I invited them into my house for coffee and cinnamon rolls. (Although, nothing quite beats a warm, freshly baked cinnamon roll…LOL.)

I’ve felt a wonderful sense of community on the social media pages of many of my fellow writers. I think we, as authors, have a responsibility to make those places fully and truly our own and to reflect the relationship we want to have with our readers. Since it’s one of my goals to create a harmonious sense of community, it’s important to me that my sites remain as accepting and tension-free as possible.

In the writing world, I’ve been working to create a warm and friendly (albeit somewhat gossipy) fictional suburb in my new Mirabelle Harbor series, too, so the subject of community has been on my mind a lot. Ultimately, I think there are a few rules—regardless of whether the community is real or fictional. The main one is that its members should know what to expect. That the environment stays fairly consistent. That everyone who is a part of it is on the same page.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]

Not all communities are happy and welcoming, though, nor do they have to be. I know plenty of fictional communities—some set in homicide departments or mafia houses—where a fun and lighthearted relationship between the characters wouldn’t work at all. And I’ve written across genres myself. The community in my romantic mystery, The Road to You, for instance, is rather different from the community in my first two Mirabelle Harbor books, Take a Chance on Me & The One That I Want. Likewise, although I prize an open, drama-free atmosphere on my blog/FB page, I know some bloggers who thrive on being bitingly sarcastic, arguing with the readers, or posting provocative topics that are intended to spark controversy. That’s their choice, and as long as readers/visitors are onboard with that, it’s all good.

miracle harbor

So, in my opinion, to build any kind of strong readership, the readers need to know what they’re getting into when they enter that author’s sphere. And the more we can meet their expectations—though our personal interactions with them and through our stories—the better chance we have to entice them to want to return to our world.

Do you have a real or fictional community you love visiting? I love the story world of Stephanie Plum & her friends in Janet Evanovich’s comedic mystery series, and I’ve always enjoyed visiting Anne Lamott’s author page on FB for her true observations about life and writing. Both fascinating communities!

Author Bio:
Marilyn Brant is a
New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. Visit her website and her new Mirabelle Harbor discussion group on Facebook—“The Lounge”.

The Road to You –
Take a Chance on Me –
The One That I Want –

Twitter –
Facebook –
Blog –
Email/Contact –
The Lounge –

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12 Responses to Building a Loyal Readership by Marilyn Brant

  1. Mary Hughes says:

    Welcome back, Marilyn! Thanks, Edie, for asking this highly important question. Sense of community is so important! Welcoming and safe, no matter what kind, women’s fiction or mysteries or science fiction or romance. Definitely readers buy on expectations of the kind of story they’ll love. Congrats on Mirabelle Harbor!

    Stephanie Plum’s Burg is one of my favorites too 🙂 I also love Nero Wolfe’s brownstone.

    • Mary,
      Thank you!! It’s great to be back in *this* warm & welcoming place — Magical Musings is so wonderful 🙂 .
      Glad to find a fellow Stephanie Plum fan, btw! I haven’t yet read Stout’s work but I’ve watched a little of his famous character Nero on TV. Love mysteries!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Latest News!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Marilyn, this is such great advice. I remember when I first met you in person. You’re genuinely friendly and welcoming and upbeat, and that carries through to your online persona. As much as I love sarcasm on my comedy news shows (I already miss Jon Stewart!), I don’t want it on my Facebook groups. And certainly not from authors. I hadn’t realized that you had a FB group for your Mirabelle Harbor books. Very cool. Thank you so much for being my guest!

    • Edie,
      Thank YOU for inviting me here, and for all of your kind words! xox
      I’m so glad we got to meet in person, too <3.
      And LOL about Jon Stewart! Yeah, he was definitely fun to watch, but I'd be afraid to say a word in his presence! 🙂
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Latest News!

  3. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Marilyn!!

    Welcome back to MM. Isn’t it a fun job keeping up with all the responses/emails/comments. It’s a full time job in itself – but it’s so rewarding that even if I had an assistant I’d do that job myself!

    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …And Now For Something A Little Different…

    • Dale!!
      Wonderful to “see” you again 🙂 .
      And I totally agree with you on the desire to respond to message myself. (I’ll bet you get a LOT of them, though!) A writing friend of mine does have a personal assistant who answers most of her emails and responds as her on FB. The assistant does a great job, but I’d have a hard time letting someone else step in on that… I’d love is for somebody to go to the post office for me every week, though!!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Latest News!

  4. So lovely to have you back, Marilyn! 🙂 I am with you 100% in the drama-free, friendly and welcoming environment. If I want confrontational, I just need to drive on the roads :).
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …New release: Breaking Out Part I & II

    • Michelle, thank you! It’s such a pleasure to be here with you all again 😉 .
      As for the drama while driving, oh, my goodness, yes… We just returned from a family trip out of state and being in the car near some of the major cities was scarier than being on a big roller coaster, and we witnessed more than one act of road rage. (Thankfully not directed at us, but still…)
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Latest News!

      • Edie Ramer says:

        Marilyn, you should go to Door County. I swear, the most polite drivers anywhere! The best cherry pie, too. 🙂

        • Edie,
          I love Door County but haven’t been there for several years! You’ve convinced me that I need to visit again soon. I could use some calm driving, and I’d never be able to turn down that cherry pie!! 😀
          Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Latest News!

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