How Indie Authors Can Cultivate Superfans
Finding readers is just the beginning; building relationships with them is what matters.Most book marketing advice focuses on how to get readers to buy your books, yet ignores how to care for your readers once you’ve got them. With subtle tweaks to your publishing process, you have the opportunity to cultivate more passionate readers. I call these passionate readers superfans.
Superfans are your evangelists. Superfans buy everything you publish. They’re the first to preorder your next book and the first to give it five-star reviews. Superfans are how bestsellers sell more books.
The process for cultivating superfans unfolds over minutes, days, and years. Before you can create the optimal environment for superfan cultivation, it’s helpful to first peek inside the minds of readers. Why do they read?
Reading is an aspirational exercise. Readers read to receive pleasure, knowledge, or both.
Whether they’re reading your book, meeting you at a conference, or following you on social media, readers form positive and negative perceptions about you with every interaction. You’re either earning their admiration, trust, and confidence, or you’re squandering it.
As readers, we’re inclined to protect our limited resources of time, attention, and money. Our conscious and subconscious minds are tuned to observe positive and negative inputs, which we store on invisible mental scorecards. These scorecards guide our reading decisions from one second to the next. We ignore or abandon works we consider unsatisfying, repulsive, or high-risk, and we gravitate toward authors whom we trust to satisfy our desires. These scores are cumulative, in that two typos in your book are unlikely to shake readers’ admiration, whereas a typo on every page could make them quit reading and remember your author brand for the wrong reason.
Let’s itemize a few of the touch points both outside and inside the book where you have the opportunity to either build or diminish readers’ perception of your author brand.
A good cover makes a promise. Through imagery, symbolism, and design, a cover either telegraphs that “this book is exactly what you’re looking for,” or it says, “I’m not for you!” Readers will perceive most homemade covers as amateur and therefore a turnoff. A professionally designed cover, by contrast, will draw readers in by making an honest, aspirational promise.
Your description often comprises the first words that your readers will read from you. Why then do so many self-published books have poorly written book descriptions? Common mistakes include inadequate information, typos, and poor sentence casing. Such sloppiness sends the message that you won’t honor the reader’s time with a professional-quality read.
The Author PersonaReaders will form opinions of you as an author based on how you comport yourself both online and off. If you’re one of those foul-tempered authors who use social media to rant against enemies real and imagined, there’s a good chance your readers will dislike you and not respect you. Be the sunshine, not the storm cloud.
Formatting and Design
When readers open your e-book or print book, what’s the first thing they see and feel? Do they see an attractive, clean design? Or are they met with a cacophony of clutter, inconsistent font sizes, and poor paragraph construction? Poor e-book formatting is off-putting to readers because it interferes with readability.
Readers’ minds are in judgment mode starting with the first word of your first paragraph and continuing until the end of the book—if they make it that far. With every completed sentence, readers make a choice to either continue reading or give up. They yearn to be teased, hooked, and titillated as your talent reveals itself to them. Sloppy writing and poor editing, by contrast, pull readers out of the story.
Enhanced Back Matter
Many authors end their books with a period followed by nothing more. That’s a missed opportunity for the reader to form a more intimate relationship with the author. Add these three sections to the end of your book:
1. About the Author: A snappy, one-paragraph bio to humanize the writer; surprise readers with something interesting.
2. Other Books by This Author: Provide a listing of your other books so they can find their next read.
3. Connect with the Author: Add hyperlinks to all your social media coordinates and your private mailing list; by making it easy for readers to connect with you, you make it easier for them to proceed down the path toward superfandom.