Stephanie Chandler – How you can attract lifelong fans
Nonfiction Authors Association Podcast | April 26, 2023
‘You want to be really consistent with your messaging to your audience, that keeps you on track and knows that you are serving them. How can you help your audience? How can you give them advice that will make their lives better? How can you entertain them?’
About Stephanie Chandler
Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan. She is CEO of NonfictionAuthorsAssociation.com, a vibrant educational community for experienced and aspiring writers, and NonfictionWritersConference.com, events conducted entirely online since 2010. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine.
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- Handouts from 2022 NFWC Presentation
- Slides from 2022 NFWC Presentation
- Building A Story Brand, by Donald Miller
- Jenny Levine Finke’s Good For You Gluten Free Community
- Real America: A Memoir, by Julie Lythcott-Haims
- The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod
- Crying In H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
- Joseph Alexander Guitar Instruction Manuals
- The Three Chairs, by Karyn Gordon
- Atomic Habits, by James Clear
In this episode…
- Hear more of Stephanie’s story and how the Nonfiction Writers Association and Nonfiction Writers Conference began.
- Learn about the importance of content marketing.
- Learn ways to engage your community.
- Questions to ask yourself when thinking about engaged community marketing.
- How to define your target audience.
- How to best serve your audience and examples of authors who have.
- The definition of content marketing and questions to ask yourself when marketing to your audience.
- Topic ideas to attract an audience.
- Ideas to help you create a content strategy.
- How to leverage social media in your content marketing strategy.
- How to cultivate your tribe of influence.
Hello and welcome to the interview series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with Stephanie Chandler and we will be talking about how you can attract lifelong fans. I’m Carla King, your host, and I’m happy to have you with us today. This interview will last only 30 minutes and you can find the replay on our Nonfiction Authors Association website and social media platforms including YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.
This month’s replay features Stephanie’s 2022 Nonfiction Writers Conference session on How to Attract Lifelong Fans. (Don’t miss Stephanie’s 2023 session on How to Build Your Book Marketing Plan.)
Many authors struggle to sell just one book at a time, which requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. But there is a better way! When you build a community of readers, you can sell MANY books at a time—along with related products and services that you offer. In this content-rich presentation, Stephanie Chandler shares proven strategies that you can put to work right away to begin cultivating an engaged audience of readers who want to buy your books—plus related products and services. You will learn how to:
- Understand the various ways authors and influencers cultivate communities
- Form a plan to develop your own community
- Identify your Tribe of Influence—and it may be bigger than you think
- Use content marketing strategies to attract new community members
- Implement key steps to transform your readers into lifelong fans
Stop struggling to sell one book at a time and learn how you can cultivate a loyal community of readers and make your author business profitable. Whether you’ve been an author for years or you’re just getting started, these steps can dramatically improve your success.
Find out more about the Nonfiction Writers Conference.
And now enjoy this special feature from the 2022 Nonfiction Writers Conference.
Stephanie Chandler 1:25
Welcome to day three of our Nonfiction Writers Conference. I can’t believe how fast it goes by. I’m your host Stephanie Chandler. I’m also your speaker for this session. I’m going to talk about how to cultivate a community of lifelong fans.
Before we go, I’m gonna give you our quick guidelines. We are recording this session. If you’d like to ask a question, please put it in the Q&A. I can’t wait to take your questions. That’s always the really fun part. This session will last 50 minutes. There are handouts available. There’s a handout and a copy of the slides available either on nonfictionwritersconference.com, or in your Dropbox.
And let’s give a big thanks to our Platinum Sponsors. lulu.com offers print on demand services for all kinds of books, including spiral binding and color printing, and they’re a great place to order your Advanced Review copies. They also have an integration tools that allow you to drop-ship your books directly to your buyers from your website. I love that feature. You can save 15% off printing with the code NFAA15. And also, the Editorial Freelancers Association–it turns out many of our attendees are members of this association. They feature a directory of more than 3000 professional editors, copywriters, proofreaders, indexers, and other publishing industry professionals. There’s no charge to list your job requirements and receive work proposals. You can learn more at the-efa.org/hiring.
And now I’m thrilled to introduce our speaker. I am your speaker today. I am so thrilled to be here with you. I’m going to share my slides. And then I wanted to just give a quick background for those of you who are new to me. So I am obviously the founder and host of the Nonfiction Writers Conference and the Nonfiction Authors Association. I started this conference back in 2010–completely online, nobody else was doing this. But what happened was–I was frustrated that I was speaking at writers conferences and events, and nobody was really talking to nonfiction writers. So I thought, ‘Maybe I need to create this.’ ‘Build it and they will come,’ as they say, and that’s what happened. And then each year after the conference, the attendees would say, ‘How do we keep in touch when this is over?’ Perhaps you’re feeling that way right now. And that led to starting the Nonfiction Authors Association in 2013.
By the way, prior to all of this, I am a Silicon Valley refugee. I was a Technical Course Instructor and Developer. I worked in software sales. I got recruited into sales of a $4 million quota–and an ulcer before my 30th birthday. I miss nothing about Silicon Valley. But I left in 2003, and I opened a brick and mortar bookstore. And I thought I was going to write novels in the back office. And it turned out–I was a terrible novelist. But I accidentally realized, ‘Oh, wait, I love nonfiction. It’s what I read.’ I’ve always wanted to teach. So that is how it all happened. I actually set out in life to be an English teacher, and took a detour into the Silicon Valley. So following my own path to find my passion and my audience.
I really hope that you see what I have done as an example for what is possible for you as well. Because I have cultivated a community. I mean, I didn’t know that this is what I wanted to do, right? I left the Silicon Valley thinking I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to write, I grew up wanting to write. It was just always in me. But when I quit my Silicon Valley job, I didn’t know how to make a living as a writer. So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll open a bookstore. I love books,’ right? And so the path kind of found its way to me. I became a hybrid book publisher, I was traditionally published, and then I took my own books back in house and started producing them myself. So I’ve really done it all.
And I haven’t had any easy breaks. I haven’t had any celebrities tweet about me. I’ve done this work that you’ve been learning how to do. And so, I can promise you it’s worth it. It just takes time. So let’s go through the steps.
So a question for you is–do you want to sell one book at a time, or do you want to sell many at a time? And this is a challenge when you go and you set up, and spend half your day doing a book signing event at a local bookstore. It sounds fun–it sounds like it’s the logical thing to do. But as we’ve heard from a couple of the speakers, it can be really disappointing that the books don’t sell well–unless you’ve stirred up some buzz, or got some friends and family to come along. I find this to be one of the hardest ways to sell books–is to go sit in a bookstore and do a book signing. It’s a much better opportunity to engage your audience–as a speaker, as an online community host. Whatever that’s going to be for you. As a podcast host. Engage your audience.
And by the way, speakers sell books. I always say this–if you’re a speaker, get out there, find your audience. Speakers sell books. And if you’re at a big event, this is what happens, right? So after your event, people come–and they can’t wait to get an autographed book and meet you. Plus, that’s much more rewarding than sitting at a bookstore table directing people to the bathroom.
So our opportunity today is to engage people in person, but also online. I think one of the few gifts that came out of this pandemic is that Zoom became normalized. I mean, we’ve been using it for years. But most people weren’t. And now even my elderly father can use Zoom, right? So everybody can use Zoom. And it’s a fabulous tool. Look what we’re doing for three straight days with the power of Zoom.
So the real solution to cultivating our audiences is a combination of content marketing, and creating an engaged community. And what happens is–we have these random acts of content marketing. And you may be seeing this, or you may be doing it yourself. And you don’t realize that it’s not helping. It’s probably hurting your goal to build your audience. So random acts of content marketing means that you’re on social media, and there’s no focus, right? And you don’t want to get on there and go, ‘Buy my books, buy my books, buy my books.’ That is not going to build an audience–it’s just going to turn people off.
You want to be providing value. But instead, I’m seeing pictures of people’s lunch, I’m seeing pictures from vacation. And that’s fun and that’s okay once in a while. But mostly, you want to be really consistent with your messaging to your audience, that keeps you on track and knows that you are serving them. How can you help your audience? How can you give them advice that will make their lives better? How can you entertain them? For those of you writing maybe history, or social sciences, or whatever it is–how can you create interesting content? For those of you writing memoir and narrative nonfiction–what is your lane going to be? Is it going to be a theme from your memoir? That’s probably one of the best paths to take. But it also can be loosely related to your book. The point is that you’re cultivating a community and you’re serving them in some way.
So I think you’ve heard this–I think we’ve really driven this message home. But it’s so essential to get clear about your target audience. Who are they? Where are they spending time? This is an important question to answer, because you want to be able to connect with them. I will say that connecting with a nonfiction author audience has been tricky, because it’s not an established audience online. I can’t buy a Facebook ad that just goes to nonfiction writers, right? So though it’s a niche, and people are out there, it’s not an established niche. We’ve literally had to build it. But you want to know–where are they spending time? What are their needs, challenges and interests? This is key. If you remember nothing else from my presentation today–what is your audience’s needs, challenges and interests? And how can you serve those? So important. This is how we build an audience.
Look to me as an example, because I am serving you–my audience–with value, right? That’s why you’re here. And so you want to do the same thing for your audience in your own way. So I brought along some examples. I haven’t gotten very excited about any business books in a number of years. I mean, I’ve read a lot of them, I’ve written them. But I really love Donald Miller’s Building A Story Brand. It’s fantastic. And by the way, for authors, it’s a really good one. It’s building your brand, right? And it’s just a really great perspective on your messaging to your customers, and things like that. So he’s very clear about his audience. He serves a business audience, and look at the results of that. He created a certification program–Build A Career As A Business Coach. So he’s really serving his audience. He’s found a need and he’s filling it.
Jenny Levine Finke runs a community called Good For You Gluten Free. And she lives a gluten free lifestyle. So she helps others who need to do the same. She had been building this community for years before her book came out. And so after cultivating this community, and then her book comes out years later–imagine the support she gained from that community of people. It’s been tremendous. She’s done really, really well. She attracted corporate sponsors–all kinds of things–because she has picked a lane and stayed in that lane.
A cousin introduced me to Julie Lythcott-Haims. She wrote a parenting book–a really compelling memoir. And she is such a great example to look to on social media, because she’s really connecting with people over just empathy for how challenging the world can be–how challenging parenting can be. She takes live calls, and then answers them on live events on Facebook, and things like that. So she’s a great example of how to build a community of people who are following you.
Hal Elrod–I love to use him as an example in presentations because holy cow, he has been wildly successful with his book. Maybe some of you have read it. Hal is a keynote speaker who survived a head on collision with a drunk driver probably 20 years ago, and a traumatic brain injury. And he set out in life to be a motivational speaker, and has done that really well for 20 years. Well, his book didn’t come out until just a few years ago. And so after all these years of being a keynote speaker, building a following, building his email list, guess what happens when the book comes out? It takes off like wildfire. So look at the number of reviews he has. And this screenshot might be a couple months old–it might even be over 10,000 by now. And he’s had spin off editions of the book. And it’s self published, by the way. So pretty phenomenal.
I just think this is such a cool story. So Michelle Zauner is a musician. She has a great following on social media. And she released her memoir called Crying in H Mart. It has consistently been at the top of the bestsellers list. I haven’t read it yet. It’s on my list. And so here’s a good example of an audience that isn’t directly connected to your book, but it’s an audience of fans, right? So she’s a musician who has cultivated a community. And that community–when her book came out, they already adored her. They want to support her and buy the book. And so it doesn’t necessarily have to be directly related to the book, but it needs to be the kind of people who will want to read your book.
Joseph Alexander started writing guitar instruction manuals–how to play guitar. And then it expanded, and he started bringing in other authors. He literally built a publishing business around music instruction guides, and a YouTube channel. And he’s now doing over a million dollars a year in book sales.
This is Karen Gordon. I personally worked with Karen for the launch of her book last year–The Three Chairs. Karen is a leadership speaker and coach. And leadership books–let me tell you, there’s a ton of them. It’s a really hard space to compete in. But she has some psychology behind her approach, and she’s been cultivating a community for years. So she put the self published book out on presale several months in advance and promoted the heck out of it. And that allowed the book to come out at the top of the Wall Street Journal and the USA Today Bestsellers Lists. Because those sales–when you put a book on presale, they add up, and they count on the week it’s released. And USA Today and Wall Street Journal are paying attention to ebook sales on Amazon–tip for you. New York Times list is not. USA Today and Wall Street Journal do.
And then–I mean, Brene Brown–aside from the fact that I just adore this woman, she’s a wonderful example. So she gave this TED talk that went viral, and found her audience of people who wanted to learn about shame resilience. And then she went into talking about living in your values in your emotions and relationships. She’s super relatable. And so look at what’s happening. Now she’s streaming on Netflix. She’s BFFs with Oprah. These things happen when you do the work, and you serve your audience well.
So let’s talk about the content that you’re going to create. So this is called Content Marketing–producing content that will help your audience. So what does your audience care about? How-to advice is one of the top ways to get attention online. So writing, ‘10 ways to solve a problem,’ ‘How to get over this hurdle’ – those types of advice articles do really, really well online. So pay attention to what your audience cares about.
I’m listening to all of you this week–the questions you’re asking. Some of them are going to become blog posts. If I can’t answer a question with a piece of content, it goes on a list, and it becomes a piece of content. Because if one person in my audience has that question, others do as well.
By the way, this example is Atomic Habits by James Clear. He has one of the best email lists I’ve ever seen. He sends out a tiny, short email every Thursday with these really quick tips on living a better life, I would say. But I heard that–what he did when his book came out–he got himself booked on 500 podcasts. Now, I can’t even imagine the amount of time that took–I’m sure that was spread out over a period of time. But when I talk about the power of podcasts as a promotional tool, that’s a great example.
So your topics might be themes related to your book. And this is for some of you who maybe are writing memoir or even some fiction. A theme might be where the book is set, the city that it set in. This is a picture of an author named Zava Hart. I met her when I had my bookstore, and she’s a local romance writer. And what she did with her marketing was really smart, because she will host romance parties–meaning she will teach people how to bring more romance into their relationships. And every Valentine’s day she gets media coverage. And she’ll talk about tips for being more romantic. So that’s the path she chose to go down.
It could be resources related to a theme from your book. I know several of you have gone through abusive childhoods, sexual assault, things like that. Can you be a beacon of light for others in that situation? And maybe you don’t want to be that. And let me just say–let me give you a permission slip–you don’t have to live in that space. As a widow, I chose not to live in that space, because we have to move forward in life. But if you’re called to do that, great. If you’re not, pick another subject around that–or that appeals to that audience. It might be a women’s empowerment topic, or something like that.
And be entertaining. If you have a great sense of humor, humor goes so well and so far online. I mean, I don’t even have to tell you this–there’s so many comedians and people who are establishing themselves as really funny writers that do really well online.
And then storytelling is a really important part of this too. And maybe you’re an essayist and you want to tell stories through a blog. That’s great. You can do that. Just make sure you’re staying in a lane and not confusing your audience. That’s so important.
And then sharing other people’s stories–this is a great way to build your platform. As a podcaster, you might be bringing in people talking about whatever your subject matter is. We do a podcast for the [Nonfiction Authors] Association. We interview people who have interesting information to share with authors, we share author success stories, we do all of those things on the blog, as well. So it’s about–what do they care about? And then leveraging other people to help deliver those messages. We’ve had guest speakers at this conference. You don’t want to spend three days with me. We need to bring in other people that can bring in value. And that’s a great way to expand your reach. Because also, when you ask somebody to contribute as a guest on your blog or your podcast, they should, in turn, go and share it with their audiences as well. So it just creates a win for everybody.
This is Donna Hartley. I’ve talked about her a lot over the years. She is a memoir writer, she survived a DC 10 plane crash, a collapsed heart valve, and stage three cancer. So she has a series of memoirs. She’s a really inspiring lady. She’s a keynote speaker full time. This has been her entire career for decades. And as a memoir writer, she gets nonprofits to buy and give out her books. She speaks for the Go Red Foundation–the women’s heart health foundation. So she has found women’s health to be one of her threads through the work that she does.
I think this has already become clear through this conference–that you want to be creating for someone. Have your audience in mind. Maybe it helps just to have a muse–think of one person that will benefit from your content. I do that sometimes when I’m writing an article–I’ll think of one specific person who maybe asked me a question about that topic. And I will write it for them. And I think that really helps you connect.
So your content strategy, I feel, should start with at least one form of what I call foundational content. And that means a blog, or a podcast, or YouTube channel. Now you can definitely have all three, which is great. But at least start with one. My personal preference has been a blog. I love to blog. I think blogs are really powerful. Every time you write a new piece of content, you give your audience another reason to connect with you. But either way–whether you’re doing a podcast or video–those become blog posts on your website as well. And the point is that you’re adding content to your site and giving people a reason to come to your website. And then we get this stuff out there by leveraging email marketing and social media. So email marketing, speaking, online events, in-person events, leveraging other websites that are reaching your target audience–these are all really powerful content marketing strategies to help you build that audience and connect with them.
I said this throughout the week–I think email is one of the best assets you can have as an author or a business owner. When you’re using social media, you’re using rented real estate. You don’t own your content on Facebook. You don’t own your content on Twitter, or even LinkedIn. They can kick you off. In fact, the Nonfiction Authors Association–we lost our Twitter account last year, for no reason. Literally one day, it evaporated. We never got it back. I can’t even tell you–I fought really hard, and begged, and pleaded, and reached out a million times to a million people. We lost 70,000 followers overnight. For no reason. We violated no rules. We certainly weren’t out there talking about politics, right?
So, the email lists–yes, you are renting space when you use a tool like MailChimp, or Constant Contact. But let’s say they go out of business–you still own your contacts, right? You can take them to another service provider. And the other thing about email is–when somebody gives you their email address, they’re giving you permission to market to them. And it’s a much better way to stay in communication with your target audience. With social media, we’re all kind of on and off there. We miss each other’s posts. So email gives you a way to directly connect with your target audience. And we need to give them incentive to join. We had a great session with Ty Goodwin yesterday about building quizzes. I think that’s a great opportunity for a lot of different types of authors. Sample chapters are really common. We do a lot of free reports and quick tips–things like that.
So here’s the other thing–don’t just pick one lead magnet. You want to start with one lead magnet, but create more than one. Create multiple incentives. So for example, we have a freebies page on the Nonfiction Authors Association with different reports. And there’s a reason for that, because you may not want the report on how to optimize for Amazon, but you really want the report on how to create Beta readers. So that way, we’re trying to appeal to more people by offering different lead magnets that will lead to signing up.
Now I have mixed feelings about social media, and I imagine many of you do too. I think it has been a little bit oversold to us. And I think that authors either get frustrated with it, just have a huge resistance, don’t want to do it. I understand all of that. So here’s what I would like to suggest. Pick one or two social media networks and do those well. And leverage social media to share your content, and cultivate and connect with your audience. So this is how you’re going to start establishing who you are, what you’re about, what your content is about. It’s where you’re going to connect with people. And it’s where you’re going to promote your lead magnets. It’s where you’re going to say, ‘Hey, come download my free report, or the first two chapters of my book.’ Now, that’s not going to be what you post every day, day after day. Because remember, we’re serving our audiences with content. So you’ll share your blog posts, maybe you’ll have some images created with tips or quotes on them. If you’re going to host any kind of event or be part of an event–those are the kinds of things we share on social media. So it always comes back to how are you serving your audience?
I also love social media groups–I think this is an underutilized opportunity for writers. So what groups does your audience belong to and participate in? And are you members of those groups? So go join those groups. Get involved. As a widow, I belong to a number of groups for widows. And imagine if I were actually writing a book for widows, right? I would have literally access to thousands of people. And I could go to the group admin and say, ‘Hey, can I put out a call for beta readers in your group?’ ‘Hey, can I do a book giveaway for members of the group?’ ‘Could I interview some people from the group for my podcast or for my book,’ right? So make friends with the admin. And don’t make it sound completely self-serving–you want to make it a win-win for everybody. And the other thing is–you can go create your group, right? So that’s a great opportunity.
And then we’re seeing–all kinds of technology is really helping us create community. Slack channels, WhatsApp, Clubhouse. Twitter Spaces is relatively new. So all of these things are other ways that you can potentially either locate community and get involved, or start your own.
And then speaking. Like I said, I really believe–I know for a fact–speakers sell books. When you stand up at the front of a room and engage an audience of 50 people or 500 or 5000, they’re gonna want to take a piece of you home with them. And that means your book. And so if you like speaking, and even if you don’t like speaking, you might want to learn to like speaking, because it’s such a great skill. I didn’t realize when my very first book came out, but I started getting these inquiries to speak and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess I better put some stuff together.’ I didn’t aspire to be a speaker. Some people love it. Some people learn to do it. I am a learn-to-do-it person. And so you can do it too. So maybe join your local Toastmasters if you’re not yet comfortable as a speaker, and develop those skills because they really, really do come in handy as an author. They help you be more confident when you’re doing media interviews. We’re online more today. You can speak in person, you can speak on Zoom. All of these things are possible.
We just purchased Streamyard. It software that allows you to live broadcast across multiple platforms at once. To YouTube, to Facebook, to LinkedIn–it all goes out at the same time simultaneously. It is so cool. In fact, our first Streamyard event was this past Wednesday, the day of a conference. So that was happening concurrently with the conference. Carla King is piloting that. So lots of ways for you to reach your community as a speaker–either on your own, or by getting yourself booked to speak through trade associations, houses of worship, chambers of commerce, schools. I mean, in your own backyard–I promise you–there are endless opportunities to speak.
And then posts and articles. So I ask–Where does your audience spend time? What websites are they visiting? What magazines do they read? What publications do they subscribe to? What trade associations do they belong to? How can you get involved? Can you contribute to the trade associations newsletter, or magazine, or blog? Can you speak at their events? Can you contribute to industry blogs? We have a lot of therapists and mental health professionals in this audience right now. You all should be writing articles for Psychology Today, and things like that. So those opportunities are out there.
And then looking to your peers and people you know, that you can connect with–that are in the same space, by the way. So you want to see if you can be on your peers’ podcast, be a guest, contribute guest content, do a book giveaway, maybe you do collaborate and do a live stream. But it should be with others who are in your same space.
So critical to your success–I mean, I’m pretty sure you all are going to be saying this in your sleep tonight–know your audience, know your audience, know your audience. Address their interests, and challenges, and needs. Stay on topic, be consistent. And then just keep sharing. It adds up with time, I promise you. Pay attention to the questions they’re asking you so that you can deliver value.
Now you want to cultivate this community. I call this your tribe of influence. So your audience may actually already be bigger than you realize. Think about who you already know. I have coworkers from 25 years ago from the Silicon Valley that now work for companies like Google, and Oracle, and Amazon, and eBay. And I could reach out if–I had a book that was appealing to that space, I could definitely reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, could you hook me up to come in and do a speaking engagement? Or connect me with the person who could give my book away to the employees, or the clients, or the customers?’ So think about who you know. People you went to school with, people you worked with, former neighbors–anybody who could potentially be influential in helping you get the word out about your book–those are the people you want to connect with.
And then you also want to be doing the research to figure out who you should be connected with. Who are the podcasters in your space? Who are the bloggers in your space? Who are the other authors, and how can you connect with them? When I say fellow writers, I don’t mean we should all be copromoting each other’s books. I mean fellow writers in your space, primarily. Because you want to stay in that lane and work with others who are in that lane with you. Really key. I mean, I could put out some tweets about a great SciFi novel I read, but maybe 1% would care, right?
Ask them for support. When you sit down, make this an exercise. Every time I release a book, I literally will spend half a day looking through my emails, looking at my social media contacts, kind of jogging my memory–who do I know? who have I not connected with in a while? I’ve been in the publishing space for a long time now. So I have lots of peers and industry friends. And maybe we’ve been out of touch for a couple of years. So it’s a good chance for me to reach back out. Might also just simply be asking people to buy the book, or post a review on Amazon. So what is your ask going to be? And I challenge you to create a spreadsheet. Put those contacts in there and create a column called ‘Ask.’ What is it you’re specifically asking them to help with?
Remember, it all comes back to this-how are you going to serve your audience and meet their needs? And then you want to keep that engagement going. Share your content on a regular basis. And then cultivate that community–get to know them. Create events like what we’re doing right now. Or create your private Facebook group or LinkedIn group. Whatever it is–get to know your audience, it will help you be more successful in the long run.
Alright, we did it. I’m so excited that we did this, because I really cannot wait to take your questions.
So Gail says–connecting with a nonfiction audiences is tricky. Can you give an example of how to take a thread from a memoir? One of mine is pivoting a difficult family legacy and how to cultivate consistent content that engages.
Memoirs are tricky. And it comes down to–maybe your topic isn’t directly related to that thread, but it’s a broader audience of who’s going to find value in your book. Is it single women? Is it mothers? Is it women who are going through a divorce? You’ve got to figure out who the book is serving. That is step one–who is your book serving? And then how can you serve those people? And by the way, figuring out what it is–what your content platform is going to be–don’t pick something just because it sounds like that’s the right thing to do. Pick something you’re going to stay passionate about. Because it will get old really fast if you’re not enjoying doing this work. So I would say your content might not be directly related to your memoir. You might be one of those cases where you find something that you’re really passionate about–it could even be a cause. It could be all kinds of things. And then you stay in that lane–attract that audience of people. I hope that’s making sense.
Lisa–what if your target audience is a hidden one? In other words, hiding in the shadows of stigma? People that do not want to admit their challenges because of the stigma of putting their life out there? In other words, they are not going to fully express themselves? So how do I find them? Many of my audience are in private groups or in support groups that you’re not allowed to advertise or promote your products.
Lisa, that’s tricky. It’s similar to me, because it’s kind of hard to just find nonfiction writers. I would say figure out–that audience must have other interests, right? Are they interested in certain types of vacations? Are they reading certain types of books? Where are those communities? For example, on Facebook, you can advertise to fans of other pages–like fans of similar authors, you can advertise to fans of products, like Peloton, or Constant Contact, or just any number of products. So I get that it’s tricky, but I also say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and start getting it out there. People are going to find you and follow you. Stay consistent, and just keep reaching out. And I think–by the way, your topic–because I got familiar with it–you should be on podcasts, you should be a guest. You’re going to find your people are going to be attracted to your message there, too.
Michelle: Have you seen examples of people drawing attention to their book by crowdfunding the publication costs? I’m thinking about doing this because it generates pre-sales in a different way. Wondering if there’s evidence that this might work?
Michelle–yeah, absolutely. I mean, Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns can be very successful, but they can also flop. So I would say–I think a good part of that comes from you bringing part of the audience. And then once you kind of kick their algorithms into gear, they help promote. Meaning the platform–Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But you really have to get it up and running. And I would suggest–you can study the campaigns that have done well there. Look at the completed campaigns for ideas and what worked well. And I’ve seen–from those campaigns–books about animals, things about illness, and causes, and nonprofits–those tend to do really well there. And then–I can’t remember the author’s name. It was a fiction writer who just did a Kickstarter. It was like the highest selling Kickstarter. It was multi millions of dollars in Kickstarter funds. Now he had a following, right? This is why we want a following. But for sure–I think it’s an opportunity.
Michelle: So of all the activities surrounding the writing, production and promotion of your book, what is the rough percentage of time you think that should be spent on audience cultivation and nurture efforts?
Oh, Michelle, I feel your angst, because it is tough. It is tough. We all have day jobs, right? We all have families and commitments. So this is a great question. Early on–I can tell you–that book I showed you from Hal Elrod, Miracle Morning–the premise of that book is–get up early to meet your goals. Carve out an extra hour or two a day for yourself that moves you towards your goals. And I would say that’s probably one great approach. If you could get up and put in an hour a day to move you towards your goals, that will add up. And if that’s not possible, can you chunk an afternoon a week, or one evening a week, where you spend two or three hours maybe producing your content?
The other thing I recommend over and over and over again is to hire a virtual assistant. If you can afford it, a virtual assistant–you’ve heard the term VA, and I’ve heard people saying, ‘What is a VA?’ A virtual assistant is an administrative professional who works from their home on a contract basis, and they help with these tasks. They help with researching the podcasts, they help with managing your social media content, and your blog. They help with all those tasks you’re procrastinating about. You can hire a virtual assistant for as little as $20 an hour, maybe up to $50 an hour, depending on their skill set. So think about five hours a month of help with what you’re doing with your marketing, for a couple hundred bucks. To me it is an incredibly worthwhile investment, because it’s going to help you move forward and let you focus on the things that you do best. Probably one of the best decisions I made early on was to hire an assistant to help with all the procrastination stuff.
Rob: How do you handle the chicken and egg issue that’s inherent in this? I mean, the problem of developing the brand until you have a book that’s out there that you can give to people and sell to people?
Hey, Rob. You don’t need a book to build an audience. You just need content. And it is chicken and the egg. And it’s funny, because I went to the San Francisco Writers Conference with my book proposal in–I think it was 2004 or 2005. And I got a call from Mike Larsen, a literary agent, after that event. And he said, ‘I like what you’re doing. Nobody knows who you are. You need to be reaching thousands of people every year.’ And I said exactly what you said. I said, ‘Isn’t that like the chicken and the egg? Once my book is out, I’ll be able to reach more people.’ And he said, ‘That’s not what publishers care about. Publishers want you to come to them with a built in audience so they know the book will sell.’ And now, whether you’re going to traditionally publish or self publish, this is why we want an audience. Because we know that our books are going to sell. Because we know that we can get corporate sponsors. Because we know that we can perhaps offer workshops, and training, and things like that. So start. Start where you are.
Becky: What software or database is best to use to collect, generate and use email lists?
Great questions, Becky. We use–and I love–Constant Contact. We actually recently got them to offer a member discount for Nonfiction Authors Association members. A lot of people like MailChimp, and AWeber is another one. So you do want to use a reputable email management system. There’s guidelines you need to follow when you’re sending commercial emails out. So those tools make it all very seamless for you. Make it really easy for you to handle all of that.
Julia: In creating multiple lead magnets, how do you distinguish or tag people depending on which one they found? How do you avoid confusing people but having various different options. I’ve got a short guide as a lead magnet and also want to make a related quiz, plus a white paper for different audiences.
So Julia, this is a good question. It’s depending on your email tools that you’re using. You would create–if you’re using Constant Contact, you would create different email list groups, and auto responders for each of those things. And you could do the same thing if you’re using Infusionsoft, or any email tool. You would have to create those pages so that they are feeding people into a separate list, and separating them. And it’s tricky. It gets a little bit confusing.
Are slides available?
Yes, slides are available. These slides are available, and they should be in the Dropbox. They’re also up on the site.
Jim: How would you do a quiz lead magnet about a coming of age memoir? Carla talked about quizzes yesterday, and she’s going to talk about surveys, which is great.
The quiz, Jim–it’s not about the book. It’s about the audience. Who is your audience for your coming of age memoir? Is it teenage boys that could learn lessons from your life lessons? Who is your audience? And what kind of quiz will appeal to them? So it’s not about the book. Everything you do is never about the book, it’s about the audience. And I know Carla is going to help with that, too.
Jean: If I have a couple of potential audiences, do I need to pick one, and for safety, others?
This is a tricky one. When you have multiple interests, multiple genres–unless you can find a way to intersect them, you probably need to pick one and give it your greatest attention. I started out in the small business space–I was writing small business books, I was a small business consultant, I had corporate sponsors as a business expert. But I really started feeling called to work in publishing. People were coming asking me how to get their books done. And so I’ve kind of slowly made the shift away from being a business consultant into being a publishing expert. And some of the people came with me and some didn’t. And if they weren’t into publishing, that’s fine. So pick a lane and start there. And then maybe you’ve mastered that lane, and you can add another lane, but it’s really hard to try to reach lots of people at one time.
Julie: My lane is a superhighway. The topic can serve a variety of groups. Would it be smart to focus on subgroups one at a time and broaden the road as I go?
Great question, Julie. Yes. And that’s also true. So you might have multiple groups outside of your main lane. So I say–stay in your main lane. And then you can kind of spider out from there. For example, I serve nonfiction writers. But that also means that I can reach out to memoir writers, and I can reach out to business book writers, and health and fitness book writers. But pick one lane and then expand from there. And also, that lane–the people in your audience–they’re going to tell others about it too. So I know we all want to reach more and more people, but make the first group of people fall in love with your content, and the rest starts to come.
Gary: On the self pub business side, you print in bulk and warehouse. I’ve seen price ranges a little from $1 a book to $15,000.
Yeah, Gary. I, today, recommend print on demand highly. Primarily through Ingram Spark, and Lulu, and possibly KDP. If you think you can move 15,000 books and you want to put them in a warehouse–maybe not at 15,000–5,000 books, great. You will save on costs. But if you don’t want to warehouse that, and you’re not sure you can sell that many, print on demand is a much more cost effective option. I’m gonna take one more.
Jennifer: Is GoodReads still a good place to be? Any advice in the best way to build that out?
So I will say–I think GoodReads is really great for fiction writers. I think it’s more fiction centric, as are a lot of writers groups and events. So should you have a presence there? Yes, for sure. And people will follow you, and you’ll get your reviews there as well. You might even try a GoodReads book giveaway. You do pay for those. But should you spend a ton of time there? I’m going to say no. I have yet to hear of a nonfiction author who has found Goodreads to be a major source of incredible book promotion.
I wish I could take every single question, you guys. But I will continue this conversation in our Facebook group. I am here, I am not going anywhere. The slides, the handouts, are available in the Dropbox and on nonfictionwritersconference.com. I hope this helped crystallize the information you’ve been hearing this week. Thank you so much, everybody.
Carla King 49:58
We hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation from last year’s Nonfiction Writers Conference. We look forward to our 13th annual conference coming up May 10-12, 2023. You can attend live or catch the recordings. Find out more at nonfictionwritersconference.com.
And thank you to our listeners for joining us today and every week. For a list of guests and topics just check our schedule on the site, use your favorite search engine, or better yet, sign up for our mailing list at NonfictionAuthorsAssociation.com.
Quotes from our guest
‘You want to be really consistent with your messaging to your audience, that keeps you on track and knows that you are serving them. How can you help your audience? How can you give them advice that will make their lives better? How can you entertain them?’
‘The real solution to cultivating our audiences is a combination of content marketing, and creating an engaged community.’
‘Remember, it all comes back to this-how are you going to serve your audience and meet their needs? And then you want to keep that engagement going. Share your content on a regular basis. And then cultivate that community–get to know them. Create events like what we’re doing right now. Or create your private Facebook group or LinkedIn group. Whatever it is–get to know your audience, it will help you be more successful in the long run.’
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