How to build an organic fanbase if you write novels

You’ve written a book, but who’s gonna read it?

Now that I’m working on my fifth novel, I get a lot of inbound questions from aspiring writers. Some ask about craft. Some ask about inspiration. Many ask about building an audience for their own work.

I’m usually hesitant to dispense advice because every creative person makes art in their own way. Despite that, we all love directives, especially in list format. They force the writer to form strong, concise opinions which we can quickly identify or disagree with. So here we go. Here are some simple tips I give aspiring novelists looking to attract readers:
  1. Write. A lot. It’s funny how many writers don’t actually spend much time writing. Write. Write Write. It’s the only way you’re going to hit your 10,000 hours and really hone your craft. In fiction, the rule of thumb is that you start getting good after your first 10 novels.
  2. Write a book you love. Hopefully, others like you will also fall for your story. Fans who truly love your writing will champion your work. I don’t buy books because of banner ads or billboards. I read books because people I trust recommend them. Word of mouth is the way good books find new readers. It’s not about shouting as loud as you can to try to reach new people. It’s about delighting people that are already enamored with your books and stoking their enthusiasm even more.
  3. Read. Challenge yourself. Read books that make you think. Read books that make you feel. Read the best books you can get your hands on. Share your favorites. We want to know what piques your fancy. Always be reading.
  4. Do things that improve people’s lives. If you share your book on social, invite people into your life rather than plugging your book. If you go on a podcast, don’t just talk about yourself. Instead, think about what you might be able to share that would make a real impact for listeners. If you write a guest post, don’t just try to drive traffic to your work. Craft something that’s valuable on its own as a piece of evergreen content. Put the interests of your readers ahead of your own.
  5. Fans are humans, so treat them like people. Don’t think of them as metrics, customers, engagements, or anything else. Even if you only have a few readers, do everything you can to make their day. Don’t force email blasts into their inboxes. Send them personal, substantive notes that show how much you appreciate and respect them. I respond to every single email from folks who subscribe to my author newsletter. The more we treat each other humanely, the more we earn each other’s respect.
Wait, not so fast! Don’t browse around for another article to read. Write the next chapter instead.

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