There is an alternative to getting feedback through reviews and it’s actually pretty awesome (though we all need the happy reviews, too.) Recently, I did a Bookbub giveaway. About 20,000 people picked up the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. That’s three novels in one big book. Not only am I hearing more from readers who dig my flow, but I’m engaging with them through email plus giving them another free book. I’m thinking long-term and building a readership, but it has helped in the short-term, too. Here’s how:
At the back of the Omnibus is a link to a video that asks readers a question about a secret revealed in the saga. Once they comment on the secret YouTube link and email me their address, I send them the gift of another book, Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes. I also let them know there’s another book coming at Christmas called The Haunting Lessons. If you liked TPOD, you’ll probably love The Haunting Lessons.
You can’t generally engage with reviewers without the risk of being accused of bad author behavior, but these people are coming to me. They’re a happy bunch (only one grump among the many emails I’ve received!) and they’re happy to talk about This Plague of Days. I also take the opportunity in their gift card message to encourage reviews.
Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes (my autobiographical crime novel) also secrets behind the story. The back of that book has a blog post link readers can access with a password on my author site, AllThatChazz.com, so they can get some of their questions answered.
If this seems like a long, expensive process to find new readers, I have three answers:
1. Long? Not really. I was writing the books anyway. I’m in this for the long haul with many more books on the way.
2. Paying for advertising in the form of gift books to a TARGETED audience is miles cheaper than any other approach I can think of.
3. Contrary to what you may have read from other authors recently, I’m finding that gifting does lift my other book sales.
This won’t help you much if you don’t have more than a couple of books to sell, but free isn’t a concept to throw away quite yet. I’m happy with this twist on free because I’m making happy readers happier instead of throwing business cards out of moving cars and shouting at annoyed strangers.
I’m loving it most because, unfortunately, there is occasionally a hostile, suspicious or impatient dynamic between reviewers and authors. As a writer, it’s great to hear back from the people who get what you’re doing, are friendly and engaged. The conversations I’ve had over email are delightfully empty of power trips and ego. It’s fantastic to me that people just want to talk about the story’s emotional impact or the philosophy or psychology that form the underlying themes of This Plague of Days. That’s cool. (You know how some reviewers seem to hate reading? Not this crowd. They are so in!)
I think this approach works because:
a. Hey, I understand they read to the end of a long epic saga. It figures they’re more committed than the average bear.
b. People love to know secrets and behind-the-scenes stuff.
c. People love free stuff.
d. When I talk about TPOD on video they’re getting to know me as a human being.
e. When they read the secrets in the secret blog post, they’re invited into my little club. I’m touched that they got involved enough in the thriller to want to know what’s fiction and what’s not.
Your mileage may vary, as they say, but keep experimenting with new approaches. You might even stick a secret link in the back of your next book and watch the happy readers show up in droves.