In The Public Eye

The argument can be made that today’s authors have to do more self-promotion than ever before in the history of the written word. These days, it’s not enough to generate good work and shake the right hands. Modern publishers consider a number of external factors before extending that coveted contract.

One of the most important factors, in many publishers’ eyes, is how expansive your fan base is— your social media followings (among many other factors) are huge indicators of your ability to promote your work via your own connections and thus make yourself a profitable publishing investment.

In this installment of “In the Public Eye”, PR expert Julie Schoerke offers tips on establishing a large, loyal following whilst making general, real connections.

3 Ways to Start Wooing Your Future Audience
By Julie Schoerke
Founder, JKS Communications, A Book Publicity Firm

This week I had a fascinating call with a serial entrepreneur. Michael Lyons has a series of novels coming in the future. He has planned five books, and written two, but he already has 3,000 readers through social media, personally engaged with him and his series—which is the tip of the iceberg from what he’s targeted by the time the first book launches.

What does Michael Lyons have in common with veteran author Jenny Milchman? Jenny’s road to publishing is well-documented and celebrated as a success for those who persevere. It took her more than 12 years, but she got a Big Five publishing deal and is now well-known in in the mystery/thriller world.

Jenny’s passion has been connecting kids and independent bookstores. Not a direct link to mystery/thrillers, but it has given her the opportunity to connect with hundreds of bookstores, and she’s accrued thousands of fans in a really authentic way.

Jenny and Michael are both great examples of authors who start marketing and building influence before they even have a publishing date. They make real connections with real people.

What can you do now to make authentic connections with readers and/or tastemakers around the country?

  1. Consider who your “people” are
    • How old are the people who will read your book and share it?
    • Where do they live?
    • What are they passionate about?
    • What groups or organizations do they belong to or identify with that you can begin cultivating?
  1. Figure out where your “people” are on social media and jump in:
    • Facebook is great for middle-age readers
    • Instagram captures the attention of 20-somethings and younger
    • Pinterest may be ideal for “cozy mystery” fans who like a heaping helping of wholesomeness with their book
    • Twitter is a hashtagger’s dream for connecting with audiences of causes or specific interests
  1. Make real connections
    • As you begin to build your base of contacts, don’t go for quantity over quality. Connect with other authors and tastemakers in the industry such as librarians, booksellers, book reviewers, bloggers, book club mavens, etc. Hiring someone in a third-world country to get you a bunch of followers is meaningless if they don’t actually share your passion.
    • When you connect on social media, don’t just “friend” someone, engage them. Ask their advice, let them know about some quirky fact you just picked up, as well as—of course—retweeting, liking their posts, etc.

Michael sends direct messages to each person he connects with on social media. He starts a dialogue that asks questions and their advice. This provides a back and forth exchange. His novels feature kids who grew up in military families, known as “brats”. As a former military “brat” himself, he knows where to look to find real groups and “virtual” (online) groups that cater to the interests of alumni of that lifestyle, and kids who are living it today.

Jenny meets hundreds of people in person and then connects with them on social media. She always engages in valuable conversations on a myriad of topics that are important to the people she is “friends” with. Jenny has a radio show that explores the topics that are of interest to mystery writers and readers. She is the founder of “Take Your Child To a Bookstore Day,” which occurs each December with more than 700 bookstores involved.

Be your real, genuine self. Cheryl Rainfield is a great example of an author who shares her triumphs, her challenges and her social concerns as well as her beloved dog’s health with her friends and fans on social media.

Lori Rader-Day is always posting funny, interesting things on Facebook. And she is the queen of events and fun! She makes herself available to groups in the Chicago metropolitan area all of the time and is a popular fixture at mystery conferences.

I wouldn’t miss Charles Salzberg’s posts on social media for anything because they make me laugh or enrage me. He knows how to entertain and inform in short pithy ways.

Kay Kendall is an author’s author who is always lifting up other’s careers and shining a bright light on her colleagues and those books she knows her sphere of influence will like.

In order to “woo” your future audiences, you must be diligent in staying connected with fans, tastemakers, and colleagues in the “real” world at conferences, book festivals, and professional organizations—as well as Facebook groups, Twitter meet-ups, etc. If you are visiting a city, collect data from your social media to learn who is in that area that you could meet face-to-face for a “Dutch” dinner or drinks.

Be on the lookout for valuable content (articles, blogs, etc.) that they will be interested in, and build your email list to share information with these folks that they will be glad to have. When your book is ready to release, these folks will feel like they have more of a stake because you are real to them. That is how you establish a loyal fan base while remaining authentic and genuine.

Julie SchoerkeJulie Schoerke founded JKS Communications, a Literary Publicity Firm, 15 years ago, and the firm has gone on to represent more than 600 authors, as well as publishers and literary organizations. Personalizing creative campaigns for each author, having an accountability system in place throughout the authors’ campaigns and including former journalists on the publicity team are hallmarks of her vision for the firm. Julie speaks at writers’ conferences, universities, and book festivals across the United States. She also writes book- marketing and book-promotion columns for trade publications and is a featured guest frequently on radio. JKS Communications is headquartered in Nashville, TN with operations in New Orleans and New York as well. For more information please visit