Readers, fans, and followers are the lifeblood of a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re an author, blogger, or columnist… your reader base helps keep your momentum going. They leave encouraging comments on your posts, website, and social media pages. They recommend you to their friends. They leave great reviews (most of the time). And they buy your books!
So how do you give back? What can you do to thank them for their loyalty and attract new readers as well?
Host a “Reader Appreciation Event!”
Nothing speaks “love” more than recognition and gifts (and sometimes chocolate-covered strawberries). There are two primary venues for giving back to your readers: In person and online.
If you choose to host a local reader appreciation event, you’ll need to promote it well in advance. It takes time, planning, and expense, so you’ll want to do all you can to see that the event is well-attended. Places to hold your event could include:
- Library conference rooms
- Public school auditoriums
- Coffee shops or cafés
- Movie theater auditoriums
- Your own retail store event room… (LOL)
The event should be more like a party (think Tupperware, not Mardi Gras). There should be a mix of decadent and healthy snacks and beverages (think Sweet Tea, not Long Island Ice Tea), pleasant background music if allowed (think Mozart, not Megadeth… unless you wrote a horror novel), games (think Pin the Tail on the Donkey, not Strip Poker), and giveaways (think affordable, not break-the-bank).
This kind of in-person event is also a great opportunity to get sponsors. Visit local businesses for donations of their products or services or discount coupons to put into gift baskets and goody bags and use for door prizes. Not only does this help with the cost of providing freebies for your fans, it also promotes and advertises the businesses that are donating.
Make it fun! Play games and hold drawings for the prizes. See that everyone leaves with a little something that reminds them of your gratitude. A small gift bag full of goodies: a bookmark with your contact info on it, trial-size lip balm or hand lotion, discount coupon for your next book, a piece of chocolate, a hand-written thank you card, and an invitation to join a special “closed” Facebook group for your readers only are examples of what to include.
And don’t forget the short speech. Express your appreciation to your readers for their encouragement and support, and let them know how much they mean to you. Then let them mingle and have fun!
Bonus Tip: Make sure you have books to sell at this event just in case one of your local fans hasn’t collected all of them yet… This is an even bigger reason to write a series.
Online events allow you to reach more readers around the globe. Host a “live event”—meaning in real time. Again, you’ll want to start promoting this no further than two to three weeks in advance. Choose a date and specific time. It’s best to avoid Fridays and Saturdays and too early in the morning or late at night. For readers who are “across the pond” and in a completely opposite time zone, arrange to send them a free gift, such as a useful printable (checklist, how-to guide, sneak-peak chapter of your upcoming book, etc.) if they can’t attend.
At the designated time, “meet” your readers in a chat room or Facebook event group. Plan for 30 to 60 minutes of answering questions, playing games, and giving away prizes. One example of a game is to quote a line from one of your books or blog posts; the first one to name the reference wins! The idea is to have fun, spend time with your readers and fans, and make sure that everyone attending leaves the event with a gift of some kind.
In lieu of a live event you can offer a freebie, discount, or printable to everyone on your email list. Be sure to tell them the gift has no strings attached and is a way to let them know you’re grateful for them.
A reader appreciation event is all about the people who helped “put you on the map.” It will endear you to your readers even more and keep you motivated to do what you do best: Write!