Please pardon me for shouting, but I will shout it here once more. WRITERS, CONNECT WITH YOUR READERS ALREADY!!! It's easier than ever, with the million gazillion social media networks out there. Still not convinced to get on Twitter, and Pinterest, and Google+? (I'm assuming you're on Facebook already). Why not? The benefits are huge. Let's use me as a sorry lab rabbit here. A year ago, I started out by quitting my career to write full time. Who am I? A nobody. What do I do? I write fantasy books, but sorta twisted sick dark fantasy, a little over the top with descriptions fantasy, and fantasy that is very green, meaning, I'm a young writer, a newbie, and I don't yet know how to properly write novels or fantasy, still learning. So who in the world would read my stuff? Why? Who cares about it, when there are big names out there like J.K. Rowling, and George R. R. Martin, and Neil Gaiman, and, oh my God, a million others? But people do, which still makes me look like this: O__O I had a little over 300 beta readers plunge into Siren Suicides, and people are actually buying it now that it's published (have yet to make a report on sales numbers) and reading it, and liking it. I was honestly astounded at first, wondering, why on earth would they do that? Then it hit me, sometime this spring. They do it because of me. I have yet to get to the level of my stories speaking for themselves (not there yet), but people are reading my books because of the interactions we had on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, or on whatever other place on the Internetz, or in person. You can do it too, and you should do it. In fact, I insist, it's very important for you to connect with your readers any way you can. Why? Because...
...listen to readers' feedback, it's golden. I hear a lot of negativity around the feedback the readers give you, especially if it's bad, or bad reviews. It goes like this... oh God, how could they? They have no idea what I was trying to say, and they just want to bite me, they are just these people that like writing bad reviews just for the fun of it, just because they can, etc, etc. I find this strange. Nowadays, with the book market flooded with indie books the way it is, any review, bad or good, is golden. I mean, somebody actually spent time reading your shit? You know this is amazing, right? You've been competing for someone's time and you won a whole 8 hours or however long it took that person to read your book. They took their time away from their significant other (if there is one), or kids, or dogs, or kittens, or knitting an orange sweater for their cousin Bob, or whatever, for YOUR BOOK? That alone is huge. Wow. And then they took out the time to give you feedback, too? That's beyond amazing. I always thank everyone personally (well, I try, because so far I don't have that many reviews, so I can do it), for their time and effort, and I read everything. There is always something that rings true for me, and while I can't change things in the published books, I can pick up things that can help me write better books in the future. By now I know that my weaknesses are excessive descriptions and my dialogue is a bit stiff, and I don't yet know how to engage secondary characters fully, and a bunch of other stuff. If not for my readers, I would've never known that.
Talk to your readers about anything and everything. People will read your books, when you just start out, not because you have a reputation or a name (cause you haven't yet), but because they know who you are, know your personal story. For example, many people bought Siren Suicides not because they wanted to read the actual story, but because they were curious what I came up with, how I battled my depression and suicidal tendencies through writing a novel, well, a trilogy (yeah, it expanded into 3 books over 5 drafts), and for a slew of other reasons. I know because those people told me so, writing me letters and private messages and emails and whatnot. This, again, is awesome. If they did happen to like my first book, there is a chance they might come back for more of my work. How cool is that? I think it's beyond cool. I'm still pinching myself every time someone orders signed copies of my books or I get Amazon emails telling me I got paid. I mean, I give out all my books for FREE on my site, and still people buy them. Because, again, as they told me, they want to help, to support a writer. But why would anyone want to support me? For the same reason I listed above. Because they know my history, my daily moods, my failures, my successes, I don't hide anything at all, and this is a true connection between me and my readers, it's like we have a blood vessel between us, sharing everything. It's a very scary thing to do, but I can tell you that I've connected with people on a deeper level than I ever imagined, on a deeper level than even in some of my past real-life friendships.
Share what your readers say about you with others. The good and the bad and everything. In the end, it's not what you tell people about yourself, it's what people say about you. You can say you are smart and sassy and whatever, but people will form their own opinion about you, whether you want to or not, and it's a good thing. It will actually show you sides of yourself you didn't know. Well then, be humble, and share it. You're a writer, your life is no longer private by definition. As much as you will try to camouflage it with stories, every single book you write is rooted in your life experiences, and there will be repeating events from your life, repeating themes. Essentially, by writing a book, you not only invite people into your life, you invite them into your very brain. How much more un-private can that be? Imagine now that you're trying to come off as standoffish. Too late. People already know your secrets. Well, let them have fun! Let them muse, let them talk, let them bitch and moan, or adore and praise. Whatever they do, it's about them, not about you, but it will help others discover you. It will make your readers happy and open up a dialogue, be it on a social media network or in person. You can even jokingly introduce yourself with some word or phrase people call you or your work, like: Hi, I'm Jill Nill, and my readers call me Yellow Jello because all of my book covers have a canary tone to them, and I mention canaries in my books a lot. Or whatever. You get the point. By letting your readers do with you what they want to do, you essentially letting them own you, letting them call you their own, and truly own your books, so that they become theirs. That is the most brilliant thing any writer can ask for, for each reader to feel like the book was written for them and them alone. That's how you get readers for life.
What else? Let's see here, beyond those big philosophical points, interacting with your readers is simply fun. These people know so much about you, and yet nothing about you, and yet they do, on some other level. I'm an addict, personally. I love talking to my readers to death (gosh, I hope I don't bore them to death and they love talking to me too!). Anyway, there is nothing else to say, except, CONNECT WITH YOUR READERS. GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!