Marketing gurus these days recommend that indie authors work to build their mailing lists. But how do you find readers willing to give you their email addresses?
In an effort to answer that question, Larry Froncek founded Voracious Readers Only. He’s agreed to take a seat in the comfy chair and answer some questions for us.
Larry, what gave you the idea to start Voracious Readers Only? Are you an indie author yourself?
LF: Several years ago, I read an article about a group of romance authors who each had a sizeable email list and took turns promoting one another’s books. As I recall, these writers became rather successful.
Fast forward in time and my wife just published her first novel. We had known that building an email list to promote your work to is very important and you’ll find no shortage of articles online recommending you do so. But as far as HOW to build an email list, there wasn’t much useful advice.
That’s when I got the idea to create a big email list of readers who are eager to read authors they haven’t heard of before. Once I gathered about 100 emails, I began reaching out to authors who recently published a book and explained to them that I wanted to give away 20 copies to my list in exchange for the email address of each reader so they could add them to their email list. Within a few days, I had a week’s worth of books to give away and Voracious Readers Only has evolved from there.
Lynne: How many readers are receiving your newsletter? How do you recruit them?
LF: I just hit 5,200 (it’s April 12th, 2018). About 20-30 readers sign up each day.
At first, almost all my readers came from a multi-step campaign on Facebook but as time has passed, I’ve begun testing other media like Twitter and Pinterest. I also get referrals from my readers and organic traffic to the site as well.
Lynne: So readers sign up for free, and authors get their first listing for free. How do you make money?
LF: I run a program called the Evergreen Offer in which an author can pay to have their book offered to my newest subscribers. That way, they can add a steady flow of new readers to their email list for a nominal fee of $20 a month (as of April 2018). Depending on the book, an author may get anywhere from 40 to 120 opt-ins a month—which comes out to $.17 to $.50 an email address. On top of that, a certain percentage of those readers will review the book on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Some also publish reviews on their own website or YouTube channel. And, there are readers who discover their new favorite author and go and buy and read their entire backlist.
Once I have data from an author’s 20-book giveaway, I can let them know if that book is a good candidate for the Evergreen Offer program and about how many opt ins they can expect each month once they sign up.
Lynne: What are your best-performing genres? And are there any genres that have been a tough sell with your readers?
LF: The genres that do best with my list are thrillers/mysteries, fantasy, YA, and romance. Science fiction, inspirational, horror, and westerns are less popular.
Lynne: Do you have a sense of how many reviews authors typically get from a 20-book giveaway?
LF: It depends on the book, but most get between 2-5 reviews from their 20-book giveaway. Shorter books (<50k words) seem to do better than epic 150k word tomes. It also doesn’t hurt if the book is really well written and professionally edited.
Lynne: As always. Do you have any tips for authors for making their book more appealing?
LF: During the last six months, I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to know what genre your book is in and package it accordingly. Some authors have told me their book is fantasy, science-fiction, romance, and a thriller. That’s great that you think your novel has a broad appeal but readers have certain genres and subgenres they like and if they don’t instantly think your book is in their wheelhouse, they move on.
Even if you know the genre, the other “stuff” has to support that. If you’re writing a Regency romance, the title better have something like Duke, Count, Dutchess, etc., in it. The cover better have a woman in a fancy 19th century dress or something to remind readers of that era. The blurb must give the reader the impression that it’s a Regency romance.
I just did a giveaway for a book that the author identified as a paranormal romance. The cover looked like a cover from an international crime thriller. The blurb read like a crime thriller as well. It didn’t even mention romance or a love interest! Needless to say, the readers didn’t connect with that book and didn’t request it. I contacted the author and she gave me the okay to re-offer the book as an international crime thriller and we had no problem getting opt ins.
Lynne: It’s great to hear that you work with authors that way. Any tips on what writers should never do?
LF: I think it’s important to really know your audience and make sure your communications to them are something they want to hear. I don’t know why this is the case, but it seems like most authors start a blog about being a writer. Well, not everyone reading your books really wants to be an author. If you want to sell to authors, then make a separate site and go crazy with it. But your blog should be about your books and maybe a little about your life so readers can get to know you and develop a relationship with that persona.
When it comes to social media, keep your public persona out of politics. It’s annoying to readers if an author they like tweets all day long about how much they hate Trump or why Hillary should be in prison. The readers will just unfollow or block you and then the only people following you are going to be fans of your politics who won’t buy your books. It’s a big waste of time. If you write thrillers in which politics or conspiracies play a role, then maybe you can get away with it. If you write epic fantasy, then keep stay away from current events.
Lynne: Good advice. Any tips for readers when it comes to reviews?
LF: When you write a review, come at it from the perspective that you’re trying to sell someone on why they should read the book. It’s not a book report. No one wants to know if you were clever enough to solve the mystery before the big reveal. Don’t give spoilers. Tell the person reading your review if the book reminded you of another book or author’s style, if the characters were interesting and fleshed out, or if the book stirred any emotions in you. A short review like, “This book really reminded me of what it would be like if Hercule Poirot lived in a steam punk universe,” gives someone reading a review a clearer idea about a novel than “Excellent book” does.
If you really enjoyed a book, then after you write a good review of it, forward that link to the author. Post it on your social media and tag the author. When you read their other books, do the same. When that author knows you exist and that you’re a big fan, they may offer you an opportunity to get their next book before publication so you can review it ahead of other readers.
Lynne: That’s a win-win for everybody. Authors love to know we have mega-fans, too.
Larry, thanks again for stopping by. The website is http://voraciousreadersonly.com.
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