Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Fans, your bread and butter

Panellists: Dennis Lee, Jane Ann McLachlan, Gregory Wilson

JAM: How and when do you acquire fans?

DL: Work with another author who already has them. I was playing City of Heroes and met Mercedes Lackey online. I couldn’t have planned it. Our collaboration started as a podcast. No one wanted to read superhero stories by Mercedes. They were too invested in her fantasy. We had to find voice actors who were willing to work for free. When you offer something for free, people will find you. We also got an opportunity to be a part of the Humble Bundle. We moved 50,000 copies. It’s all about word of mouth and good will.

JAM: Offering something for free is a great method of attracting fans. If you’re working with a publisher, they’ll want to know the number of your followers. You’ll need to know something about marketing.

GW: Draw upon existing groups. I draw on readers of my existing publications, the audience for my show on Twitch about story and narrative in games, and I have a speculative fiction podcast for which I’ve interviewed a number of well known science fiction and fantasy authors. You have to make the connection between where you are, where you existing fan bases are, and where you want to be.

JAM: Once you have fans, how do you keep them?

GW: You have to write more and get better. You have to continually interact with your fans and be able to seek out feedback without being irritating. Respond to your comments.

DL: I agree. In my case, I was part of a group of four authors working collaboratively. We set up social media accounts in our characters’ names and we interact with our fans in character. Sometimes we get provocative.

JAM: Write well and interact. If you wait until you’re ready, publishers won’t beat down your door. Take too long between books (posts and events) and your readers will forget about you. At the same time, you shouldn’t write so fast that you compromise quality. Start a newsletter. Build an email list. Value your fans. Fans like books. Friends value authors.

DL: Mercedes and her husband interact differently with their fans than they do with friends.

JAM: How do you encourage your fans to spread the word? I’d have a light touch. No one wants to be manipulated or told what to do.

DL: It’s hard to ask. We don’t. We assume that if they like what they’re reading, the fans will talk it up without our having to ask. Be polite.

GW: I’m happy to ask. But it’s an ask, not a tell or a manipulation. Fans will spread the word if they want to. Sometimes they need to know that the effort is appreciated, though.


And that was the last session of day 1.

Next week, I’ll move on to the day 2 sessions with “And agent and an editor walk into a bar . . .” Of course, I’ll be back with Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday as well, and if I get off my bloggish butt I might have another Wordsmith Studio homecoming post about what I’m reading these days.

Thank you for reading.

Stay tuned and be well.

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