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Engage Your Fans

In this interconnected world, we’re seeing that authors who engage their readers and create a sense of community can achieve great success, like the phenomenal success of Twilight, due partly to a huge Facebook and social networking fan base.

As you know, my focus as a writing coach is on adult nonfiction. While the ideas I’m about to share are being implemented for a novel, you can also be creative in applying them to nonfiction, even a how-to book.

Donna Montalbano
Donna Montalbano

My good friend, Donna Montalbano, author of The House on Benefit Street, has been serializing her second novel, The Shop on Wickendon Street.

Donnas first book was a local phenomenon
Donna's first book was a local phenomenon

I asked Donna how she came up with the idea of the contest.

Crazy as it sounds, I stumbled on the idea while working with a travel agent on a trip to Italy. At the bottom of her emails, it said: How am I doing? Let me know if I can serve you better.

I began thinking, “How am I doing as the author of The Shop on Wickenden Street?” Serializing the book on my website provided a rare opportunity to find out.

Before I post the next couple of chapters, which will essentially solve the mystery, I want to know if I am holding up my end of the unique bargain that exists between the mystery writer and the mystery reader.”

What bargain? you might ask.

Donna says, “I, the writer, promise to give you, the reader, a sporting chance to solve this mystery, but I am going to do my best to keep you from doing it, by hook or by crook! Unlike real life, in the mystery novel all the clues must be hidden in plain sight. The writer’s job is to make the reader miss, misinterpret or ignore those clues. The highest compliment a mystery writer can receive from a reader is: Wow, I did not see that coming!”

How is Donna doing, by her own standards of success?

Can you guess who stole Angies mirror?
Can you guess who stole Angie's mirror? And can you guess the big secret?

“I received a few dozen emails, and some readers have come close, but no cigar.  I intend to run the Whodunit contest for a couple more weeks, then post the remaining chapters and announce the winner or winners”

The prize is an autographed copy of Donna’s first book, The House on Benefit Street. The Shop on Wickenden Street is the second in the series set in historic Providence, Rhode Island, featuring that spunky fiftyish widow, Angie Russo.

How can we nonfiction authors engage our readers similarly?

  • Can you create a contest around the theme of your book?
  • How can you gauge whether you are meeting your end of the bargain readers (a reader quiz on your website?)?
  • How else can you engage with your readers?

Comment here with your ideas, whether you’ve already implemented them or just got inspired!

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Stephen Monrad says

    If you serialize a book online, can it later be published? Why would people pay for a book that they can read for free?

    I agree that engaging readers is a great idea. I’m going to give some thought to how I might be able to do that.

    • lisatener says

      Stephen,
      It seems contrary to what you’d expect, but many serialized books have been bestsellers. Gentleman’s Agreement, for instance, was first serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine in the 1940’s. The book came out just after the serialization and sold 1.6 million copies, and then became a popular movie. More recently, Made to Stick, is a business book that was first blogged and became a bestseller. And let’s not forget Charles Dickens…
      Donna, can you say more about why you decided to serialize?

  2. Donna Montalbano says

    Lisa, I decided to serialize my new book because my readers had waited long enough for the sequel to The House on Benefit Street! Whether an author publishes independently or conventionally, the journey from final draft to first edition takes months, even years. I also saw serialization as a marketing tool. Money can’t buy good word-of-mouth. Many who are enjoying The Shop on Wickenden Street online will buy the book just to own it, or to give as a gift. What’s more, the serialization of The Shop on Wickenden Street has boosted sales of The House, which had begun to taper off. Lastly, let’s face it…for all the thousands who have read The House and The Shop, there are millions more in my target demographic who haven’t…and I want to reach out to all of them!

  3. Stephen Monrad says

    Interesting points. I’m going to think about going further into the meat of my topic on my blog.

    Lisa, do you know how many books “Made to Stick” sold? It is a fabulous book.

  4. lisatener says

    Hi Stephen, I did a quick search and did not find numbers on copies sold, but it was a New York Times bestseller. Tell you what: Let’s have a contest. First person to come up with the number of copies sold from a reliable source wins a free downloadable copy of The Insider’s Guide to Writing Your Best Book in 60 Days!

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