Tuesday 24 February 2015

Creating Genuine Reader Engagement: The Basics

by Rel Mollet

Growing up reading everything I could get my hands on, I never imagined that one day authors, those brilliantly talented folk that had their names on books in pretty font, would be accessible to me the reader. The writers among you know more than most that it is a brave new world we live in - one where authors have a website dedicated to a great headshot and hopefully eye-catching book covers. A world where writers feel pressured to have a profile for every social media application known to mankind, and where freebies and giveaways and gifts for readers seem commonplace, and even expected. The pressure to engage with readers is immense, a reality, and one that can be done well.

Now, let's be clear, I'm no marketing guru - I'm sharing my thoughts as a reader, as to what the basics are when it comes to reader engagement.

A Quality Story

An essential precursor to reader engagement is a quality, intriguing, emotion inducing story. Without that, reader engagement is unlikely, so let's assume that's a given. Where do you go from there?

Identify Your Target Audience

If you are already published, then your target audience should already be in your sights, so to speak! If you are yet to release your novel, put time and effort into determining and understanding your target audience. If you don't have your readership clear in your minds, any future marketing and reader engagement is likely to be inefficient or even ineffective.

Appealing Website

The modern reader expects to be able to find authors' online home. An up to date, fresh, visually appealing website at the very least. We all know the damage a "cheap and nasty" cover can do to a book. The same can be said for a "cheap and nasty" website. There's plenty of free do-it-yourself website designs available these days so there is not a lot of excuses anymore. Some interactive features wouldn't go astray either. Get a second, third, and fourth opinion from people with an eye for design who will be honest with you.

Social Media Platform

Plenty has been said on this topic so I won't say much. Choose one (some of you may be able to manage more than one) social media site that works for you and then do it well. Focus your energies on Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter or a blog and show your readers you care for them on that medium. Consider your target audience to make a wise choice in this arena.

Respect your Readers

This is a big one, my friends. Your readers aren't stupid, so don't treat them as such. Just as you have invested time and effort in writing a story, your readers invest time, money, and emotions in reading it. Out of the billions of books available, they chose yours, Respect that. The number of times I have read poorly thought out criticisms of readers by writers staggers me. In response to a review, on a blog, on social media. I don't care that you might be commenting on a writers' website - plenty of readers hang around writers groups and the fastest way to turn off a reader is to be dismissive, aggressive, or rude.

Nurture your Readers

A reader sends you an email? Reply. A blogger sends you a link to their review? Visit the blog and comment with thanks. A reader asks for a review copy? Accept or decline, but do so graciously and with appreciation for their interest.

There are other ways to engage your readers, but that's for another day. Remember, care for your readers and they will care for you!

Do you enjoy or resent the need for reader engagement?

Rel Mollet founded her book-reviewing blog in 2006, which is dedicated to showcasing Christian Fiction and its writers by way of reviews, author interviews, character spotlights, and more. 

Rel is a contributing writer at and, and an Advisory Board member of the INSPY Awards.  A book club co-ordinator for over a decade, Rel resides in Melbourne with her family.


  1. Fabulous post, Rel. Thanks for sharing your reader perspective.

    Unfortunately, I have emailed a few authors and not received replies. It's the quickest way to lose a loyal or potential loyal reader.

    I'm encouraged by your reminder to always engage with grace and respect. :)

    1. Thanks Dotti - yes, writers ignore readers at their own peril!

  2. Love the post Rel. Like Dottie I too have had the experience of not getting replies but then having the same author ask for an interview or something. The other thing is when they do appear on the blog especially when they ask to be on the blog then do not show up or reply to emails is frustrating.

    The other big thing is when they offer a giveaway but never send it out. I have been on the end of this as well as had a few on my blog not get the book and had to then send a copy myself.

    I have also been disrespected on a public forum for my opinion on things in books told I was ignorant or unrealistic and others. This put me off the author and will never buy one of their books again. Also doing my business course we learnt for every bad service most will tell around 10 people which means an author could be losing up to 10 readers for every time they are disrespectful to a reader in a public forum.

    1. Jenny, I hadn't heard of the '10 person' rule until you shared it just now, but it makes a lot of sense. It's a huge loss for any business, but an even bigger loss for one's personal reputation.

    2. I may be wrong on the exact number but way more will tell others about bad service than they will good service.

      I am wrong its 15. No news is not good news – research shows each dissatisfied customer will, on average, tell 15 other people, while a satisfied customer will tell no more than six

      I have had a bad experience recently and I have told more than 15 people so far more to alert others to be careful not to be nasty to the shop. But now days with Social media it reaches way more.

    3. The figures Jenny quotes are consistent with what I was taught in marketing in the dark ages (i.e the days before social media). I agree that with social media, the number is probably much higher.

    4. I'm sorry but not surprised to hear your experiences, Jenny. I've had similar ones, particularly where an author has requested to be featured on my blog and then not only failed to come back and engage with her readers once the post was live, but not acknowledge my email advising her that the post has been completed. Poor manners, at the very least.

  3. What a great viewpoint, Rel! (I'm curious about your full name.) That is, from the aspect of a reader who knows what they expect. As writers we think we know but it's necessary to hear it spelled out. Yes I love what you said about needing to be emotionally moved. Sometimes I write and rewrite a scene until my own eyes tear up.

    Funnily enough, I was writing while waiting in the eye doctor's surgery for my husband. The scene was very emotional so the tears began welling. The nurse came in and caught me. 'Oh, there's nothing to worry about. He's fine.' I didn't dare tell her I wasn't thinking about him!
    I have to get right there with my characters and feel what they feel.

    As for respecting our readers in everything...oh, that's just plain courtesy isn't it?

    1. Love that story, Rita :) My real name is the same as one of the regular contributors here at ACW!!

      And yes, respecting readers is plain courtesy but courtesy seems to be a little out of fashion these days. Sigh.

    2. That's a terrific story, Rita! Did you tell your husband, and if so, what did he say?

      It's true about getting emotionally involved with your characters. If you're not moved then how can our readers be?

  4. Rel, I am happy to engage with my readers anytime and always answer anyone who contacts me via my website straight away, if possible. I have had only one reader contact me who was irate at the particular theological view she felt I had made obvious in one of my novels. But, even in these instances, I think it is really important to respond in a gracious manner. On the positive side, I have had lots of lovely email conversations as well with readers I am never likely to meet--I always feel they deserve a good email response in return, if they have taken the time to write and tell me how much they enjoyed a book of mine. And once recently, while book signing in a large Christian bookstore here in Sydney, two ladies came up to me and thanked me profusely for writing my first two novels, which they said had moved them so much. Such an encouraging moment for me--especially when they then bought two of my later books!

  5. Rel, excellent post! Common sense and good manners make a difference. I've worked in customer service for many years, and I think authors who have worked in the retail and services industries do have an advantage. They can find it easier to understand the relationship between the seller (author) and the customer (reader), and they've been taught how to nurture these valuable relationships in a professional manner. Thanks for sharing your helpful insights from a reader perspective :)

  6. Hi Rel - great post. I was a reader way before I started writing and connecting with authors is a terrific experience - or it should be!


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