Image: Matthew Loffhagen
One of my favorite parts of writing is watching my readership numbers go up. New book sales are fantastic, new follows on social media make my day, and I even check my blog hit counter regularly just to see how things are going. As much as writing is a personal journey, it’s gratifying to know that an increasingly large following is enjoying your work.
But, sadly, the numbers don’t always go up. Sometimes a readership can stop growing or even begin to shrink for seemingly no reason. This can be incredibly frustrating to a writer when a new book doesn’t sell as well as an older one did – after all the effort you’ve put in, after having seen some success, all your good work is sliding away from you.
You may even start to question if there’s something wrong with the latest book. If the subject not appealing? Were your readers unimpressed with the last book? Why isn’t selling books getting any easier?
If this sounds all too familiar, take courage from the fact that you’re not alone. Let’s have a quick look at how you can overcome plateaus and develop your readership even further.
Understanding the problem
So what happens to stop your readership growing? One minute you’re slowly but surely gaining a new reader here or selling a new book there – why does this progression suddenly drop off, even though you’ve not changed anything about the way you’re marketing your books?
The first thing you need to do in order to overcome a plateau is figure out what’s causing it. While you can’t entirely trace where your readers are coming from, you can put tools like Google Analytics to work to learn about your author site’s visitors, where they’re coming from, and what advertising methods are causing you problems.
Alternatively, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to your followers via social media or email to ask their thoughts on your latest book, and where they first discovered your writing. Getting a better idea of where your readers are coming from will help you to refocus your marketing efforts and hopefully will help give your readership a long term boost.
Holding on to existing readers
Unfortunately, with the world of books, one of the biggest challenges is readership retention. Someone may find your first book fantastic, but after waiting six months for your next instalment, may forget to look up your next book.
Popular indie author Susan Kaye Quinn recommends that writers don’t let more than six months pass between book instalments. While this may not always be possible, it’s important to remember that time is not on your side: the longer your audience has to wait for your next book, the more likely you are to lose them before they get a chance to buy your latest work.The longer your audience has to wait for your next book, the more likely you are to lose them.Click To Tweet
If you’re not able to keep your existing fans coming back for more, it can end up feeling like you’re not making any progress even if you’re regularly gaining new readers.
As it’s not always possible to rush out your next novel, you’ll want to give existing fans something to tide them over. Consider increasing the frequency with which you write blog posts, social media posts, or email newsletters.
Giving readers promotional short stories or other tidbits can also help you maintain momentum as your fans wait between novels.
More writing means more readers
Often the best way to increase your readership is through increasing the amount of promotional work you’re publishing.
The popular marketing writer Neil Patel has explained that the secret to his success in building a readership has come from blogging on a daily basis – he found that writing one extra post a week increased his readership by 25%, which makes it sound like additional content is worthwhile.
Now of course, one thing that won’t help you escape a plateau is publishing unfinished novels or posting poorly assembled blog posts. What you need to do is find a good balance between quantity of work and the quality of your writing. Don’t just post a blog for the sake of it!
Trying something new
Sometimes a previously popular marketing method stops being effective because you’ve mined it for all it’s worth – if you’re advertising your book in a place but everyone who’s going to buy your novel has already done so, it might be time to move on.
In book marketing, it can be tempting to find a single avenue that seems to be working and stick to it – perhaps you’ve got some well-respected online influencers on your side, or you’re seeing some growth from your blog.
Using the same few marketing techniques can soon end up leading to a drop-off in the number of new readers you reach out to, so if things seem like they’re getting stale, often the best thing you can do is try a new marketing technique.
Different things to try can include reaching out to new online influencers you’ve not spoken to before, running a promotional contest, or even giving an older book away for free to draw in new readers.
It takes time
Frustrating as it may be, building a solid, consistent readership is a long game. There’s no magic solution to finding more fans, and ultimately the only way to overcome a readership plateau is through sheer thick-skinned hard work.The only way to overcome a readership plateau is through sheer thick-skinned hard work.Click To Tweet
The writer Jeff Ollerton has been open about his own stats when building his blog audience – it took over six months for him to see any rise in his readership, and a few years after that before his site really gained any traction. So don’t lose hope if the numbers aren’t on your side at the moment.
Plateaus can be frustrating and difficult to break free from. If you’re persistent, though, eventually your journey to the top will pick up speed.What To Do When Your Readership Hits A PlateauClick To Tweet
What are your thoughts for how to keep your readership growing? Let us know in the comments below.