• Stephen Howard

How To: Get Readers and Build Your Fan Base

Building your fan base takes a research and planning.

How to reach your target audience is one of the most common questions I hear from authors trying to get their books out there or when they are trying to promote their website. Surprisingly, it’s not as easy as you might think because the trends are always changing, but there are some ways to reach your audience that will help build your base.

Have a Freebie

If you’re gearing up for a book release, you need to start building up a mailing list of people who will be potential buyers, and one of the best ways to do that is to have a freebie on your author site for subscribers.

You can have it be “behind the scenes” looks at the making of the book in either written or video format what you talk about the process of writing. You could show scenes that you loved but didn’t make the cut in the final draft, or small excerpts from the story.

Whatever you do, it MUST be exclusive to your subscribers. You want them to feel special (because they are) and you want to spoil them a bit.

If you go this route, don’t ask them for their entire life history to sign up. I see this done way too often, and it’s off-putting.

Ask them for their email and (maybe) their first name; that’s it. No more, no less. It is much more appealing than the ones that ask for your first name, last name, phone number, email address, etc.  

You could also offer them a discount on your novel when it comes out to sweeten the deal, but try and stay in the 10-20% range, so you don’t undersell yourself.

Social Media

It can be a bit of a catch-22 with social media because you can fall into the trap of “I’m interacting with readers! This is so much fun!” and you end up spending all your time on Twitter or Facebook not accomplishing much.

I’m going to break down each one a little bit so you can choose which will best fit your style.


You can connect with a lot of people on Twitter, and the #WritingCommunity on there is very active. Figuring out the hashtags to use takes some trial and error, but the writing community one gets a lot of eyes on it.

If you get Twitter, you’ll want to spend time connecting and commenting on other people’s posts. If you take an interest in others, they will take an interest in you.

When you post about your book, I recommend a 20/80 rule, which is where 20% of your posts are about your book, and the other 80% is connecting with your followers. I recommend having a picture with a quote from your book as it’s more engaging than plain text, and you can fit more in a picture.

There are millions of free pictures on Canva or Unsplash that you can use to spice up your posts. Canva even has an option for a Twitter Post that formats it to the right size, so all you need to do is create.


While you probably won’t get a ton of traction through Facebook, it’s still important to have an author page because lots of people don’t use Twitter or Instagram. You will need a different strategy on Facebook than you would use on Twitter because hashtags are used less often. You’ll want links to your author page, and email, an “about you,” and good photos. Again, Canva will be your best friend.

Your first followers here will probably be your family and friends, which isn’t a bad thing. I suggest asking if two or three of them will consistently repost or share stuff from your page to help build an audience and gain interest.

Wouldn’t be a bad idea to also join some writing groups that have promo days where you will be allowed to promote your book, website, freebies, etc. Same as Twitter, you’ll want to be connecting with others at the same time.

Note: For Twitter and Facebook, I recommend planning out and scheduling your posts in advance to save you time. There are tons of different apps out there for this, but I use SEMRush because it also helps you with SEO, tracking, and website health. The free features are very useful when starting out, so you may want to look into it.


You’ll want to be making lots and lots of pictures if you plan on using Instagram, and you’ll want to incorporate your story into them, again, following the 20/80 rule as a guideline.

Here, you’ll see tons of hashtags used, and this is probably where you will start gaining lots of readers if you use the hashtags right to draw people to your profile.  I haven’t utilized this as much, but I know that lots of authors swear by it. I do recommend looking into it since you can also connect it to your Facebook page.

Note: SEMRush does not automatically post on Instagram as it does to Twitter and Facebook (it is in the works, though).


No matter what social media platform you end up on, you’ll want to plan giveaways for your followers. It’s a great way to connect and build up your reader base as you hit different milestones.

For example, when I hit 1.5k followers on Twitter, I gave away a developmental edit to one lucky follower. In your case, it could do a free book once you’ve published, or maybe you purchase someone else’s book or offer a review of their book.

The key to doing giveaways well is to plan them out in advance. Admittedly, I’ve not done this on several occasions and didn’t get any hits. I rushed it rather than taking my time.

Don’t do that. 

Also, don’t do the same giveaway across every platform or at the same time. Remember, you want your followers to feel special. This is where the planning comes into play.

It’s a little different if you have, for example, a sale on your book. You’ll want to promote that across ALL profiles. For giveaways, however, I would try and limit it to once a month (depending on the milestones you’re looking to hit) or every other month.

Be available

Now, that being said, you should NOT be available 24/7. You have books to write and a business to run after all. But if someone reaches out to you with interest in your book, you should look to respond within 24 hrs if possible. If you have Messenger set up on your Facebook page, you can let people know what the timeframe is that they should expect to hear from you.

On Twitter or Instagram, you’ll want to make sure you reply to as many of the people who comment on your posts as possible. You’re going to miss some, but overall, you want to try and get as many as you can. That will show them that you take the time to read what they said, and they will feel more connected to you.

While it sounds easy enough to comment and then be done, it’s very addicting to go through and see Like, Comments, and Retweets/Shares on your posts. You’ll feel like you need to post a lot more, comment more, interact more because you’ll get more followers that way.


The key to social media is a balance of quality and quantity. You want to be consistent, doing between 3-5 posts a week that include pictures (they are more appealing) that are a mixture of promoting your book and connecting with your reader base.

If you do too many posts, it’s going to end up getting lost and fall through the cracks or become background noise. Be purposeful, and don’t forget to have fun while you do it!

These are just some of the ways that you can begin to build up your reader base ahead of your release date. You don’t have to start out doing all of them, and I would recommend that you don’t. I suggest you pick two that compliment each other, such as a website and a social media profile, that way you can send your followers there to subscribe.

Either way, remember, treat it as a business!

Your time is valuable and should not be wasted endlessly scrolling for hours upon hours on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. It’s easy to do!

I should know, I do it, too 😉

As part of the story coaching packages The Editing Bard offers, you receive help in setting up your website, talking through setting up social media, how to plan your posts, and maximize your online presence. Check out the Services page for more details or contact the Bard if you have questions.

As a developmental editor, the Bard can help you bring your story to life by taking a deep look into your story and find the plot holes that can kill your story. See what is offered on the Services page to find the one right for you!

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