Every author needs an audience, and there’s no reason why you can’t start building one right now in your own backyard. What follows are five easy steps to get you started.
1. The Town Library
Go to your town library homepage and find the link to “events.” Often, you’ll find a list of book clubs, film screenings, and (wait for it) … author talks! That’s what you’re looking to do. Lead a discussion, and connect with readers. As a writer, you’re an expert on books and writing, and can easily develop a workshop on a variety of topics. You have the choice of discussing your own book, or you can explore a similar topic around your genre, which will bring in like-minded fans. For instance, if you write mysteries, then create a seminar on the top ten mysteries of all times. The audience attending will not only welcome hearing about your picks, but also about similar work – your own. Be sure to give them a business card or, even better, a sample chapter to take home with them. To schedule an author talk, visit the “event” section for your library. If they don’t have a specific place to submit a proposal, click “contact” and send a query.
2. Do Street Readings Promotion…and Tips!
Finding an audience is a lot easier than you think but writers can often be timid when it comes time to engage. One way to get over those fears is to take your work right to the street, and busk! Go to your nearest supermarket or mall, or any area where there is a lot of foot-traffic. (Check if you need permission or a permit). Put out a tip jar and start reading. It’s that simple. As soon as you do, people will begin to take notice. If you write poetry, it’s easier to hold an audience for a shorter span. If you’re a prose writer, try stories that are under 500 words to read. If you’re really bold, go for a serialized chapter. Read the opening, and hand out details to purchase more, or another sample chapter to keep them hooked. Have some extra mney, but too shy to read your own work? Contact your local college’s actors’ guild to see if you can hire someone to do street readings for you.
3. Writing Live!
This one requires you to position yourself near an outlet so be sure to request permission. You will need typewriter or a laptop with a small printer, three milk-crates, and a talent for writing off the cuff. As with the example above, set your typewriter or laptop/printer up in a busy area. Put up a sign reading, “Love poems or Stories $2.00” (or whatever you’d like to charge.) As people pass, (especially couples) ask them if they’d like you to compose a poem/story for them, and then get typing! You’d be surprised how much people enjoy the novelty. If you have a local bookstore, inquire if you can set up inside and write for customers, giving them a share of the profits. Always bring samples of your own work to share. Plan it around Valentine’s Day, and get ready for a crowd!
4. DIY Pamphlets
Do-it-yourself pamphlets are an attractive alternative to pricy business cards, and more productive in building an audience. Print-and-go pamphlets are usually sized to fit in your back pocket, and contain one story of around fifteen pages. They showcase your work, and can be left or given out wherever you go. People love to get free things. What better way to introduce yourself? Start with a stand-alone story, or use the first chapter of your novel, with links to buy the complete work.
How to make a pamphlet? If you use Word, download instructions on formatting a document to a booklet. If you have a Mac, download the program “Create Booklet”, which adds a new “booklet” printing option to the queue. It’s as easy as printing, cutting, and creating a handmade cover. Have fun creating unique, one-of-a-kind booklets. Attending a conference? Bring a handful to leave on chairs. Don’t forget to visit the airport where willing readers are never in short supply!
5. Farmer’s Markets
Every summer (and sometimes winter, too) local farmers and artisans come together to sell local veggies. Well, authors, it’s time to get in on the action. Just contact the coordinator and register for a booth to showcase your books. If you have friends, you can rent a table together. You can also suggest giving readings as part of the entertainment. As an added treat for your new audience, dress in a costume that complements your book. Often local bands are hired to play while people are shopping, but they always have an intermission – a good time to hear a few rapid readings from you. Farmer’s markets are geared toward consumers – and an audience – who thrive on keeping things local. What better way to engage with real people interested in making connections?
6. Homeless Shelters
If you’ve every attended an Empty Bowls fundraiser, then you might already know how this one works. By partnering with your local homeless shelter, you can not only build a new audience for your work, but also help raise money for the homeless. With Empty Bowls, local artists donate hand-made ceramic bowls, which the public buys for a fee that goes directly to the shelter. Writers, on the other hand, donate books (one copy per author) for the public to purchase. At the event, authors have the addition of offering a live reading to showcase their work. It’s great way to connect with your immediate area. You may have to do some of the organizing with your local shelter to create the event. Often, you can search your state to find local authors interesting in self-promotion who will donate books, and join the event.
Hunter Liguore is an American writer with degrees in history and writing. Her published work has appeared in: Bellevue Literary Review, The Irish Pages, New Plains Review, The Master’s Review, Strange Horizons, Descant, Amazing Stories, among others. She teaches undergraduate and graduate writing in New England. Her novel, “Next Breath,” is represented by Regal Literary Agency. She’s also an avid DIY pamphleteer.