Dear Author: connecting with your readers

Color me more than a little surprised.

I am constantly told how hard it is to connect with your readers and how so many authors wish there was a way to really get to know who their fans are. This sounds legit. After all, I don't get an email from Amazon each month with the names and email of the people who bought my book. For the most part, I have no idea who my readers are.

But I do know a few. For example, I mentioned that when I got my Netgalley feedback there was a selection that readers could check if they were interested in connecting with the author. So, I finally got my act together and sent emails out to the lovely readers who were interested in chatting.
Imagine my shock when the first two people emailed back saying how happy they were that I contacted them, because NO ONE EVER DOES. One reader said she's been a member of Netgalley for years and has always checked the contact box. I was only the second author ever to reach out to her.

I realize that many of that feedback comments never make it to the author and the publicist is the one who sees it (this is me throwing shade at you, publicists who don't pass this on). But there are plenty of indie authors on Netgalley. And that means there are tons of authors pretty much ignoring an opportunity to connect.

Which got me thinking of other easy opportunities that authors could be flubbing. Check this list to see if you are committing any of these sins.

1. Solicited contact
This can be through a service like Netgalley, a contact form response, or a formal request through your agent or publicist. Whatever the circumstances are, if a reader says "hey, I'd love to get in contact with you", you do it. I just cannot fathom any good reason for not doing this. Seriously, just do it.

2. Fan (e)mail
Most of us don't make our addresses public for good reason, but I hand out my email address with no issue. And, as expected, I get emails from readers. Most of them are just really nice notes thanking me for the book. Others want to know about certain aspects of the book and some want to know about the next book. Regardless of the nature, I respond to every email I get. Now, I'm not Veronica Roth who probably receives hundreds of emails a day, so the influx is super manageable. I'm guessing Veronica Roth isn't reading this, so for the rest of us. Respond to your fan mail.

3. Book info
Speaking of email, are you making yourself easy to find? Your email address should be in your back matter. I know some folks get squeamish about making their email so public. I don't personally get this, but I don't want to judge. If that makes you uncomfortable, then create a new email address to use for your books, website, etc. Just make sure you check it regularly.

4. Blog comments
I admit to falling down on the job with this one, but it's important and I want to do better. I'm talking about responding to blog comments. When someone leaves an insightful comment or a question, we really need to take a minute and respond. Not only is it polite, but it's a very public way to show your approachability.

5. Social media shout outs
You don't need to send a thank you to everyone who favorites the picture of your morning coffee. But you should respond when someone sends you a direct message. And if you get a lovely shout out online, a lovely "Hey, thanks! You rock, too!" is quite...lovely.

While we'll never know exactly who is reading our work, we have plenty of chances to connect with our readers. What are the ways you stay connected with fans of your work?