Growing your audience when you publish
You guys might notice a theme emerging in
recent Writing Wednesdays posts… it’s all about publishing online.
I’ve already talked about why you should
publish online, and why social media is important to build your profile as a
writer, and today’s post will take a different angle: how to grow your
(This is where I write my usual paragraph
saying that for those of you who don’t know, I started my writing career by
publishing a book on Wattpad. Read more about that here if you’re interested,
or read on if you already know this whole spiel.)
Kissing Booth accumulated over 19 million reads on
Wattpad over the eighteen months or so it was online, from when I started to
when I had to take it down to be published.
Nineteen. Million. (It knocks the wind out
of me every time. Sorry. Back to it.)
So I get a lot of messages now from people
starting out on Wattpad (and similar sites) asking how they can grow their
The thing to remember when publishing
online that if people don’t read your book, it doesn’t necessarily mean
anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your writing sucks. It usually just
means people haven’t found your book yet.
Question people want answered is: how do
you make people find your book?
I’m mostly going to make references to
Wattpad here, because that’s the platform I’m familiar with, but I imagine
other sites are reasonably similar when it comes to these core steps to growing
My first piece of advice is to start out by
posting more than one chapter.
I feel like this worked crazy well for me.
I posted the first three chapters to kick things off when I started posting a
book. I thought it gave readers enough to decide if they liked the story, and if
they did, they had enough to get invested in it enough to look out for the next
chapter with a little more excitement.
Also, I figured if people read more, the
story would be more likely to stay in their minds, so if they had a lot of
books they were reading, they would be more likely to remember mine when I
uploaded the next part.
(I know this bit might not be much help to
those of you who’ve already started uploading your story, but maybe it’s
something to bear in mind for the next one?)
Next crucial piece of advice? Regular
Another thing I found worked really well. I
uploaded once every couple of days, and after a while that moved to once a
week. I had to find an upload schedule that worked for me but didn’t leave
readers waiting too long between chapters.
You might also like this post for some advice on time management when writing.
On this note, I want to mention that if
you’re uploading more than one story at a time, try and update stories on the
same day. By that, I mean that you should try and upload Story 1 on Tuesdays
and Story 2 on Fridays. Or whatever days you want. Just try to be consistent,
to limit confusion for your readers.
I know sometimes life gets in the way, and
this is why my next point is so important…
Write in advance.
Don’t start a book and as soon as you’ve
got your first whole chapter, upload it. This might work for some people, sure,
and I’m always impressed when it does, but it takes so much pressure off. If
you’ve got studies or work or whatever – it happens. Life can get in the way.
You have less time to write. It’s harder to focus. It happens.
(Do you get stuck on knowing where to start your book and how to carry on? Try this post.)
But if you’ve written things in advance,
those two or three crazy weeks you don’t get much chance to write, you still
have something to upload.
(Also, there’s the danger of you getting
five chapters into a story and then realising it’s not really working for you
and you don’t want to work on it anymore, and you abandon it. It’s not going to
be good for your audience if you have a dozen stories that stop after five
chapters. Potential readers might be put off.)
It’s also important to make sure you talk
to your readers.
Tell them if you’re on holiday for the next
week with no internet access, or if your grandma is sick and you just need a
break, or if you have final exams on. If you know there’s something that’s
going to stop you uploading regularly or if you need to change your ‘new
chapter’ schedule, tell your readers.
You might also want to check out this Writing Wednesdays post on talking to your readers when you publish online.
They’ll appreciate the communication and
they’re not exactly going to hate you for it. They’ll understand. They’ll just
like it more if you warn them.
Message them every so often.
Wattpad have that option to ‘Broadcast a
message to your followers’. Let them know you’re working on the book, loved
reading their comments on the last chapter, a friendly reminder that the next
chapter is coming in a couple of days, etc. Communicate. Be human,
And say thank you.
Reply to say thank you to someone who left
a nice message saying how much they love your book. I know it’s not always
possible to reply to every comment you get on the story (but try to do this in
the beginning!) but maybe reply to any particularly long/nice ones, any
constructive criticism, any questions. I used to thank everyone who followed me
for following me when I started out (although after a while I’d spend an hour
doing this and hardly make a dent in the new followers over the last day, at
which point I stopped).
Author notes on a new upload are also
Leave a note at the start of a chapter and
the end. Bold it, centre it, italicise it, put a string of stars or hyphens
below it. Separate it from the actual chapter somehow. Make it stand apart.
Your message at the start might say, ‘Sorry
this one’s a bit late!’ It might recap the last chapter. It might talk about
something controversial in this new upload, because it deals with a sensitive
topic, and you want to warn readers. Or maybe it’s as simple as ‘Hope you
At the end of the chapter leave another
author’s note. Format it in the same way as the one at the start of the
chapter. Again: make it stand out, make it separate.
Reiterate that you hope
readers enjoyed the chapter, maybe let them know when the next chapter will be
up. Feel free to make it personal – ‘I’ve just started a part-time job after school,
so things are a bit hectic, but I’ll make time to keep working on this!’
Crucial to your end-of-the-chapter author’s
note: you need some kind of call to action.
This means asking your readers a question
or asking them to do something. You can ask them to follow you (on Wattpad,
Twitter, your blog, whatever – just make sure you use the external link if
you’re directing them somewhere else!) and ask them to comment, vote, share,
etc. Maybe ask them how they feel about a particular character, or a certain
situation, or how they see something playing out. Engage your readers and
prompt them into responding to your story.
You can also engage your readers with
activities like creating fan art or a cover for your book.
I’ve done this for a couple of my Wattpad
books. For one, I asked readers to make a cover, and then shared them in an
album on my Facebook page, where I asked readers to vote for their favourite
cover by clicking like. It was fun and got people talking about the book and
sharing with their friends.
You could try this, or something similar –
like asking readers to vote for a certain storyline to happen. I’d maybe hold
off doing this until you’ve got a bigger audience – something to hold on to
until your second book, maybe?
Offer your readers bonus content, too.
If you’ve got one book that’s doing really
well, or is your most popular, then it’s obviously something people are
engaging with, so offer them more. A one-shot for Valentine’s Day. A one-shot
for Christmas. Maybe you write a ten-thousand word prequel novella that you
share. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and it’s a good shout if the thought of a
sequel isn’t working for you.
There are other things to factor in when
growing your audience: namely, a social media presence.
It’s one thing to be active on the platform
you’re sharing your work on, but people are across social media and they like
to follow people on more than one network. We all do it. There’s different
content on different channels.
You also need to do a couple of basic
things to boost your profile on the writing platform – a killer story
description and a cover, for starters. Engaging with your readers is a huge
part of the battle, but you also want people to want to read your story. And
let’s face it: people will be less inclined to read a book with no blurb and no
Oh, and use tags!
Use them wisely. Take a look at popular
stories on the site in the same genre as you’re writing. What tags are they
using? Some of them might be unique to that particular story, but it’s just to
get an idea. Maybe your tags need to be ‘sci
fi/mars/romance/angst/disaster/dystopia/apocalypse’. Think about the main
themes in your story, the big selling points.
Right. This has been a hella long post.
(It’s at four pages on Word…) But I hope I’ve more or less covered everything I
wanted to and the big points to help you build your audience when you publish
If you think I missed something, or if you
want to ask me more about something, send me a message and let me know!