Readers ~ An Author's Time

This summer, I've shared some about the moments in a writer's life. The next three weeks, I'd like to break this down even further and consider how author's spend time on promotional. Let's begin with readers. 

I love hearing from my readers--it's one of the greatest joys of this publishing journey. No matter what sort of promotion I do, I always try to offer some way for readers to contact me--ie. email, social networks, or even snail mail, by way of a PO Box at our local post office. 
1195237_old_lettersWhile email is my preferred mode of correspondence, I'm glad I went to the effort of renting a PO Box, as there are many readers (especially from the older generation) who get out their pen and paper and write to me. 
One of the first decisions you'll make as an author is how you will respond to your readers. Will you send a form letter? A personal letter?  Will you hire an assistant to take care of this business? Will you choose not to respond? Should you decide to respond, you'll also need to decide how timely in manner you'll do so.
Here is what works for me:
  • Snail Mail: For those who write to my PO Box, I send out a quarterly newsletter. It will usually be a printed copy of my e-newsletter, with a personal message at the bottom.
  • Email: I try to handle email correspondence on a weekly basis--usually on weekends. And while my response is somewhat generic, if a reader has offered something personal, I will acknowledge that in my reply. I always invite the reader to visit my website for more information about my books and research, as well as invite them to sign up for my quarterly e-newsletter. 
*One way to keep order in your inbox chaos, is to create a special folder for Reader Mail. When I receive an email from a reader, I'll send the email to that folder. Then at the end of the week, I can go through letters at my leisure.
  • Website Guestbook: Readers can connect with me by leaving a message in my guestbook. As with other correspondence, I try to respond to them in a timely manner. 
  • E-newsletters: I send out a mass e-newsletter on a quarterly basis, where I offer a bit about my personal life, my writing life, a favorite recipe, and oftentimes a giveaway. This encourages interaction, and again, I always try to respond to those who take the time to write to me afterward. 
A few more thoughts about connecting with readers:
Sometimes I hear from reader groups who will be discussing my book at one of their meetings. When this happens, I offer promotional items and discussion guides for their use. They are always thrilled to receive bookmarks, pens, or other items from an author. We might also try to arrange for a conference call. There have been a few times when I've personally met with reader groups for lunch or discussion. This is a fun way to get to know readers if you have the time and are able. Reader Groups can access this information on my website reader page.
Another step I like to take with reader mail is to save them in a special Word document for promotional purposes. On occasion I will share a reader letter on my blog for Mailbox Monday, always careful to delete personal information. This has been a nice way to share with other readers about my books and seems to get a positive response when I do.
It's an amazing blessing when someone takes the time to write to you, to let you know they like your books, are thinking of you, praying for you, or sometimes, they just need someone to listen to their own hardships. What an honor to be able to reciprocate and connect in some small way.
So, share with me. How do you connect with your readers? Next week, I'll go a little deeper and talk about social network connections. Until then, enjoy the moments . . .