Building and Sustaining Reader Loyalty


Many authors are in self-denial. Most of us don’t realize that we can’t market our books like it’s 1999.

How do I know this? Because every week I encounter people who want to do what worked years ago and launch into marketing that doesn’t work effectively today. While some advertising and other traditional marketing works, what many authors are missing is that every bestselling author has a loyal core group of repeat readers. It’s that simple—building and sustaining reader loyalty is vital.

One of my favorite books on the subject of building loyal customers/readers is Matthew Ragas and B.J. Bueno’s book The Power of Cult Branding. In it they present seven rules for developing “followers” or loyal customers. I think much of what they have to say also applies to creating loyal readers as well.

Let me share their rules (and I’m replacing the word “customers” with “readers”) with some of my own comments on how each one applies to authors:

Rule 1: Readers want to be part of a group that’s different. We are a society that’s addicted to communication all in the name of forming and maintaining connection and social groups. Readers are not dissimilar. They want to feel like individuals, made happy, and feel loved and appreciated. They yearn to be part of a group like that and little things (how you approach your subject, your covers, etc.) make the group feel different.

Rule 2: Authors who create followers show daring and determination. They push limits, take risks and produce new and different books. They just don’t write the The Ten Steps to Blah, Blah. Or create plot less, characterless fiction. Authors who shatter conventional wisdom create loyal readers. Be bold, be brave and be different.

Rule 3: Authors who create followers sell lifestyles. Here the Cult Branding authors ask a question, “Does your book put a smile on people’s faces?” Think about your favorite authors—when you read their books does their writing put a smile on your face? Do they make you happy? In reality they are putting forth a lifestyle. Their book isn’t just a product. They bundle emotions, offer escapism, self-fulfillment, and self-empowerment into an experiential “package.”

Rule 4: Listen to the choir and create followers. While new readers are nice to have gaining them is much more difficult than it is to satisfy current readers who become evangelists about your books and tell others about you. Nothing sells books like word of mouth and cultivating your “choir” of satisfied readers who tell others is essential.

Rule 5: Create reader communities. Contact your readers. Do you have a core group of “evangelists” who would be interested in forming a club or writing an email newsletter? Go find them and talk to them. Let them help you expand your community of faithful readers.

Rule 6: Be inclusive. While pegging your core reader is important, don’t turn your back on readers outside your target. Seek reader feedback, don’t dismiss their comments and learn to share. A reader may have the best idea for your next book, but you must keep the door open.

Rule 7: Create lasting memories. Authors who have a loyal reader following understand that we not only cherish memories, we use them to help shape who we are as individuals. Past experience is huge in what people wear, how they talk, and how they look. Does your writing create memorable experiences for your readers?

Cult Branding is full of helpful information on creating loyalty. Why re-invent the wheel every time you write a book when you could reach out to loyal readers who can’t wait for your next one? And, they will tell others as well.

Wayne Hastings is an author, speaker and business consultant. His latest book, The Way Back From Loss is available on Amazon and other fine booksellers. CLICK HERE to gain access to Wayne’s “How To Write A Remarkable Book Proposal” and two step-by-step videos as Wayne walks you through the book proposal process.


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