Monday, June 29, 2015

Fan Clubs - Not Just a Bunch of Hot Air

Recently the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook reached a major milestone, we hit over 1,000 members!

By the way, this is not my Facebook author page or my Facebook personal page. This is a group in which members post and discuss books (and not always my books) among themselves.

The Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club was started several years ago by Cyn Rielley, an avid reader and fan of my original series, the Odelia Grey mystery series. It was originally called The Odelia Grey Fan Club. From there it morphed into the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club as I started writing additional series. Now it is administered by Cyn and my niece Lindsay, both of whom live in Massachusetts.

I am so very proud of this fan club! And I don't say that because it has my name on it. Although not all 1000+ members are active in it, there is a lot of lively discussion about books and writers. There are even quite a few other writers among the membership, as well as library professionals, book retailers, and a few reviewers. The membership also spans the globe. While most members are from the US and Canada, the club also contains members from Australia, the UK, Greece, Japan and France. Don't you just love the internet?!

But the most important thing is, these people are READERS. Many voracious. And while many probably only read the softer side of mystery fiction, most read a wide spectrum of books, both fiction and non-fiction, adult and YA.

One of the features of the club is our monthly guest authors. Each month, we invite another author to showcase his/her books and writing life. Again, the style of books varies from cozy to hard boil, with most falling somewhere in between.

Except for the occasional give-a-ways when I guest blog, the club is also the only place I hold contests to win copies of my books, or other fun items.

As an author, this club has been a remarkable tool in promoting my books. And as an author, this club has been the wind beneath my wings when I'm spending long lonely hours in front of the computer.

Other writers often ask me about the club. They want to know how to get one of their own up and running. So here are some tips:
  • Be patient. It took years for us to reach 1,000 members. It was a much slower process than gathering friends on my personal page.
  • Even though many will ask to join, vet the membership requests. There are a lot of FB people who join groups just to spam or advertise. We don't accept everyone and members must be approved/added by one of the administrators.
  • If someone spams the group, don't be shy about immediately deleting them from the group. Too much spam/advertising will turn off the members who want to be there for the right reasons. If you don't police the group, the good members will leave.
  • Be very jealous and protective of the group. In the SAJ fan club we do not allow other writers or their friends to promote their work, unless they are the guest author of the month. As snotty as it sounds: this is my fan club, get your own. I also don't allow other authors to promote on my personal page. People who cross this line are spoken to privately by Cyn and asked to stop the activities and their post is deleted. If they fuss, as several have, they are deleted from the group. 
  • In spite of the above, be generous with your club. Meaning, promote other authors, especially if they have once been a guest author. When we find out that a former guest author has a new book or are running a special, we often highlight it in the group. The difference is, the administrators of the group are the ones to post other authors' promos. We also allow members to make book suggestions, and encourage it, as long as it's not a commercial promo.
  • Do not bombard the group with promos on your own books. Yeah, I know this might not make sense on your own fan page, but in the long run it does. Let them know when your books come out or when there are specials running, about your upcoming events, about contests, reviews, etc. But no one likes a non-stop commercial.
  • Share your writing progress and process. Once of the things I do is occasionally post bits of the manuscript I am currently working on. Members love to see a book in progress. Just don't post spoilers!
  • Keep the fan club page free of your personal opinions. That's what your personal page is for.  Many of the members do not share my opinions on politics, social issues, etc. and should not have to wade through that to find out about books or contribute to discussions.
  • Remember that the members are individuals, not inanimate objects on a shelf. All discussions must be conducted with respect toward one another, even if in disagreement.  If a member cannot do that, delete them. Pronto.
  • Spend time in your fan club. I post something there almost every day. The first year or two, I didn't except once in a while. Once I started being active in it, the membership increased quickly. Remember, the members are there because they read your books. Be a part of their experience.
  • Readers are your foot soldiers in the chaotic book world. Happy readers go out and spread the word about your books. And they can do it more effectively than any high-priced ad. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. So cherish them. Respect them.
When Cyn first started the club, I remember being somewhat embarrassed by it. I mean, a fan club, with my name on it. Geeeezzzz! Now it is one of the things of which I am most proud and thankful for.


Mark Baker said...

So much common sense in your tips there. It means hard work for you, but it pays off. I enjoy the time I spend in the club, and so much of it is because of those rules/guidelines you have created.

Karen said...

I love your fan club Sue Ann! I don't comment much but I love to follow the conversations. Great topic tonight BTW. :)