I have always maintained that the author-as-a-brand is the strongest selling link across the publishing chain. Whether self, indie or traditionally published, the emotional connection forged by dedicated readers is never with a publisher or an imprint—it’s with the author him or herself. This relationship is, more than anything else, built on trust.

Readers who love an author’s work trust that author’s taste. Readers intuitively know they’ll like the same books their favorite authors like. So to grow your audience, take that logic one step further and create your own, official book club. This concept can be seen informally among authors who mention on social media a book they read for research and loved social, or an author within their genre who they think is a good fit for their audience. In a sense, these authors are running their own online book club!

When I think about it, the only people whose advice on books I take seriously and instantly buy (without even trying a free sample) are my favorite authors. Of all the sources of book recommendations, the retailer comes last in terms of credibility but also in terms of relevance. How many emails have we all received listing books we’ve already read or ones by our favorite authors that we’ve already fan-girled over? Even the friendly local independent bookstore owner I love hanging out with is only great for recommendations within her own interest genres, and unfortunately I’m just not that into crime thrillers.

Working with local and online book clubs has always been a great way for authors to get the word out, but the idea of formalizing their own communities into a reading group format is unique.

So what does this mean for expanding the reader base and encouraging discoverability?

Go beyond standard marketing tactics

Authors, particularly self-published, have honed their arsenal of promotional tools to maximize the odds of discoverability on publishing day. Whether it’s a free first-in-series or a nifty trick to get on the daily deals newsletters, these tried and tested methods are now widely adopted across author groups. As the playing field levels yet again, in order to stand out it’s now a necessity to go over and beyond the standard marketing tactics to readers.

Keep your fans engaged between books

Even though some authors have the bandwidth and output to publish a new title every few weeks, for the most part, authors (particularly genre series writers) have a longer release schedule. These authors are looking to keep their readers engaged and up-to-date on their books in progress for stretches of anywhere between 6 and 12 months. For a book club, that is too long of a period to go without a new read. But what if the gaps are filled by books they truly and genuinely would recommend to their readers?

How To Set Up An Author-Led Book Club

So how do you set up a book club for your fans? That’s the easiest part — you simply announce it to your followers! Decide on whether your book club is online only or includes a monthly or quarterly real-world meetup spot local to you.

Pick a book to get started on — this could be one of your own titles or get started by picking your favorite book that influenced your writing or that you feel your readers would love, and prepare one or two discussion topics to anchor the community discussion around. Lastly, plan the next few months’ worth of books and consider getting in touch with other writer friends to see if they have any upcoming releases to promote. Hopefully they will reciprocate the gesture by recommending your books to their own readers.

Any Genre Will Do

This cross-pollination of author recommendations often also crosses genres — I’ve read Spy novels suggested by romance writers and discovered my love for Steampunk through a YA author, so feel free to reach outside of your writing comfort zone as your readers are bound to embrace whatever books inspire you.

This piece first appeared on Digital Book World http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2017/authors-grow-your-fan-base-by-leading-a-book-club/