Amid all the tactics and best practices in the publishing world, here’s what to prioritize: Developing a true fanbase. What is a fanbase? A group of book fans who will advocate for you and your stories throughout your publishing career. Let’s talk about why and how to build a fanbase of readers for long-lasting self-publishing success.
- The lifetime value (LTV) of your ebook-only catalog is not sustainable. Building a fandom makes way for maximizing your selling potential through extra revenue streams. With a solid fanbase, you go beyond just selling books and, instead, sell your stories as an experience fans want more of (even in the form of a t-shirt!)
- To build your fanbase, you need to engage with your readers on a regular basis. This requires a thought-out marketing plan that involves communication channels, like social media or email. Most importantly, be your best authentic self.
Benefits of a Solid Fanbase in Publishing
To really understand the benefits of a fanbase, we got to talk about the numbers. Look: The lifetime value (LTV) of your ebook-only catalog is not sustainable – you have to do more. Let’s say you have a five-book bundle that generates $10. Then, you do three more bundles. At this point, your reader has your entire catalog, LTV maxing out at $50. Now what?
This “now what?” scenario is why the publishing community preaches pumping out more books, as more books mean more opportunities for sales (when a reader likes a book, they will check the author’s catalog for more.) This is also why we recommend a publishing wide strategy, where you offer not just ebooks but audiobooks and print books to reach every audience that you can, and where you sell in every market that you can (not just Amazon.)
You should definitely incorporate these distribution practices to reach as many readers as possible. However, you can’t stop there. You’ve got to add a solid book marketing plan that focuses on building up your author brand and fandom.
With a group of dedicated book fans, you go beyond just selling books; You sell your stories as an experience. That may look like providing various merchandise of your characters, organizing special events with your fans, or launching a subscription model where you give paying members exclusive access to your content. Think Harry Potter:
Achieving a fanbase of readers is the ultimate answer to the “now what?” dilemma. Take it from indie author Britt Andrews, who went from being laid off during the pandemic to being a full-time author earning over seven figures in royalties – she credits her success to fandom power.
As an indie known for building a strong community of fans, Britt got to share her inspiring experience at the 20Books Vegas conference. Check out her full presentation. If you’d like to skip the 45-minute video, continue below for 10 tips on how to build a fandom that will stick with you through thick and thin.
💡 If you’re a publisher supporting multiple authors, building a fanbase for your authors along with yourself as a publishing house can lead to significant benefits, especially from the business perspective. For example, a solid fanbase makes crowdfunding for the next book a real possibility, reducing monetary burdens on the publishing side and opening up opportunities your authors couldn’t have achieved without the extra backing.
10 Tips on How to Build a Fanbase
The tips below share various ideas to help authors develop their fanbase. Publishers can implement these themselves, too. Let’s dive in.
1. Take Care of Your Writing
The first tip is a reminder to, first and foremost, take care of your writing. Make sure your manuscript is professionally edited, formatted correctly, and has a winning book cover to stand out from the crowd.
Britt Andrews emphasized the importance of having memorable and relatable characters. Don’t be hesitant to insert parts of yourself into your stories. This is helpful in creating super fans who resonate not only with your characters but with you as an author.
Look to mainstream hits and fandoms for inspiration. There are so many: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight. What tropes do they use? How do they build anticipation from one book to the next? Deliver reader expectations within your genre as well. You want to satisfy your audience.
For nonfiction writers, there are many opportunities outside of your manuscript to share more about yourself. You can run a blog page with periodic reviews and writings. Or tap into TikTok culture. All in all, expressing your author brand is key –
2. Craft Your Author Branding
Building your fandom is essentially marketing work. This is serious stuff! So, take some time to invest in your overall marketing plan, which includes your author branding. Author branding isn’t just about your logo or font style. It’s also about your tone of voice and chosen topics to share about. See this guide on how to build an author brand.
Consistency is key. Interact with your fans and peers in a consistent way across social channels and mediums so that your author identity is easy to remember. Solidifying your author branding will help you stay on track.
3. Get Active on Social Media
Although you can use email or blogging to communicate with your readers, social media has the best reach and engagement numbers. It’s where everyone hangs out. Choose at least one channel to focus most of your activities on:
- Facebook: This is the #1 social media platform in the world. For Britt, her Facebook reader group is where she mostly keeps in touch with her fans. It’s a place where fans can discuss, share fan art, and connect with Britt and others.
- Instagram: If you decide to start an Instagram, create a content schedule to keep the posts flowing. Engage with your community by liking posts you’ve been tagged in, responding to comments, and interacting with your followers. Fans love to feel valued.
- TikTok: TikTok is a gigantic channel for discoverability. Britt shared, “If you aren’t utilizing TikTok, you are actively losing sales.” Do check out TikTok’s BookTok community.
Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are the most popular social channels. But there are other channels to consider, like Goodreads and Pinterest. See this guide on social media for self-published authors.
4. Run Giveaways and Other Incentives
Everyone loves freebies! Running a giveaway is a great way to up engagement and bring in new readers. Maybe it’s something as simple as “comment and tag three friends for a chance to win a free signed book” or something more elaborate like “send me your best fanart.” Whatever it is, do these often and have fun with them. Here’s a creative incentive: A chance to be a character in the next book.
5. Send Newsletters With Exclusive Content
Exclusive content is another popular incentive. When you pair this with “sign up for my newsletter to get exclusive content” (such as a special interview, for example), you get to build up your email list as well. Having an email list is an awesome marketing tool. It’s a more direct way to share your work along with special promotions. Read how to start email marketing for authors.
6. Organize Live Events and Signings
Hold live events, whether in person or over live streams. There’s no better way to truly connect with your readers than face-to-face. Even if you have nothing to talk about, go live and answer questions from fans. Search for book events and attend them. You are somebody’s favorite author.
7. Start Subscription Membership
When you’ve got a decent following, consider starting a subscription/membership program. Popular platforms include Patreon, Indiegogo, and Buy Me a Coffee. These platforms use a subscription model where fans pay a recurring fee to access exclusive content from the creator they subscribe to. I’d say it’s one of the ultimate ways a fan shows support for their favorite creator.
8. Launch Crowdfunding
When you’ve got a solid fandom, you can use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Unbound to to ask others to support the release of your next book or venture. Fans may provide their direct contribution to feel involved in your journey. If you decide to launch one, remember to take the time to develop and write out your goals in a transparent and personal way.
Britt was able to fund her special edition hardcover release by reaching her $5,000 goal in just five minutes!
9. Get Creative With Merch and Beyond
Again, satisfy your fans. Here’s a list of merch ideas: t-shirts, hoodies, pop sockets, bookmarks, artwork, gift cards to your shop, pens, postcards, stickers, tumblers, keychains, mugs, bags, coasters, flip-flops. Britt said, “Yes, they will buy flip-flops.” Get creative with providing an experience for your fans. Example: Put together a unique Spotify playlist for the next book release.
10. Be Proactive With Your Communication
Last but not least, be on top of your communication. Always provide updates, be clear about any delays, and respond to genuine questions or concerns. Readers should know a rough estimate of when you’ll release the next book or chapter (better if precise). That also means being punctual with the delivery of your work. Assemble a support team or marketing assistant if you need to. And don’t forget to communicate with your most authentic author voice.
Need Marketing Support? See These ↓
Now you know how to gain a fanbase. When you get to implementing your moves, see if PublishDrive’s book promotion services can help. PublishDrive is an all-in-one self-publishing platform that helps publish and promote to hundreds of book channels around the globe:
- Get exclusive featuring opportunities with bookstores and newsletters.
- Access an ongoing list of sales events with stores like Apple Books and Kobo.
- Use smart tools and AI to run ads, collect book reviews, optimize metadata, and more.
- Easily schedule pre-orders and price promotions across numerous stores.
Check out PublishDrive’s promotion success stories with bestselling author MK Meredith and award-winning indie Pamela Donison. Hope this was helpful. Cheers!
How to Build a Fanbase of Readers With PublishDrive
As an indie, you’re busy taking care of the entire publishing process. That’s why you have PublishDrive to help manage your marketing tactics from a single dashboard:
✅ Publish ebook, audio, and print formats in hundreds of bookstores worldwide.
✅ Get support with distribution, marketing, royalty reporting, and more.
✅ Join indies who doubled their sales last year.