Book Whisperers: Reader Stewardship ~ What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Ask the Book Whisperers | April 2017

askthebookwhisperers-16-1104Rona Gofstein and Mellisa Sherlin are best-selling authors who write but also understand the business of writing. Founders of the Writers Business School, the two are book whisperers of sorts. They teach authors about the business of books. In this column, Ask the Book Whisperers: Business Tips for Authors, Rona and Mellisa answer questions or address topics that authors, especially indie or self-published authors, often ask as they go about coaxing their books to sell. Sometimes these book whisperers answer questions that an author might have asked if they only knew to ask it. If you have a book business question for Rona and Mellisa, you can drop us a line at with “Book Whispers” in the subject line.

This month, Mellisa and Rona answers the question:

What is a Reader Stewardship Program and Why do You Need it?

We’ve gotten a lot of comments and questions recently about how “social media doesn’t work” to sell books.  And the answer is of course not! Social media is not intended for selling. It is for making an initial connection with your audience.  Think of it as finding where you ideal readers are naturally hanging out.  People make 80% of their purchase base on how they FEEL about the product or company.  Your book is the same.  People will buy based on how they feel about you. So… give them an opportunity to feel something

Social media is your introduction to your audience and ideal reader. The next step is to build value into your readers’ lives through a systematic plan which is workable for you and beneficial to them.  This process is called Reader Stewardship. The email addresses you collect are a big part of it, but those emails are only one part – and only the start – of reader stewardship.  What you do with those emails, the information you share, and the fun experiences you create with your readers are all part of this important process. It’s so important, it’s one of the five skill sets we built the Writers Business School on.

Here is the process for selling books.

  1. Figure out who your ideal reader is.

    Make connections …

  2. Find where this person spends they time
  3. Make connections in those locations including social media groups (Facebook, Google+, etc.), community organizations, and professional organizations.
  4. Share information with these groups authentically and add value to their interactions with you.
  5. Invite interested people to join your mailing list for more interesting information like the kind you have been sharing.
  6. Teach your reader list how much fun it is for them to do what you ask.
    • Games, questions, kudos each month.
    • Invite to off line events (readings, volunteer things, community nights)
  7. Let them know the book is coming out. And there will be tons more fun.
  8. Place your book for sale in locations your ideal reader can find them (online and in person)
  9. Ask them buy the book when you want them to and offer extra prizes if they do.
  10. Send out sample reviews they can fill in and leave on line. And ask them to share the review they left with you on social media.
  11. After launch is over thank your email list with a special freebie.
  12. Go back to sharing info on the topic which connects all of you and plan more fun off line things.

Did you notice – asking them to buy the book (which is not selling, it’s asking) doesn’t happen until step 9.  There are EIGHT things you should do first.

Social media is step 3 of 12 in selling your book.  It’s near the top of the list, but it is not the first thing you need to do.  It is the third thing after figure out your ideal reader and where they spend their free time. Then you can make a connection with them through sharing the platform topic you enjoy talking about.


Share more.

After this introduction has been made, and people have started interacting with you, then you can invite them onto the email list.  Collecting the emails is not enough.  You need to continue to provide the relevant experiences you readers want.  People gave you their email addresses because they want to know more.  Share more.

Once a month, send out a quick recap of the fun things you gathered or learned about your favorite topic that month. Ask the recipients an open-ended question to see how they respond.

Then check (your numbers, your likes and comments, results) to see how it is going. Are people opening your emails?  Are people responding?  How long did it take to pull the information together before sending it out? How long did it take for you to send the info out?  How can you make the process easier on your end for next month? What additional fun thing do you want to try with your email list in the future? (Does running a contest make them respond faster? How much warning do they need before they take action? )

Your email list is a training ground for you to try out all the fun contests you want to run for your launch, figure out how long it takes your readers to do stuff, and figure out the best calls to action to use on your audience to pull out your readers.

Your reader stewardship program sells books to your motivated fan base.  Not with a million Buy MY Book pleas, but with a simple sentence at the bottom of your email:  “(author)’s latest book (title) is available from (place with link).”

Looking back at the list of twelve – where do you think you’re doing well?  Where do you think you need more skills? And how can we at the Writers Business School help?  Comment below or send us an email at

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Meet the Book Whisperers:

headshot-sherlin-2016-10Mellisa Sherlin enjoys taking her big yellow lab to the beach on dreary days and getting lost on road trips. She is an internationally award-winning and best-selling author with over 30 years of publishing credits to her name. Completing her MBA in Marketing in 2013, she co-founded the Writers Business School. Mellisa is currently the president of the Essex Writers and Artisans Guild of Massachusetts, which has been meeting weekly since 1991. She can be found making illegal U-turns on rural roads and Facebook.

rona0229crop-tightRona Gofstein loves chocolate, her morning cup of coffee, and retail therapy. She is a best-selling romance novelist (as Rachel Kenley), workshop leader on finding your heart’s desire, and co-founder of the Writers Business School. When she is not writing she is homeschooling her sons, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with laundry, and laughing as much as possible. She can be found in her studio at Western Avenue and (perhaps a little too much) on Facebook.

To learn a bit more about Mellisa and Rona and the Writers Business School, you may also read their interview with us on Inkspokes. Thanks for stopping by!