Good morning to all the Story Empire readers, PH here today with a topic you may not have thought about but probably should. I’ve touched on this subject in posts about using your meta-content (story bible) for dual purposes, but I wanted to revisit the idea of reader guides and the variety of information that you can develop from your data content. If you’re interested, read Marcia Meara’s recent post about Author’s Notes which is closely related in concept with reader guides and focuses on using different forms of engaging readers in your books. Likewise, Staci Toilo recently shared about Churn and Transmedia which describes how to gain an avid audience. The ideas about transmedia directly relate to the usage of reader guides.
A reader guide (transmedia and author’s notes are essentially the same) is simply any additional information you can provide to readers in a variety of formats which can feed their curiosity about your books. One of the best ways to provide a reader guide is at the end of your book, but there are other places where this is done. Today I’d like to discuss reader guides in general and all the ways that you may be able to provide this information to your readers. This should help you develop your marketing material with a goal in mind
Let’s look at all the various types of reader guide material you can create.
- Reader questions: these are a variety of questions that you can create two get your readers more engaged with you. This information can be used in many different ways so it is a very flexible format to present to your readers. The idea is to come up with in-depth questions about your book that gets them discussing your content wherever you may present those questions. Depending on how your presenting this to readers, you may want to have a set number of questions so you may want to create several different sets of them to use in various situations. I use a question in my newsletter and my private groups, though I’m not yet consistent enough with the latter. It’s easy to build these but you can also adapt them from something similar to Harmony Kent’s questions to herself. You can also focus on themes, characters and other aspects of your books. These questions should encourage discussion rather than short answers like a test. Provoke discussion like this one in my recent newsletter:
Athson is introduced as a troubled main character. In what ways is Athson undermining himself and others around him and why?
- Profiles: you can write up a variety of profiles for characters and places in your book. Whether these are purely fictional like in fantasy or science fiction or whether they are real places and people of historic significance, readers can still find them to be interesting. Likewise more information about characters can further engage your readers so these can be excellent forms of content to provide to readers in various places. Profiles of any kind are an excellent form of marketing and reader engagement and these are likely sitting in your notes waiting to be used.
3. A glossary of characters and places from your book or series: this has usually been a device that fantasy authors use at the end of a book. It is simply a list with a short description that informs the reader of the importance of a character or place within the book or series. This is very handy for fantasy fiction that is very detailed in nature. Using this device aside from the end of a book can be incredibly useful for engaging the readers you have. Your audience will appreciate additional information with which they can interact and reference in conversation. One good example of such glossaries is the rather extensive one used in The Wheel of Time series. Honestly, the series is so long and contains so many characters and places, an exhaustive glossary is necessary for reminding readers of events, places and characters from previous books. I’m keeping more detailed notes in a developing glossary in my own WIPs these days so I can include them in a series, my newsletter, private groups and anywhere else.
4 Fictional interviews, short stories and articles: this type of content mainly works with fiction unless you are writing something nonfiction about a historical place or person as an article somewhere else. Mainly, as a fictional device, these can serve as free gifts for your readers, but these can provide some rather interesting ways of engaging readers. I wrote three fictional interviews with one of my characters that read like items based about the events from each of the books and The Bow of Hart Saga. You can find them link just below if you are interested. Regardless, you can use this kind of reader guide to elucidate aspects of your characters and your writing and include some of the other material mentioned above with these. I’m going to use these and those from WIP’s in my newsletter, blog, private groups, guest posts, maybe even my books or supplemental freebies.
Of course, you can take any of these and combine them in any way you feel best compliments your books and marketing plan. You have but to create a bundle or package of the content and presented wherever you wish. You can deliver them as in-depth as you need, and if you create the material as you develop your book, you will be further ahead when it comes to marketing and engaging your readers.
But where can you use all of this material?
- Your blog
- A blog tour
- Your newsletter
- Private groups on Facebook or Goodreads
- Inside your book or series
- Personal appearances such as books clubs, conventions, libraries, books signings
Reader guides become an excellent way of engaging current readers and even drawing in new ones. This information might even be shared by your readers who often broaden your audience audience, which points directly back to Staci’s post about churn and transmedia. I hope this information helps you think further about developing your own reader guides and how to use them.
What reader guide information have you already created? How can broaden your use of reader guides to attract a larger audience and engage your existing set of readers? How can you use it reduce churn away from your books and create highly interested fans?
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