Repeat Customers: It’s About More Than Just Branding

Good or bad, I saw my hair stylist in a whole new light this week.

It was Wednesday. I was well overdue for a trim, a little shaping. And, I was looking forward to the Rosemary mint shampoo and the head massage when she applied the conditioner.

She washed my hair, and we talked summer and kids. She snapped the drape around my neck and mentioned movies. I sat in her chair, watched her comb, lift and clip, and the conversation turned to books. It was then that I realized she’s more than just my hair stylist.

She’s a Reader.

And, as a writer, I could learn from her.

She said she’s kind of a baby when it comes to reading new novels; she’s hesitant even to check them out from the library.

“I just don’t want to read something I won’t like, you know? I don’t want to –”

“Waste your precious reading time,” I said.

“Yes! Exactly!”

I get it. I have two small children at home. Reading time is hard to come by, and it’s often interrupted. I have to like the story right away, or those interruptions will supersede my commitment to finish the book.

But, then my stylist went on to say she’ll read every book one author writes, even if the stories aren’t that great. Even if the story she’s reading today isn’t her favorite, she’ll still go out and buy the author’s next release.

It’s all about trust, comfort, and familiarity.

Building a platform will help me attract an audience, but more is required if I want to keep that audience. For one thing, I must write a gripping story.

Sure. No pressure. Here’s to learning the craft, joining a critique group, and making a story uniquely mine.

I must also connect with Readers on a personal level. That means interacting with others on social networking sites, giving Readers a taste of my work (while I finish that novel), finding venues to read my work out loud, and – later, when that novel is published – participating in book clubs that are reading my story.

Last, but not least, I must write another novel. There are several authors who’ve written great first novels, classics even, and then no more. There’s nothing wrong with one-hit wonders, but I bet their audience would have bought a whole series of their books.

So, what are you doing to court, and keep, your Readers?



11 responses to “Repeat Customers: It’s About More Than Just Branding

  1. All I know to do is keep writing and putting it out there for someone to like or not like. I can’t blame readers that stop reading if they are not quickly engaged in a story. I do the same thing. Sometimes it is just a matter of genre. I don’t read everything on the market, so I must attract the reader interested in my genre. I don’t fit exactly into one genre, but that’s another issue, isn’t it?

    • I agree, Carol, we can’t force a reader to like our work. We write our best and hope the story sparks a reader’s interests.

      But, what I thought was so intriguing about the conversation is the loyalty this woman had to certain authors — and is that something a writer earns through a more personal connection?

      On the topic of genre: yes, that’s a whole other discussion (or two or three) 🙂

  2. Wow, do I ever love this post! I was in the library today, looking at the new book shelves (is there anything better?), and it is true that I look for favorite authors whose books I will read no matter what. How is that loyalty born? It begins with the writing, certainly, but there is more to it, isn’t there? I feel that I know my favorite authors in some way, and I trust them.

    Whether you know it or not, Christi, you inspire me in this aspect of the writing journey. Because of you post today, I have added my photo to the front page of my blogs. That’s part of the writer-reader connection, after all, being able to see the author.

    I also appreciate how you write about this topic on a human level, as a matter of connection with another reader as a person rather than simply having an “online presence.” Thank you for that! ~ Lisa

    • Lisa,

      Thanks for your comment (and compliment). I’m glad you put your picture up on your page! And, I’m loving this discussion about a reader’s loyalty (here and on your blog). I hope someday my success as a writer reflects that from my audience.

  3. Pingback: Home again, home again « Lisa Rivero: The Wild Thyme Unseen

  4. I have read every book written by Sue Grafton. I know when I pick up one of her novels that I will enjoy it. It is not loyalty so much to the author as to her work. If an author writes a really good novel, the people that read the first will more than likely read the second. If the second is also good, then the third, fourth, fifth, etc. This is confidence in the author’s work.

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  6. Virginia Hinchey

    I’m a fellow contributor to This Human Condition. I wrote the story Summer Candle. I was fascinated by your bio stating you can write a story under 8 minutes. I would love to read On the Fly. It takes me much longer to write a story, but I can do a portrait sketch under 5 minutes and under pressure. Would love to share the immediacy and would love to emulate your technique.

    • Virginia,

      Thanks for your comment! And, Congratulations on your story in This Human Condition. I love stories about the mother-daughter relationship.

      Ah, On the Fly…those writing exercises were magical for me. While not every one of my 8 minutes stories was worth printing, some great images and phrases came out of those quick writes that I used to propel other, longer stories.

      Now, I practice a similar exercise every Wednesday, but I allow myself up to 24 hours to write a full story.

      I’d be happy to send you a copy of On the Fly, where you can read about Ariel Gore, the exercises, and all the stories that resulted. Email your address to writeunderpressure (at) gmail (dot) com.

  7. Hi Christi, I’ve been thinking about your question since yesterday, and it seems the only response I have is to repeat what you wrote: I try to write gripping stories with engaging characters.

    I also am slowly learning to listen to and allow my voice free reign (which I think is the same as making a story “uniquely mine”.)

    Great post.

    • Cathryn,

      I like how you said that: giving your voice “free reign.” I think that’s what makes a writer stand out among many, taking that risk and letting the magic happen.

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