Author and SC poet laureate Marjory Wentworth reciting a poem at the SC Book Festival opening reception.

Much of what we talk about at WWW is how to “win friends and influence readers” using your online suite of tools, from your author website to your social media presence to finding influencers. But it’s important –critical even– to remind ourselves of the value of cultivating real, in-person connections, too.

On Friday, several members of the WWW team headed to Columbia, SC for the SC Book Festival. And it’s been both fascinating and enlightening to watch authors and readers interact “live” in and around the festival’s classrooms and exhibit halls.

Some authors have been invited to speak at panels during the three-day event. Others have been chatting with readers in booths and during signings.


A young reader finds a favorite spot, under a table, to continue reading undisturbed… But writers can’t hide when it comes to meeting new readers!

And every single one of them will tell you that this is perhaps the most difficult part of being an author (well, this and query letters).

After all, authors are more typically happy hiding out in their favorite writing space, with only the laptop or notebook for company.

But if we can push past that to learn a bit of small talk, to introduce ourselves to new readers (yes, strangers!) and find some common ground, there’s so much good that can come of our efforts.

Local literary hero follow link ajanta pharma kamagra st uk essay writing services buy college research papers civil war essay popular critical essay editing services buy critical thinking essays sample persuasive essay how to do the research project can anybody use viagra student essays online follow url viagra uten resept essay writing service canada help in writing IT paper narrative essay examples about friendship mark twain essay german language executive resume writing service melbourne grishma ritu essay buy paper gift boxes online india research paper description viagra super active plus what to write a college essay on go to link Pat Conroy knows this. If you’ve ever stood in a (long, very long) line to get a book signed by Pat, you know that as each and every person steps up to the table, Pat sticks out his hand and says, “Hi, I’m Pat Conroy,” inviting each and every reader to introduce herself, too. Beyond his incredible talent, Pat is also loved and respected by readers because each and every reader Pat meets feels loved and respected by him, too.

Kelly Owen, author of the College Chronicles series, connecting with LOTS of readers at the book festival!

Kelly Owen, author of the College Chronicles series, connecting with                    LOTS of new readers at the book festival!

 That’s powerful.

Here are three ingredients we witnessed among the authors selling the most books at the festival:

1. Smiles that light up the room: Nothing puts a reader more at ease than a warm smile from the author on the other side of the table. Believe it or not, that reader walking up may feel intimidated by you. Because, whether you know it or not, you’re a celebrity!

2. Persistence: Some readers walking by booths weren’t interested in hearing about “Sam Author’s” latest book. “Sam Author” didn’t blink an eye, but just looked to the next reader walking by and launched into their book description and conversation once again, genuinely and with enthusiasm. And more readers responded and stopped to buy a book (or two!). Not everyone will love our work and what we have to say, but if we give up, we’ll miss those that will!

3. Finding Common Ground: While it’s okay to talk about you and your book at a festival or signing or panel, don’t forget your audience; put them first! For those of us who are shy, this can be a challenge, so think in terms of finding that “thing,” that wee bit of common ground that can lead to a genuine connection and conversation. Maybe it’s to admire a piece of jewelry, or a blouse, or a hat. May ask about the other books they’re carrying. Inquire what brought them to this festival or your signing. Don’t just seem interested; be interested.

Not only will this open up your readers to know you appreciate them, but it takes the pressure off you as an author to feel as if you must be performing for your audience. You don’t have to perform; just have a conversation…

Interesting to note, in most cases the most successful authors we observed were NOT the best-known authors. Many were debut novelists; some were self-published. But here’s a thought – we’ve no doubt they soon WILL be the best known and best-selling authors among their peers.


Debut author Allegra Jordan at a recent book signing, engaging with readers and making new fans!

8 thoughts on “Three Genuine Ways to Increase Live Reader Engagement

  • May 28, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Shari, great points. Face-to-face is such a powerful way to gain new readers. I had a great time teaching the two workshops SCWW asked me to do at the book festival, and I gained over 20 more people on my newsletter mailing list. Not all authors fear talking to others. I love it, and most of the people I met were really seeking information. Information we can give them.

    • May 29, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Absolutely! Great thing about this community — easy to have sincere conversations with writers and readers and share information w/out feeling shy… Gotta’ love what we do, eh? Was good to see you at SC Bookfest and write on, miss Barbara!

  • May 18, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Great tips. I have been an RN for thirty three years and I have had to learn the “cold call” especially with home health. Now to work on those elevator lines. Smile.

  • May 17, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Great tips – thanks!

  • May 17, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Love this! Reminds me of an experience I had with one of my favorite writers, Barbara Kingsolver. Saw her at a book event in Nashville, stood in a long line, waiting for her signature. Finally got to her, gave her my book to sign and trembled — I was in the presence of Barbara Kingsolver! She began to sign, and out of my mouth came, “I love your books. But I bet you hear that all the time.”

    She stopped her pen, looked up at me dead on, smiled and said, “But never from you.” Talk about dialed in. Talk about genuine connection. It was electrifying. A moment I’ll never forget.

    • May 17, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      Oh, that’s WONDERFUL! “Never from you…” – A great line to remember… and the thought behind it, that every, EVERY reader is special!

Comments are closed.