by D.L. Wilson

Authors must engage readers. To do that successfully requires learning who our readers are. Established authors need to find ways of communicating with their readers. The new rapidly advancing Internet social networking opportunities provide many new vehicles to get input from readers. An author Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Myspace, LinkedIn, and blogs are only the tip of the rapidly growing iceberg of social networking. Some sites allow you to hypertarget messages. Pick a similar author in your genre and message everyone who lists him/her as among their favorite authors. Just be careful that you don’t fall into the world of spamming.

If you are a novice writer, establishing yourself is a very difficult job. You need to create a professional website that becomes the base platform for all your digital marketing activities. Your site should contain links to your blog and your social networks. A valuable asset is to relate to readers of successful authors in your chosen genre who you feel could become your reader. This requires a constant effort to connect with readers who might appreciate your writing style and creative talent. To help you get established with the least amount of work, there are new social network aggregators such as FriendFeed and Plaxo that can reduce your social news feeds into a single news feed. You can also update your status on social media sites directly from aggregator sites.

Be sure your efforts allow those who link to you the ability to offer comments by a simple click of the mouse. Simple is better, especially in the rapidly expanding world of texting. I’ve found the best way to improve my writing and engage potential new readers is to use networking to provide an opportunity for readers to experience my writing style. I provide excerpts of an upcoming novel to readers and request their comments.

A great example is an opening lines test I recently tried. A great opening line is a powerful tool in grabbing readers’ attention. How many of us find a book that looks interesting in a book store and we read the first few pages to see if it meets our expectations. Opening lines set the tone for the rest of most novels. I e-mailed three alternative versions of the opening lines for my latest novel to over 100 readers and asked for their comments and to rank them 1 (best) to 3 (least best). I asked them to provide the 3 things they like best about the opening lines and the 3 things they liked least. When I analyzed the results I found strong indications of what engaged the readers.

When I finished polishing my opening lines, I prepared another test that was e-mailed to different readers and read to conferees at two major conferences. I included the opening lines to my novel and three of the top thriller authors without identifying who wrote them. To my pleasant surprise, my opening lines were ranked highest in all of the tests.

Since writing is an art as well as a craft, it is very important for writers to engage readers, and the only way to achieve that is through obtaining unbiased input from readers. I will continue to try to hone my writing skills through practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect, or hopefully better.

D.L. Wilson was president, CEO, and managing director of U.S. and European corporations and consultant to industries and governments in thirty-two countries. His extensive international travel spawned a fascination with world cultures and exotic locales. His first book, The Kitchen Casanova—A Gentleman’s Guide to Gourmet Entertaining for Two, resulted in a national book tour with features on CNN, Evening Magazine, and Regis & Kathy Lee. Wilson’s first novel, Unholy Grail, a Berkley thriller became a national bestseller and has been translated into eight languages. His second novel, Sirocco, a Mont Clair Press thriller is receiving rave reviews. He and his wife, Miki, live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and Baltimore County, Maryland. Visit his website at

Image courtesy of lusi