By Michelle Ramsey
My readers inspire me to be the greatest that I can be. They challenge me to grow and to reach a higher level as a writer each year. They are important to me, because without them I have no audience.
I recall one year I created a beautiful story about a family struggling throughout the holiday season. The family ran into one misfortune after another, from the loss of a job, to having to move out of town, to taking care of the father’s ailing father, to the children being bullied at school. The parents struggled to keep the utilities on and food on the table. Then of all the losses they had endured, they were informed that they would have to move out of their rental home by Christmas Eve.
The out-of-town landlord failed to cover the mortgage on several properties he owned, and they were going into foreclosure. The family was prepared to give up and give in, but they continued to hold onto the slightest bit of faith. They had a mustard seed mentality. That faith pulled them through the turmoil they were suffering. On Christmas day, they experienced the greatest of Christmas miracles.
Their small town pulled together to bless them in such a mighty way that all of their problems were resolved in one shot. They moved from a hotel room that they had resided in for the night into a home of their own, and the children received the Christmas of their dreams.
I created that story because I began to think about all of the devastation and loss that families suffer at this time of year. We like to think about the beautiful memories we create, but everyone is not experiencing those blessings. I wanted to create a story that my readers could connect with, but with a beautiful ending rather than the tragic ones we experience in life or see on the news.
This story that I wrote was given to my readers free of charge. It played out daily on the pages of my blog for twenty-one days during the month of December. It was interesting to see their remarks in the comments section at the end of the day. Some of them would attempt to guess what would happen next, because I love creating cliff-hangers. If they weren’t guessing what was happening, they were hoping and praying for a miracle. But the beauty of it all is that they connected with that little fictional family, and their hearts were touched by the story.
Some of the readers had experienced similar hardships. Others were inspired by a community of people who would come together for the good of one family. The interesting part is that many members of the community did not know the family. They were new to town and pretty much kept to themselves. Yet, a few significant people knew enough about their hardships to want to make a difference.
I often posed questions at the end of the posts, asking the readers what they think should happen next, or what they would do if they were in a similar situation. The feedback was interesting, and sometimes I would implement it. I posted this story again on my new blog last year.
As a writer we often have plenty on our plate during the holidays. I think it is instrumental that we do not forget our readers. We should value them above all and it is imperative to include them in our lives to a certain extent. Whether it is through the sharing of a story on your blog and incorporating their ideas and suggestions, or sharing your pictures and videos on social media to allow them to engage in, they feel connected with you.
This year, I created an album on Facebook entitled “Christmas with the Ramseys.” This album started on the day after Thanksgiving as we began to decorate our home for the Christmas holiday. My followers on Facebook can see my husband giving a tutorial on “the art of tying a ribbon around a pinecone,” my daughter decorating pinecones with glue glitter, and some of the table décor we created. Whether they’re laughing at our silliness, or admiring our creations, they share some of the beauty of the season with us.
Other instrumental ways to engage our readers in our lives during the holiday season is simply by thanking them. I like to choose a reader who has left a review of one of my books or shared something of mine on social media and write a simple blog post to thank them for their support. This really makes them feel valued, and shows them how important they are to me.
Little gifts such as Amazon gift cards, free books, incorporating a reader into a storyline, or other little ideas can be gifted to a reader. During the holiday season, just showing them that you are thinking of them and that they matter will endear them to you. You will find that they will become a loyal fan by simple recognition. It is important because without them you have no audience to market your product.
Use Facebook live or vlogs as a way to capture special times during the holiday season that your readers can share in. Whether it is a viewing of you during Christmas shopping or a party you’re hosting or your visit to a special event, share those special memories with them. I’m not suggesting that you not have a private life at all, or that you open up every facet of your life, but find little things that would be meaningful to your readers. Give a random shout out or thank you to a reader or all of them when you’re capturing these videos. Just let them know they matter.
Perhaps the greatest way to engage your readers is to open up with them on a live forum and ask their opinion on random topics. Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube, and so many other platforms are available to allow you to engage with your readers this holiday season. Take advantage of it by allowing them to look into your world, connect with you, and get to know you better. This relationship-building tool will allow you to take them into the next year with you, and build book relationships to last a lifetime.
How do you plan to engage your readers into your holiday season? Are there special ways that you have of recognizing your readers, or incorporating them into your holiday theme?
Always give back to those who give to you!
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