I often hear writers say ‘I need to get lots of likes or re-tweets on my social media so I will be recognised.’ Well, actually, that’s not necessarily true. If you want to engage readers you should ask them what they think. Why? In order to foster a community and build up your audience, as you will need these connections to promote your discussions.

Truthfully, we shouldn’t be that interested in the likes or re-tweets as they don’t truly show the measure of your success. No, we should be much more interested in the comments section. Although a writer should ‘never really read the comments,’ this rule doesn’t apply if the writer is specifically soliciting responses, engagements, and/or looking for ideas through discussion prompts.

Readers often look for an online community with their favourite author, and though they like reading, they also want to engage. Plus, they also like to discuss what they’ve learnt in the book, with you the author, and with their fellow readers. Many readers will want to get to know you more authentically and to feel as if there is a relationship being built through a two-way connection. To ensure you keep your followers you must hear them out. Remember, having regular discussions is a good way in which to continue building your community.

Connecting through a community gives people the opportunity to discuss a given theme in the comments, as well as offering support and feedback to others. But, ultimately, it can help us, as creators, to ensure that we are creating the right content that serves our readers. Listening to your readers, hearing what sparks their interest, and causing a good debate is the easiest way to beat writer’s block — let them tell you what to write about next.

Using discussion prompts is a great way to get people involved. But you must respond and be part of process, even if it's only acknowledging a comment with a, ‘Thanks for sharing!’ comment. It gives an impression that you have a reciprocal interest in your readers' thoughts and suggestions. Plus it’s a great way to build authenticity and trust with your audience. And, by utilising the discussion prompts offered by your followers, it is also a creative way to help you grow as a creator.

Of course, discussion prompts don’t always have to be a post of their own. As the creator, you could ask questions and or post prompts at the end of your posts thus sowing the seeds for further discussion in the comments. Doing this will encourage your followers to respond with comments and even prompts of their own. This is another way in which you can urge your readers to be more involved and engaged with your writing. Make them feel they have invested something in what you are sharing with them.

Of course, the better the story you write the more it gives readers to think about. And where will they want to share their thoughts about the story? Well, why not in the online discussion community? And of course, if you are writing a sequel then you could ask them for their thoughts on what they think should be included. You don’t have to use all or any of their ideas but you never know.

And if you are starting to write a new book well why not sow some discussion seeds and gather their thoughts on your ideas or the way each chapter is going? And if you get stuck start a question-and-answer discussion on what your character might do. Again your readers may well come up with some ideas, even unusual ones that you haven’t thought of.

Remember, discussion prompts, open threads, questions for consideration, comments regarding a piece of writing or new chapter — all of these are smart ways to keep readers engaged as well as a great way to build connections with your audience. If you have any other ideas or ways in which you connect with your followers and are willing to share them with our listeners, please email them to us.

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