Every author knows the importance of connecting with readers. Traditionally, we do that by establishing a social media presence, participating in conferences, appearing at book club events, holding book signings, starting a blog, and most importantly, compiling a list of emails for a newsletter. This all takes time, of course, and it isn’t easy or automatic. If no one knows your book exists, they won’t read it. If they don’t read it, they can’t love it and recommend it to others.
NEWS WAYS TO CONNECT
Fortunately, there are new ways of getting your book and your name out there. In July I blogged about a relatively new book-discovery website called Shepherd.com. You can read about it here. Today I’m highlighting READERLY BOOKS, a resource for writers, launched by historian turned librarian, reviewer, and book coach, Robin Henry. She was gracious enough to answer my questions.
CONNECTING VIA READERLY BOOKS
CONNIE: Welcome to Miss Demeanors, Robin. Can you tell us about yourself and how you come to be involved in the craft of writing?
ROBIN: I am a librarian, so books have always been part of both my work life and my personal life. As a teacher and librarian, I found myself in a position to work with students to help them write better papers. Another part of my work as a librarian was to review books for professional journals and to provide reader advisory services. These two activities gave me the opportunity to engage in wide and deep reading. Through my work as a reviewer, I noticed patterns in how great writing developed over the course of a novel. My first degree was in history, but I had an interest in literature, so I completed a second master’s degree in humanities with a concentration in literature and writing instruction, which afforded me exposure to even more wonderful writers and books.
As I thought about retiring from public school, I wanted to have a second act related to writing and publishing—worlds that I loved and spent a lot of time in. I had worked on book award committees and spent time with writers and their agents, and I thought perhaps I had something to offer. I am well versed in writing, teaching, and matching readers with books, plus I understand the publishing world. While I was considering my options, I found the Author Accelerator Book Coach Certification Program. I completed the program and earned my certification, which opened my coaching business. Working with writers to get more novels featuring hidden women from history, female sleuths, and people on Heroine’s Journeys into the world is a way to widen the possibilities for all the readers of those books—something I care deeply about.
CONNIE: We share those interests, Robin. Now, tell us about Readerly Book and how it came to be?
ROBIN: I started Readerly Books as a book review blog. Lots of my librarian colleagues and friends liked my reviews (warning: sometimes they are snarky), and it was a fun project to spend some creative energy on. When my daughter said, “Mom, why don’t you get on Instagram?” I decided to dip a toe in there and post pictures of the books I was reading with my tea. I am also a baker, so sometimes I photographed special treats with my book.
When I decided to begin my coaching business, I thought why not roll it into one? People who like to read also frequently like to write and vice versa. At least I know I do, so I added the coaching sections after I completed my training. My coaching has continued to evolve as I continue to acquire more training, such as in developmental editing, and dive deeper into craft.
Because I am a historian turned librarian, one might guess I am analytical. I use these powers of analysis in my coaching to help writers see patterns—where there may be something missing, for example, and options for fixing it. I am also a big believer in planning and structure. I don’t think you should over-structure yourself as a writer, but creativity thrives when there is at least a guiding principle or goal the artist is aiming for. If you start whacking on the marble without knowing at least the general shape, you may find it much more difficult to create the figure you wanted.
Because of my background in history and my feminist ideals, I generally work with writers who are writing historical fiction, historical mysteries, and women’s fiction with female main characters who are pushing the boundaries.
CONNIE: In a nutshell, what is your overall purpose?
ROBIN: My purpose is to help writers craft compelling novels about people who’ve made a difference. I want women’s fiction to eventually be just fiction. I want literary fiction writers to be at least half women, since readers are more than half female. I want to make the world a better, fairer place through literature.
CONNIE: Noble goals, Robin. What is your favorite part of your work?
ROBIN: My favorite part of this work is seeing the revisions a writer does after we work together for a while. The difference between where they started and where we end up is uplifting and encouraging. I love working with writers who care about their books and want them to be beautiful stories, well told, because that is what I want, too.
CONNIE: You live in Tallin, Estonia. Why are you there and how long do you plan to stay?
ROBIN: My husband and I moved to Estonia in June 2022. We have been visiting Tallinn since 2014 to work with a church youth camp here which is affiliated with a congregation we have attended. For years we talked about staying longer because we love the people and the place and felt we might be of use to the New Testament Church here. Being in Tallinn for camp each year let us get to know the people for short visits, and we developed a strong connection to them and to the Lord’s work here. Since I have now retired from the public schools, we plan to remain in Estonia through September 2023 at a minimum, but we are already discussing ways to stay longer, since we are becoming closer to the church members and love our work with them. Even if we do return to the United States in September 2023, we plan to visit Tallinn for extended periods each year as our health and finances allow.
CONNIE: Does your current location pose any problems for your work?
ROBIN: No! Estonia is an extremely tech-forward nation, and they make it easy to do almost everything online. The only real challenge is time zones…
CONNIE: Do you have any new plans for the future?
ROBIN: I have two new programs that I am really excited about, and you are the first to hear about them!
- Your Personal Writing Adventure is a 1:1 intensive coaching experience for planning or revising your novel that I will offer here in Tallinn. It includes one- or two-week’s accommodation here, in-person coaching based on priorities we develop in meetings before you visit, writing time, and plenty of inspiration in a beautiful place. Plus, you get me as your personal tour guide and book coach. The first spots will be open in January, just in time for a visit to this Winter Wonderland to begin your writing year strong. Interested writers may contact me to find out more.
- Readerly Writing Circle is a small group coaching program for writers who want accountability in a more intimate setting with some personal and group coaching as well as educational sessions, Q&A with me, and dedicated writing sessions each month. It is a great way to experience coaching with a smaller monetary investment that will still give writers results in terms of setting and meeting writing goals, learning craft, and guidance from a professional for your writing journey. Group size is limited to eight writers, and I am opening up places now to begin with a group in January.
CONNIE: How can our readers connect with you?
ROBIN: My website, http://readerly.net, has a few free writing resources plus book reviews, writing tips, and more. Writers can also email me at email@example.com or find me on Instagram @readerlybooks.
CONNIE: Thanks so much for being our guest today, Robin! Best of luck with your future plans.
Robin Henry is an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach and holds an MLS (Library Science) and MA in Humanities. She is a librarian, adjunct professor of Humanities and Library Science, and an independent scholar and book coach, specializing in Historical Fiction, Cozy Mysteries, and Literary Fan Fiction. She has over 20 years of experience working with books and authors, as a reviewer, book award committee member, writing teacher, and coach.
She is also a Jane Austen superfan, Anglophile, runner, and hot beverage enthusiast.
Robin, your zest for helping writers shine comes through. What interesting ways to share your expertise, too, all the way from Estonia! I used to take pottery classes from a wonderful Estonian potter who loved her country and returned once she finished her Masters here. Congratulations on your second chapter!
What a fascinating story! Thanks for sharing it with us.