Finding Your Target Audience

I was talking to an author friend, and she’s working on a series that has been difficult for her to finish because she worries that people are going to think the books suck.  I originally intended to write a post on confronting this horrible feeling (because I have it from time to time, too).  I don’t think any writer is immune to worrying their book will not resonate with the right crowd.

But then I thought, “Who is the right crowd?” If we define who we’re writing for and craft our book directly to that group of people, I think we will have a book they will love reading.  If we write for the wrong crowd, then they will not like our book.  So today, I’m going to discuss how to find out who your target audience is.  Once you have defined that, you can then take a look at character tropes and plot tropes that your audience loves and craft a story around those elements.

finding target audience pic
ID 57691913 © Weerapat Wattanapichayakul | Dreamstime.com

Not all audiences are the same.  (Thankfully.)

There’s a saying that goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Fortunately, we live in a world where people have a wide range of interests.  You aren’t stuck writing only to one group of people.

Your target audience are the people you are writing for.  Take a look at books that are similar to the one you’re writing.  What are the reviews like?  Why do people love those books?  Why do they hate them?  For example, there is a group of romance readers who hate sex scenes.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But if you want to write a spicy romance, then that particular group is not in your target audience.  If one happens to read your book, they will likely give it a negative review because the book did not meet their expectations.

Your goal as a writer is to find out what your audience’s expectations are and then write your story in a way that will meet those expectations.

Why do people love or hate your book?

Let’s say you already have a book or two out, and you don’t know why someone loves or hates your books.  You want to know if you’re on the right track or if you need to change direction.  It could be that you think you’re writing for one particular audience when in reality, you’re really writing for another one.  The best way to find out is by gathering as much feedback as possible.

But how can you get feedback if no one is contacting you to let you know why they liked or didn’t like your book?

I used to say, “Don’t ever read your reviews.” But when I think about it, new writers often get feedback this way.  They don’t often get emails, comments on blog posts, or messages on Facebook from people who like or don’t like their books.  So one of the ways they’re going to find out who they’re pleasing and not pleasing is through reviews.  The best way to get reviews if you’re new is by offering a free book.  This can be on the retail site like Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, or Smashwords, or it can be on Wattpad.

Another great way of getting feedback is by getting beta readers who love books in the genre you’re writing for.  (A thriller reader won’t read a romance the same way a romance reader will.  Also, a Christian romance reader will not read an erotic romance the same way an erotic romance reader will.  So when you look within the genre, narrow the search down even farther.  The key is to find people in your target audience.)

If you offer your story for free and aren’t getting reviews or you can’t find beta readers, then I don’t know what to tell you except maybe hire a content editor who can look at the complete story and give you their opinion.  Ideally, this content editor will be familiar with your genre and know the rules for the genre.  (Every genre has a certain set of rules.  Following those rules often means happy readers.  Not following them will mean unhappy readers.)

There is value in good and bad feedback.

I admit that finding out why someone hates your book is never any fun.  No one wants to hear why their book failed to make a good impression with the reader.  But there is value in knowing why they didn’t because sometimes the very reason someone hated your book is the reason why someone else loved it.

I’ll give an example of how negative feedback actually helped me fine-tune my target audience.  I once participated in a multi-author boxed set.  We had quite a few reviews.  There were some of the five-star reviews of “loved all the books” without specifying why.  But guess what?  Every time someone mentioned my book, they did not like it.  After removing myself emotionally from the situation, I realized I wasn’t writing for the same audience that the other authors were.  (These other authors, by the way, are awesome authors, and they sell way better than I do.  So it was me that was “off” in the boxed set.  I was the one who wasn’t writing the book that their particular audience wanted.)  After analyzing all of the reviews, I realized everyone who hated my book didn’t like my hero because they saw him as being weak.  Looking at why they loved the other books, I realized this particular audience preferred alpha heroes.   I write beta heroes.  So for readers looking for alpha heroes, I’m not going to please them.  My book was not a good match for the other authors’ books.  Those authors wrote what those readers were looking for, and I didn’t.  Does that mean my book sucked?  Not to the people who are my fans.  They prefer beta heroes.  How do I know my fans like beta heroes?  They’ve told me.  One of the compliments I get the most is that my heroes are sweethearts.  So that is the group I’m aiming for.

There is a reason why we attract certain readers.  This key is knowing WHY people love or hate your book.  Your goal in narrowing down your target audience is to find out who you’re writing for.  Once you have that figured out, you can tailer your cover, book description, characters, and your plot to that group of people.  When you do that, hopefully, the interest and sales will go up.

How I Could’ve Done A Better Sale

Back in September I wrote an article about when was the best time to publish a book. That article also mentioned some opportune times to host some sales. Going off the advice of that article and my previous sale experience, I decided to host a sale around New Year’s, which is apparently a very good time to hold such a sale.

To my surprise and slight consternation, I did not sell as many books–digital or paperback–as I thought I would. I did get some good sales, including from friends and colleagues, but it was far lower than I expected, to the point that I put more money into the sale than I got back.

I’ve been spending the time since trying to figure out where I went wrong and what I could do to improve my next sale and ad campaign (probably when I publish a novel later this year). Below are the conclusions that I’ve come to, which I hope will give you some help if you hold a sale in the future.

I used only Facebook ads. In another previous post, I showed that Facebook ads could be extremely helpful in spreading the word about sales. This time though, they didn’t prove as helpful. While the likes on my Facebook page did increase from 383 to over twelve-hundred, not many of those people did buy a book. That’s because Facebook is already a free service, we get so much content from it for free. Sure, you may see ads for products on it, and you may like the pages of those products, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to buy it. You’re more likely to ignore an ad from a free service anyway, even when you’re confronted with it over and over (which is probably why I’ve never bought something advertised before my YouTube video).

So next time, I should try formats other than or in addition to Facebook. Yes, it’s a useful site to advertise and attract a fan base, but to rely solely on it wasn’t one of my better moves. Next time, I’ll look into using other platforms, including Twitter and KDP Amazon (yeah, KDP Amazon allows you to advertise through it. I heard the costs were huge, but maybe if they are, it might be worth it to advertise through a site where people are already there presumably to buy products).

I cast too wide a net. When you set up an ad campaign, you can decide who the ad is targeted towards based on criteria like age, interests and hobbies, sex, and several others. One of the main criteria though is country or countries. I wanted to get as many people to see the ad as possible, so I tried targeting as many countries as I could where Amazon operated in (most of my sales come through Amazon). Problem is, while Amazon does operate in those countries, it may not be as big as other retailers there. So when I cast a wide net, I cast a net where people would see the ad but may not buy. Meanwhile, there may have been people in more Amazon-strong countries that would’ve bought my books if they saw the ads, but didn’t because of the wide focus.

Plus some of the countries I targeted don’t have English as a first language. Yes, English is spoken there by a wide swath of the population, but it’s not a dominant language by any means. And most of my sales are from English speaking countries anyway, probably since my books are in English.

So in the future, I will try to focus on countries where most people do buy from Amazon, but English is a spoken by a majority of the population.

Include links. This should’ve been pretty obvious to me. I didn’t include links on two out of three of my ads though, expecting the readers to head over there out of curiosity and look themselves. I don’t think that’s what actually happened in real life. So if you’re going to do an ad, make sure a link or two is already present.

 

If this helped you at all, my job here is done. Sales and ad campaigns are never easy and don’t always yield the results you want, but if you learn from others and go through trial and error, they can on occasion bring in a very nice pay day.

What tips do you have for a successful sale/ad campaign?

But I want to Target my Readers

I love discussing writer related business with other authors and in my second business of cover design I get the chance often to talk about publishing and marketing. I was recently asked my opinion on audience targeting and how to do it. Ummmm…My advice was don’t until after the book is written. While you are going through the stages of editing and getting it ready for publication, when you have a firmer grasp of what the book is about, then it’s time to target your audience.

The author I was speaking with wanted to target their audience before they wrote the next book.

I’m not a big fan of audience targeting before you write the book. For whatever reason I have this image of an author in a mini-sub patrolling the Webseas, seeking out readers, and torpedo-ing their books in their direction. Some of these authors are targeting their genre audience, others every reader they find. I’m sure it works for some authors. As a reader, nothing annoys me more than authors and even readers who blast everyone in range with their “buy the book” message a million times. Aaahhh, let me think…will I buy the book…Um, not in a billion years. (Recent examples: Fifty Shades, Twilight, Harry Potter, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Stephen King, Amanda Hocking….and the list goes on.)

They might be great authors and their following seems huge. But I’ve heard about the book so much I already know what people liked, didn’t like, how it ends, and what was different in the books from the movie. Ok, can you tell how much it annoys me. It’s also a post for another day. Today I want to discuss ways to target your readers. And I’m still seeing the writer in a sub.

Writing for your audience is important if you want to sell books. If you are willing to place your marketing and sales before your creativity. However, there are good and bad ways to do it. If you don’t like the billionaire romances, don’t write them just because they’re popular. If you like Star Trek, create your own Universe and people, don’t copy and give them different names.

1) Decided who is your perfect reader is.

What I mean by this is who are you writing for and who is the type of reader you want to read your books. You can work up a character profile of who this reader is as some book marketing gurus suggest. I cringe at the very idea. I’d never look at it after the fact.

I would suggest picking a reader you already have and respect, even if that reader is imagined, and gear your writing toward them and hope there is more than one out there. Although the better option would be to write what you like and make that perfect reader you. Yeah, I know you are an individual and oh, so different from everyone else, but really, the best reader for your books are readers like you. In my opinion you are your perfect reader and you should be writing books you would enjoy reading. There are more people out there like you.

2) Research your readers needs and wants.

You can browse the top 10 bestsellers in your chosen genre or genres, research the common threads that make readers love them, and compile a list from those common traits. You can then use those common threads in your writing. If you do this, please only use the ones that you are comfortable with.

If you are uncomfortable writing about incest, James Bond like spies, epic fantasies, cheating spouses, serial killers, or any of the other dozen topics, then don’t. Writing something you aren’t comfortable with will only come out in your writing as awkward  and stilted. Besides that it won’t make you happy and it can even bring down your confidence and respect in yourself. Not! what you want to do.

3)  Make the book unique

Yes, vampire and shifter novels have been done to death, however, if you add your own unique writing style, author voice, and spin to it, then you’ve made it unique enough to attract readers to it when you start promoting it. I’m not a vampire fan, but I love Joleene Naylor’s vampire novels. My latest book had creatures that were like vampires and shifters in it. No, I wasn’t writing to a specific market it’s just how the story unfolded. It also didn’t take place on Earth. It had a unique spin to it that has attracted readers although I have yet to market it. (Bad me!)

If you write a book because it is the newest craze or trend, you better make your book stand out from the rest. If it is just like every other book out there, then you are writing for a limited audience. They will eventually move on to the next craze and the book you wrote will be left behind.

4) Market and Promote your book.

There are two ways to do this. Jump on all the forums, popular hangouts, guest post on blogs, and start talking about your book to everyone that will listen and make friends with the hope that they will become fans of your book or at least buy the book because they like you. Or go the other route and blog about your book a few months before it comes out (on your blog or guest post on others), giving readers interesting tidbits and story samples, see if reviewers are interested in reading and reviewing your book, release the book, and start writing the next book.

I like the second approach personally, which is probably why I make just enough to enjoy my success and my writing career still. I let people come to me and readers suggest the book without guilt tripping them into doing it. I also don’t have the added stress that ‘over-the-top’ marketing brings and I’m happier with my writing career. All pluses for me.

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So there are my tips to targeting your reader. Most of them that I don’t follow myself because I’d rather write the next book which seems to work better for me.

14 Tips to Marketing and Promoting on a Shoestring

Last night I thought about posting a question on the Amazon forums asking readers for help on writing this article. I wanted to know what they liked and didn’t like about Authors’ marketing and promoting their books. I decided against it about three seconds after I did a search on author’s marketing themselves. What I learned shocked me, but didn’t really surprise me that most efforts Author’s utilize to sell their books really annoy readers.

Over the years, I’ve studied different methods of marketing that fit what I’m comfortable with and below I’ve compiled a list of non-aggressive marketing tips that are budget friendly. I hope these helped and good luck all of you.

~Know your target audience and create a brand that appeals to you and projects the image you want for your writing career. With your brand in mind, repeat yourself in all your ads, webpages, etc to establish that brand in the minds of readers. For example: My author brand is “Where myths live, where legends walk, and where love is eternal.” I write Speculative fiction.

~When you finish a book, write the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Keep writing books. Create a backlist. The authors that sell well are the ones that write. It doesn’t cost much more than time, effort, and maybe paper.

~Upload to every book site available and fill out their author profile pages. Some readers like to know the author. My favorites are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Not only do you get better royalties by doing this, but you can also track your sales.

~Create a print book to go with your eBook. Some readers still like to hold a book in their hands, or like the eBook enough to buy the print book to have for their collection. You can carry it around with you in your purse and answer people’s questions when they ask about it. You can donate a paperback copy of your book to your local library. (I think most of the SPAL author’s use CreateSpace. This Amazon based service allows you to create a book with no out-of-pocket expense. The paperback will be linked to your eBook on Amazon. Another good printer is Lightning Source.)

~Offer Readers something for free. When readers receive something of value for free, trust and good feeling naturally arise. It is a very effective marketing strategy. This doesn’t have to be a full length book. Write a short story geared toward the readers you want to attract and offer it as a free read or bonus material at the end of a related book. Give the people on your mailing list or newsletter sneak peeks at a story. You can give them a coupon or some type of special they can share with friends.

~Run a contest giving out free e-books. Or have a treasure hunt where they buy the books to find clues and win something big. Or do a giveaway and ask everyone who downloads the book to please leave an honest review.

~Blogs and websites are free ad space on the web that creates a constant link between yourself and readers. It is there 24/7. This doesn’t mean you should treat it like a billboard. Share things that are meaningful to you and your readers. Blog about your book as you write it. Share character interviews, short stories, or news about the book. (There are many platforms to choose from. Weebly offers a blog for your website. Bloggster, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr are all blogging sites, some of which can be transformed into websites.)

~Social Networking with Twitter, Facebook, and GooglePlus and the hundred of other sites out there are great ways to stay connected and keep your name active. Also sign up for reading sites like GoodReads and Shelfari, or creating a Youtube channel with a list of songs that go well with your story or author interviews is a great way to get people to notice you. You can then get widgets for all of these sites and place them on your website so people can easily find you on the web.

~Book trailers are a great way to show readers what your book is all about. You can upload it to Youtube and Tweet the link with relevant hashtags to get it out to people with similar interests.

~Join forums if you dare. Forums and group discussions can be great places to meet people. But be sure not to self-promote. Not only will it turn readers off, it can turn nasty fast. Amazon has created a special ‘Meet the Authors’ forum where authors can promote their books and talk about their work.

~Most people won’t give a book a second glance if it has not received any reviews, good or bad. I found that offering your book for free and asking for honest non-biased reviews can get you those reviews. But don’t expect them to be all nice. You can also send your book to bloggers and reviewers.

~Make flyers, brochures, postcards or pens with information about your books. I’ve never tried this but it could be worth it to make a flyer or brochures and place them in public places, giveaway flyers, brochures, or postcards to people who ask about your book, etc. Please make sure it’s okay with the owners first or it’s at a place where it is okay to put them. Bathroom stalls, libraries, and bulletin boards are good places. Network with another author and do an exchange of flyers. Pens can be given away, or left for people to use. I don’t know about you, but I do read the writing on the sides of pens.

~Find creative ways to use your business cards and leave them in unexpected places. Some authors like to print a brief book excerpt on the back, titles of your book or book cover, the table of contents, the characters, a rave review, or your elevator pitch. I prefer the list of books or leaving it blank. If blank you can write a specific book for the person or even write a coupon code for a free or discounted book on it. You can leave your card with the tip for the waitress, in the envelope if you pay your bills via snail mail, in library books, in the change room at your

~Create relationships with readers, writers, reporters, book sellers, book clubs, bloggers, teachers, etc. Word of mouth is still the most cost-effective way to advertise your books.