Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Consider The Reader: What Your Audience Wants

Last week I talked about defining your audience. That's one of the first steps in marketing your book. But once you’ve identified who may want to read your book, the next step is to define what they want.  There are two parts of this to consider, but both pieces work together. The two parts are what the audience wants in terms of content and what they want in terms of marketing/ outreach.


Every genre carries different reader expectations. If you can deliver those, then your book is more likely to be successful, and readers are more likely to spread the word. Of course there are some genre requirements for all books (solid writing, likable characters, etc), but what I’m talking about here are the things that draw specific readers to that particular type of book.

What experience does the reader expect from a book in your genre? Now take a look at your work and determine if you’re delivering that. For example, detective stories need to contain a mystery with a solution that’s cleaver, difficult to see from the outset, and when the reader reflects back the person should be able to see that all the necessary clues were present within the story.

If you write adventure stories, does your book contain enough thrilling moments to get the reader’s heart racing? If this is an instructional book, does it provide enough detail so that the reader can build, make, or accomplish whatever you’re telling them that they can? If your book doesn’t fit into any genre, then you may be setting it up to disappoint readers because they’re coming in with unknown expectations. If you don’t know what the reader wants, it can be very difficult to deliver successfully. So make sure that your books include enough of whatever the key elements of your genre may be. Not only are readers more satisfied when you deliver on their expectations (which helps with reviews), but now that you’ve identified those elements it will be much easier to write advertising copy because those are the points you want to emphasize when you tell readers about your book.


First of all, let me state the obvious: you need to meet your audience where they are, and don’t expect them to come to you. If you write graphic novels, you should be at places like Comic Con. If you write cookbooks, you should be advertising in cooking magazines or looking for opportunities to speak at home shows or other events that highlight culinary related topics. If you write fiction, you should be on sites like Goodreads and Shelfari.

Secondly, look at marketing expectations within your genre. Some genres have readers who prefer ebooks instead of physical books (or vice versa). This is important if you’re planning a promotional giveaway. Make sure that the book format matches reader preference. If it doesn't, the giveaway winners may never read it.

Also take a look at the way your books are presented for sale. Do your readers like bundles (several books sold together at  discount) so they feel as if they’re getting a better deal? Do they enjoy books that are part of a series? Are short stories preferred over novels? What is the preferred length of a novel (60k words? 100k words?). It may seem silly to a writer who just wants to tell a story, but when a reader expects a short read and sees a 130k novel, they’ll pass on it and choose something else that matches their expectations.

I’d like to conclude by clarifying that thinking about the audience doesn’t mean that you allow the readers to tell you how to write your books. It has more to do with remembering that writing is communication and should be treated that way. If you don’t listen to what your readers have to tell you concerning what they want and how to reach them, then success as an author may be very difficult to find.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Consider The Reader: Identify Your Audience

A number of authors have recently contacted me about marketing their books. So I’m going to begin by providing the best piece of advice I can on this topic, which is to consider your reader. Without taking this approach, I think it’ nearly impossible to market a book. That said, there are two specific components to this:

1. Identify your audience
2. Know what your audience wants

Once you know those two things your marketing plan is much easier, and if you can’t identify those two things, just about any marketing plan is likely to fail.

BUT ... what if my book is for everyone?

Let me begin by saying that it’s not. There are people who are indifferent to and even hate some of the best selling books in history. My point is that no matter how great your book may be, there is no way that it’s for the entire planet. My experience is that if you really believe that everyone is your audience then no one is likely to buy the book. People don’t believe they’re all the same, either, so there’s no way that everyone would like the exact same book. Sure, we have some common experiences (that’s part of being human), but we also have individual differences. This is why there are so many different genres, and that’s a good thing.

What if I just write for myself?

Then consider that maybe publishing isn’t the right answer. Sure, you may have something to say that could be beneficial to a segment of the population, but if you don’t know who that segment is then you’re highly unlikely to reach the people who would get anything from your work. So your book will go unnoticed, and you’ll wind up frustrated. In addition, if you write only for yourself and don’t consider the reader, then the only person you can successfully market your book to is you, and, again, there’s no reason to publish. I'm not trying to be harsh. I’m attempting to emphasize the point that writing is communication and if you’re just talking to yourself on paper then there’s no point in getting frustrated when no one else listens. So ask yourself if you have an audience that you need to define better, or if your writing should simply be a personal exercise.

Defining Your Audience

This may appear to be a daunting task, but it may help if I share my experience. I find that readers of my work fall into three categories:

Some love my work.
Some hate my work.
Some don’t care about my work.

The audience I want to identify is the first group. People buy books for different reasons, but there’s a high probability that the people in that first group share some very similar reasons for the books they choose. These common characteristics may be defined by gender, occupation, location, education, or other combinations of qualities. Some of the things I know about my audience is that they tend to have three things in common: they like children’s literature (many because they are children or work with children), they typically don’t take themselves or life too seriously, and they generally tend to be female.  Does this mean that I don’t have any male readers? Of course not. It simply means that if I market to women I'll be more successful than if I market to men or both. Marketing to everyone wastes your time and resources, so it's best to focus as much as possible.

There are numerous way to figure out your audience. For example, you can find geographical information from sales data and your Facebook Fan Page (this will also give you age and gender information). However, I’ve found that the best way to define my audience is through interactions. When you do a book signing or public event look at the audience and see who took the time to attend. Make yourself accessible online and see who contacts you through your website or friends you on social networking sites. Also monitor the engage different social media posts receive - observing how people respond to your posts tells you what's important to them.

Once you identify who is likely to be in the first group of “some who love my work,” then it’s easier to figure out the next step, which is what they want ... and that will be the topic of my next post.