Targeting Specific Readers Part One of Three: The marketing conundrum…Guest post by Steve Moore
In these DIY times, some writers choose to self-publish. Others still prefer the traditional paradigm. One other (so far), Hugh Howey, author of the Wool SF series, has managed to do both, and keep digital rights separate from paper rights. No matter the choice, PR and marketing for your book these days is in the writer’s hands unless he happens to be an established bestselling author.
I have become a self-publishing or indie author by default, following the yellow brick road from agents to POD to eBooks. I’m content now about where I am except for my number of readers. In this Land of Oz called digital publishing, you’d think the internet would allow me so many opportunities to acquire readership that I’d have thousands of readers.
Note that I focus on readers. Publishing companies focus on sales; I focus on readers. If reader A reads one of my books and then passes it on to reader B, I’m happy with my two new readers, even though it’s just one sale. (I’m not particularly concerned about piracy for that reason—but that’s another topic.) I’ve priced my ebooks so the temptation to do that is minimal (ebook pricing is yet another topic). Nonetheless, even if I count readers in that way (in practice, by some multiplicative factor of sales), it’s hard to realize name recognition. The internet is so big and digital publishing so liberating that bobbing up above the average sea level of competition to become known to a good number of readers is more difficult with each passing day.
About six months ago, I started thinking about targeting specific readers, using my small budget for PR and marketing. If you’re a non-fiction writer of niche books (self-help, construction projects, hobbies, etc.), you have a well defined audience and are probably already doing this. That’s what “niche books” means, after all. For authors of fiction (me), you have a genre (mine is sci-fi thriller), but the demographic distribution (sexes, ages, and locations) associated with your genre is not well defined. For example, I targeted my young adult (YA) sci-fi thriller to young adults, obviously. I’ve been surprised at how many adults liked it too, so much so that I now describe that eBook as “for young adults and adults young-at-heart.”
If a reader happens on my website (this process is not completely random, because of Google and other search engines), she will see at the beginning: “Welcome! Bienvenidos! Readers wanted…. Do you like science fiction? Androids, aliens, clones, mutants, and artificial intelligence? Thrillers and suspense? Mysteries? Detectives fighting crime, counter terrorism, and conspiracies? Fast-paced action and strange plot twists? Steve’s fiction offers a special treat for readers since it often cuts across all these genres. Take a tour of this website and make yourself comfortable with his storytelling. Take stock of the other information that is available. Readers are most welcome. It’s all yours to enjoy.”
Besides all those wonderful “key words” the Google bots love, let me point out a few things that just didn’t come to me in an epiphany—I had to put some sweat of my brow into developing them. First, “Bienvenidos!” I’m bilingual and my website has a Spanish influence—I’ve even written a few reviews in Spanish because I read fiction written in Spanish. More importantly, I’m trying to convey the international nature of the settings used in my fiction, from my old haunts in the Boston area, to my new haunts in the tri-state area (Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey), to countries around the world, and to the solar system and beyond.
“Readers wanted…” and “…make yourself comfortable with his storytelling” emphasize what I’m about: I want to entertain you with my storytelling. There’s a “Buy Now” button on that first page and some prices listed, but, as readers know, those Amazon book pages allow you to peek inside the book without buying. I’m not twisting arms, and, because I don’t know exactly what might interest you in the book, the peeks serve as personalized excerpts for the potential reader.
The rest of that first paragraph defines my genres. Having a website like this is part of building an author’s platform. It targets a specific audience, but it depends on that audience finding the website. I’ve been worried since the release of my first book about how to (1) drive potential readers to that website, and (2) not annoy people who won’t be interested. One reader’s spam is another reader’s interesting book release, after all. While discussing this with other authors, it’s become clear that I’m not unique in having this double-barreled shotgun of a problem.
My first experience with book promotion and advertising as an author was to purchase a marketing package to promote my first book. While this was POD, any author working with a traditional publisher has the same desires and could suffer the same learning experience: that first marketing package blanketed the whole information and media universe. In other words, it was indiscriminate spam. I probably made many more enemies than friends (or readers) with that marketing effort, something I regret, because I’m not really in this to make tons of money. My goal is just to entertain, remember.
So, for many years, I’ve been thinking about how to go about PR and marketing in a better way. After my first experience, I’m reluctant to hire someone. My budget is limited. I can’t and won’t pay for PR and marketing that is nothing more than spamming the world. I’ve been trying many different DIY projects. They vary from the simple (putting a business card in every bill I return by snail mail—they’re paying for the postage) to the elaborate (creating a website and Facebook fan page). In the next installment, I will focus on a new tactic: Targeting specific audiences on my own, using my knowledge of the readers.
For Part 2 of this 3 Part series go to:
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