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.

24 Comments

  1. sknicholls says:

    I did not even consider a target market when I wrote my first book, but I am with the next ones. I also did not have a clue what a “reader audience” or what a blog was. I made a lot of mistakes, which is why I took the first approach…the next time, I would be more knowledgeable and take the second approach. Either way, it’s all good, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for all the sales in the world.

    1. 😀 Sometimes the journey is more important then the destination. Learning from out experiences make a better at what we do.

  2. I think your second approach in point number 3 would be my approach. Although I wouldn’t complain if I get buyers just because they like me and want to support me and not because they actually LOVE my book, I’d rather they do it for the book. I often find myself getting annoyed if I ask a friend to give me critiques on a piece I’ve written and they have NOTHING to say except ‘Very good!’ 🙂 For your first point, I have a quirk which, I don’t know, may be a problem. When I write, I do it for myself, I look at myself as the perfect reader. But the thing is, I find it difficult to read over my own work…why? Because I already know what is going to happen. Does anybody else feel that way about their work? Don’t get me wrong though, I tend to be proud of my work, except for when I’m being nitpicky and thinking it needs MORE work. And to be fair, my quirk applies to everything. I can’t watch the some movie or show over again or read over the same book in a short space of time. So, could that be viewed as a problem?

    1. Friends are the worse people to ask for critiques on your stories unless they are a very honest friend that won’t hold back and you can take them ripping something apart. Most friends don’t want to hurt your feelings and will sugarcoat their opinion or not give one because the story wasn’t their thing, they didn’t like it, or they’re not sure what to say. A stranger is by far the easier course because they don’t have the same hangups. As for reading and re-reading your own work, most writers seem to have the same problem. I still can’t read my first book and it’s been 5 years. It’s not that I hate it, I just can’t stand to look at it because I’ve read through it so much in an attempt to make it perfect. I don’t have the same problem with stories 3 and 4 now that I’ve learned to let go. Now I write the story, flesh it out, and edit it before it goes to beta readers. Then I fix the mistakes they suggest and send it to an editor. Then I publish it and move on. It’s hard to do. But the alternative would be going back to writing the same book for 13 years and have it so mangled it should be burned.

      1. I made a mistake. I meant point 4. I hope that didn’t throw you off. But yeah, point taken on the friends. My friends tend to be straightforward though. I guess when I get annoyed it’s because I just FEEL there’s something that can be improved.

        1. It wasn’t a mistake in the fact that I had two number 3’s and corrected it before reading the comment, but I knew what you were talking about. 😀

          There is always room for improvement. You will never have perfection in a story. But rather than holding onto the one story and trying to fix it and fix it and fix it. Sometimes it is better to let it go into the world and start the next story, possibly focus on something you think you need to work on. Learn from the next story and the next after that. Otherwise you will find yourself in my situation with 16 years writing experience of which 13 years was spent on the same story. A story that I put aside for 4 years before revisiting and finding that one story should have been divided into half a dozen stories or more.

          1. Hmmmm the mistake on your part didn’t even register! And I guess we live and we learn huh. Nice advice! I’ll take it! And I wish you well in your future endeavors!

  3. I’m definitely my perfect reader, though some days I feel like I’m still trying to please me! And as for writing in a trend, I try to avoid that. I prefer to start the trend or wait till the trend is long done. Only then do I feel comfortable writing about a subject.

    1. LOL Pleasing yourself can sometimes be more difficult then pleasing others. I usually write whatever I’m interested in. I’ve always been a fan of mythology and most of my books use mythological creatures in them. Sometimes they’re trending and other times they aren’t. I usually don’t pay that close attention.

      1. I think pleasing yourself should be the first thing you do. When you think about it, you don’t like what you are writing, you’re only doing it to please others, how can you possibly bring out all the feelings and thoughts that you wanted to invoke? 🙂

        1. Exactly! Writing for yourself first and you’ll probably find a handful of people who like the same things. Besides the passion in your voice is stronger when you write something you enjoy.

      2. I only pay attention to the ones that really annoy me with how bad or how unoriginal they seem to be.

  4. Thank you, Stephannie! Good suggestions and glad I’m doing things right, even though I’m clueless — my first book is being edited right now and I was getting twitchy…I needed to do *something*, so even though I didn’t have anything to ‘give away’ (other than promises for free book, discounts, bookmarks…) I started a little contest on my FB business page and connected it to my website. It’s a weekly thing till my book actually is released (in October–oooh, that is sooo far away!) and it is slowly building interest. I’ve even resorted to handing out ‘home made’ promo book marks…

    And, I used friends (very honest, helpful) — both adult & tweeners as beta readers before submitting to the publisher’s editing department. They caught mistakes, made some good comments and it all helped in shaping my book.

    My story evolved as I wrote it, from 9-10 year old characters to tweeners…funny how that happens. I really didn’t know they could control a story so easily! LOL.

    Anyway, thank you for your helpful advice! It has reinforced the path I’m taking.

    1. You’re welcome! I usually start the next book to keep myself occupied during that time. I find if I’m creating I’m not so worried about what others think of the book. 😀 Good luck on your contests.

  5. Katie Cross says:

    I can’t even fathom targeting an audience before a book is done because I never even know where the book is going to go, at that point. It could be anywhere, in any genre. You know? Great advice though!

    1. Thank you. I’m with you, I can’t target my audience before the book is done, while it’s being edited since my last book went from Regency to Space toward the end. I usually wait until it’s done and ready to send into the world. 😀

  6. I can’t stand those Buy My Book messages (even from friends). I don’t actively market my books, and yet I’m selling. Yesterday, I saw a spike in sales after commenting on a soap opera’s Facebook page that they needed new writers–along with a link to my blog (I’d just added a post titled A Day in the Life of a Soap Opera Actress).

    I think a mistake most writers make is in marketing to other writers rather than to readers.

    1. Commenting is one of the best ways to market.

      Not only is it a mistake to market to other writers, but also to fill your contacts with no one but other writers. Yeah, I know writer’s are readers too. 😀

  7. Rohan 7 Things says:

    I find over the top marketing really hard so I’m always glad to hear there are those who have had success using a more subtle approach 🙂

    Great advice, thanks for sharing!

    Rohan.

    1. The subtle approach takes longer, but the sales seem steadier for it.

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