Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Who Reads Your Books?

When a person decides to start a business, one of the key tasks is to determine their target market. This holds true whether they're opening a new restaurant, an upscale clothing boutique, a toy store, a movie theatre - or anything in between.

That book you're writing is a product. You, the author, are a product. And when your book is finished and you're searching for just the right agent or publisher, you are putting yourself out there like a new business.

A lot of great manuscripts come across my desk. A lot of times, I have to decline them because I can't get a clear view of the target market and how to reach them.

Before you put your pen to paper (or your fingers to the keyboard) you should know who you're writing for. There's nothing wrong with writing the story that cries to your inner soul to be written. But if you're planning on selling that story, you'd better know who is likely to read the book - and how to reach them.

I hear authors say that their book is for everybody.

Is that so?

I could say a restaurant is for everybody. But ask a dozen people where they'd like to have dinner tonight and you might get a dozen answers. Some like sushi, some like Mexican, some, pizza, others, meatloaf... It's the same with books. No way will you catch me in a sushi bar, and I also don't care about werewolves.

You should know whether your primary reader is male or female. How old are they, right down to a specific generation - teens? young adult? 30's? 60's? What their education is, and why they would be interested in your book.

You have to know these things because when the book is released, you have to know how to reach that audience.

But that's my publisher's job, you say. Well, yes... and no.

It's everybody's job. It's your name on the cover. It's your face in public, signing your books. The author becomes an integral part of promoting the book; otherwise, he or she could be sent to totally inappropriate venues - the wrong age group or to groups more interested in a different genre. Try showing up at a church-sponsored book signing with erotica.

Knowing your audience helps you to grow your audience. You know what they like and don't like. You learn where they hang out. You learn how to reach them. Then stay within the parameters of what they like, and you've got a built-in audience for each book you write.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Establishing Your Genre

I had an interesting conversation with an author last week who told me that she wanted her audience to know that whatever she writes - whether it's a children's book, a cookbook, a suspense/thriller or a romance - would have the quality of her name behind it, enough to cause them to purchase it.

Well, no.

Let's take Reader 1. This reader is single, in his 20's, sportive and adventuresome. He likes the author's suspense/thriller because it's action-packed, contains international intrigue, features exotic locations and takes him out of his apartment and office cubicle. He doesn't have children, he only cooks if it takes a single pan and less than twenty minutes (preferably under ten), and he's into sex, not romance.

Reader 2 is a young newlywed. She still believes in love at first sight, at finding her eternal soul mate (which she thinks she has in her new husband), and she wants to experience that beautiful, giddy, head-in-the-clouds feeling she gets from reading pure romance. Maybe her new husband travels in his job or puts in long hours or works a job and attends school... And she wants a reminder that romance is not only possible, it's an everyday occurrence. She doesn't have children, she's learning to cook, and she might read a suspense/thriller IF it contains a healthy dose of... romance.

Reader 3 is a mother, a cook, a chauffeur, a maid, a nurse, a seamstress, a spouse... all before leaving home. With a full-time job in addition to her busy family, she doesn't have time to read. She will, however, purchase her children books. She won't use a cookbook at this point in her life because food has to be quick, simple and easy - or they go through the drive-thru. Down the road when Little Johnny and Baby Jane are well into their teen years, have their own cars and stay with their friends all hours, she might have time to go back to the love of reading. Then she'll gravitate toward suspense or romance, and possibly both.

I could go on and on with various readers' preferences. The point is: all readers are not created equal. Each of them has distinct likes and dislikes. If you write suspense and suddenly switch to heavy romance, you stand to lose some of your audience - unless you turn to romantic suspense with a heavy dose of the thrill your readers are accustomed to from you.

But to expect your fans to buy whatever you produce isn't realistic. They don't buy your books because they love you. Okay, maybe some of them do but certainly they can't number into the tens of thousands. And that's what it takes to be a success in this business - selling tens of thousands of books.

Your readers buy your books because you offer them what they're looking for. Maybe it's romance. Maybe it's suspense. Maybe it's something for Little Johnny. Maybe it's how to make that perfect cherry pie. But how many readers do you know what want all of those?

Next week: learning who your readers are.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Importance of a Platform

Often authors believe that the only factor in becoming a success is their writing ability. I'd love to say this is so.

However, it's only half of the equation.

The other half is marketing. The current environment is extremely competitive; one only needs to look at Twitter feeds to see scores of authors advertising their books and trying to get the public to buy them.

So when an author submits a manuscript we like, our next question is: what's your platform?

Drake Valley Press commits to a three-month marketing and promotional campaign, centered around the book's launch. We follow that with a consistent effort to get the word to readers throughout the following year. But we know that our efforts will not be enough.

The author must have a way of reaching their readers and their fan base. It can be through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogging, other social networking sites, and a combination of them all.

Years ago, we published a book where the author spent a small fortune advertising it for a month. Then promotional efforts dropped off. Needless to say, the book hasn't done well in the long stretch. It doesn't require deep pockets or paid advertising, but it does require a long-term commitment to reach as many readers and potential book buyers as possible.

When you are writing your book, ask yourself who is your target audience? Then ask yourself how you will reach that target audience over the long haul? Begin while you're writing to connect with those readers.