Monday, January 6, 2014

Finding Your Audience

I am back from an extended holiday in Europe and if Americans think it's cold and wet in the lower states, they would certainly find the UK less than inviting this time of year. It's good to see the sun again!

I'm starting this year off with a blog on finding your audience. With the number of books being published today and more entering the marketplace every hour, finding and connecting with your audience has never been more important.

We have published books in the past that were wonderfully written and well presented but had disappointing sales. Each week our board meets and goes through the latest sales figures and each editor provides an overview of the books they're representing, the stages they're in, and how they're doing. When a book falls short of the mark, we brainstorm about reasons for this. By far the most common is: the book is not finding its market.

This might sound obvious but to many authors, their strengths lie in their writing abilities and not in their marketing prowess. But with the stiff competition in the industry today, every author must be their own best publicist.

So how do you determine who your best market is?

First, consider the time frame.

When does your book take place? If it takes place during the last fifty years, give some thought to who would connect with that era. If you write a book set in the northeast in the 1970's, a younger generation who wasn't even born during that time will not connect with or relate to the book. You're looking instead for an age group that grew up during that period.

If your book is historical, what groups would be interested in that particular era?

Second, consider the place.

New York City was a different place during the founding of America. It changed again when immigrants began flooding the country, particularly during the early 1800's. It changed further during the American Civil War.

The way of thinking during the 1950's and 1960's in business and theatre is far different from today's. Even the past 20-30 years have seen tremendous changes, particularly since 9/11.

To connect with your audience, ask yourself who would be interested in the location in your book? Whether it's New York City, Gettysburg, London, Helsinki, or a tiny village in Africa - who cares about it?

Third, consider the backdrop.

I could write a book about two lovers in 1860 who meet in a tiny village called Gettysburg. The story would be far different if I changed the dates to July 1863.

Would Gone With the Wind have been the same if it had begun in the 1820's instead of the 1860's? Of course not. The basic story is: girl meets boy, boy marries another, girl tries to win him back. Set that story against the turmoil of a civil war, and you've just increased your readership thousands of times over.

Would the movie Titanic have been the same if Jack and Rose had met in Augusta, Georgia in 1960? Of course not. We know the ship is going down and we know few people survived. The impending threat heightens the Romeo and Juliet storyline of Jack and Rose to a higher level of suspense.

Fourth, consider tie-ins.

Look at your book from different stances. Take each character and ask yourself who could relate to that character, whether it's a kid being bullied in school or a ruthless tycoon.

Take each scene and ask yourself who can relate to it, whether it's an employee who tires of their boss' abuse or a young man who just lost the love of his life to another.

Look at anniversaries: does your book take place during a time of civil unrest, prosperity, tragedy? Take a calendar and mark those dates and then plan your strategy around them.

Writing for the Market.

What you're doing in each of these instances is writing with a particular market in mind.

If 1970's New York wouldn't appeal to too many folks, what would happen if you changed it to 9/11? Or the Revolutionary War? Or today?

If Smalltown USA isn't that appealing, what backdrop would be? A ship in the middle of the ocean? A village in Syria? A spaceship?

How can your story be enhanced by weaving historical data through it? Or current events?

If you write your book with a particular market in mind, it's the first step to being able to successfully sell it. Then you can:

Look for people interested in that time frame.

Look for people interested in the particular locale.

Look for people interested in the historical backdrop.

Look for people reading about specific anniversaries of real-time events.

More on finding your market in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned.

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