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4 Ways to Identify Your Audience Online

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One evening during the Toronto Book Fair, we had down time to chat with the other author-exhibitors. It was a great chance to get to know their story. A frequent topic of conversation among the group was, “How many books have you sold?” For some direct published authors it’s a chance to brag about early successes, while for others it’s a chance to commiserate on the challenge.

One author felt particularly exasperated. “I’ve been marketing my books for a year and I’m just not selling enough!” she said. “Everyone who’s read my book loves it but I just can’t seem to get more people to read it.”

It’s a common complaint. After you’ve sold your first 100 books to your family, friends, coworkers, dog walker, family again, Starbucks barista, family a third time (trade paper back), and mailman, you’re going to move to the next logical place: social media. And so you begin advertising your book to your followers. This is where many stop but you shouldn’t.

You have to find your audience and target them with a specific message.

“Where can I find my audience?”

That’s a great question. Before we can get to the answer we need to ask a few others first, like…

“Who is my target audience…really?”

Start with honest self-reflection about your book. What did you intend to write and (more importantly) is that what you’ve written? A good way to gather this information is to ask your readers what they really enjoyed about your work. Crystal’s first book, Eve’s Return, was described as, “horror, like Stephen King.” Great, so it’s a novel with horror elements.

Repeat that process with genre, length, cover art, etc. You may be surprised what you learn.

Next comes research. Sometimes it’s as simple as Googling, “who reads romance novels?” Sometimes you have to think about gender, age, location, and level of education of your readers. Admittedly, you won’t get as specific as, “my readers are 34 year old women named Vivian who live in New Jersey, who started their masters in Fine Arts and always talk about going back to finish,” but you’ll have an understanding of, “middle aged women in the United States who read at a high level.”

You have sources of data at your disposal, too. Check your Amazon purchase history to your site’s Google Analytics to see which countries come to you at higher rates than others. Who knows? Maybe you’re super popular in Germany like David Hasselhoff.

“What do they spend their money on?”

Take the reader profile you’ve just created and ask yourself:

  • What else are they reading? Is there anything I can learn about marketing from the top ten books? (Tip: Scour Amazon’s “Customer Who Bought This Item Also Bought”.)
  • What else do they spend their money on? For example, someone who reads romance novels is also liable to like specific brands of hand bags or specific musicians.
  • How do these people buy? Do these people go to where I distribute my book? If the answer is no, then you need to change your distribution channel. If they answer is yes, make sure your marketing efforts give them a way and a reason to buy there.
  • Why do they buy the way they do? Personally, I buy based on reviews from trusted sources. Some buy based on the recommendation of friends and others because of novelty. There’s always a reason for someone to pick up a book by a new author, so find out yours.

“Great…now where can I find my audience?”

You’re going to find a potential reader anywhere. What you’re looking for is a tighter collection of potential readers. Make a list of the places you know your audience might go, like:

  • ePublisher sites like Amazon and Kobo. How we approach distribution channels is different than how we approach advertising channels, so we’ll want to put this list aside for now (for a later blog).
  • Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and more. Again, save this list for later. Social media advertising is to people who have already made the decision to follow you and are approached differently.
  • Reviewers.
  • Blogs.
  • Message Boards.
  • Lifestyle websites.
  • Magazines or News Sites.
  • Podcasts or Video Channels.
  • Mobile Applications.
  • …and more.

Now that you have a good list, reorder it from what is most effective to least effective. This is based on track record, audience size, and fit to your book.

One last question for you:

“What do I have time to focus on?”

As I’ve discussed time and time again, you are a finite resource. Understandably, it’s difficult to split your time between your work, your life, writing, and marketing. A good rule of thumb I learned is the one-third plus one. Suppose you have a list of ten places you would like to market your book. Rank them in order of what you think will work and calculate the first third (plus one). Start with four and see where you are after.

Marketing isn’t an exact science. It’s about making very educated guesses about what makes the needle stand out in the haystack and testing the results. The best way to measure effectively is to try something, and then see how many books you’ve sold.

Join me again in two weeks when we’ll talk about the top ways to engage your audience by answering, “What is my message?”

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Andrew Gaudet

Asker of Questions
Andrew has worked in sales and management for more than a decade. His favorite books include Star Wars "Hier to the Empire" trilogy by Timothy Zahn, "Raw Shark Texts" by Stephen Hall, "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey, and "Paris 1919" by Margaret Macmillan. "No plan survives first contact" - paraphrased from Helmuth von Moltke.


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