Welcome to the first post in the book marketing series. There were several posts I would have loved to begin this series with, but most Authors are not marketers, so I decided to start at the beginning i.e. knowing your “Ideal Reader”.
Knowing Your Ideal Reader
As an author, you might not be able to control your book sales, irrespective of the number of Bookbub ads and Facebook ads you run. Unless you actually know who your target audience is, you will spend lots of money on marketing your book and get little return.
Alternatively, you could improve your reader’s experience and give them a reason to care about your brand – your books. They need to feel invested in your brand, you need to care about them… and by that I don’t mean just making Facebook and Twitter posts talking about how happy you are and how much you love them, that is great and all but that is somewhat impersonal don’t you think?
I’m an avid reader of both original fiction and fanfiction, I read 10k words on a bad day and 100k words on a good day, I have a list of top ten fanfiction and original fiction authors whose website I check every morning on Feedly. Your readers most probably also have their mental or physical list of authors they love and follow, so you need to give them a reason to add you to that list, you need to give them a reason to buy YOUR books, rather than a similar book by another author.
Keep in mind that readers do not buy a book after hearing or seeing it somewhere once, sometimes we won’t buy a book even after seeing it everywhere on Facebook.
[Tweet “Most customers will not buy your book after seeing or hearing about it once.”]
Sometimes after seeing or hearing about your book and reading the blurb, we click on the amazon link to read the reviews before we finally decide to buy the book. We really did want to buy your book, but once we got to the amazon page we got distracted by “Customers who bought this item also bought” and ended up buying one of those books instead.
You might not be able to affect your book sales directly but you can directly affect your “Ideal Buyer” buying journey. On the next book in the book marketing series, I will go into detail about the reader’s buying journey. There I will break down the process readers take before deciding to buy a book. First, you need to know who your ideal reader is.
It’s important for Authors to know who their target audience is as well as who your IDEAL reader i.e. among the group of people who reads the genre you write in and who would love your book, we need to find the segment of people within that group that would actually buy your book. There are readers and there are buying readers. Those who would buy your book or at least has the potential to do so once nurtured, are your ideal audience within your target audience.
I hope you see where I’m going with this. Before you begin marketing your book, you need to know who exactly your target audience is. Assumptions and guesswork will only end with you either targeting the wrong target audience, a fraction of your potential audience or an imitation of your ideal audience.
Examples of an imitation of your ideal audience are book bloggers and book reviewers who read the genre you write in. We love your books and we will gladly support you where we can, we are the perfect audience… except for the fact that we don’t need to buy your book as we can get it free in exchange for an honest review or a blog post.
Book Bloggers and reviewers are VERY important; they are influencers whose readers are usually part of your ideal audience. However, we are not your IDEAL audience, we are just an imitation of it, and you really shouldn’t spend all that time, money, and effort marketing your book to us instead of your ideal readers. I’m an avid reader as well as a book blogger/reviewer, but I’m also a professional marketer and the truth has to be told no matter how much I love your books.
[Tweet “Book bloggers and reviewers are NOT your ideal readers, they are an imitation of it.”]
When you really think about it, book bloggers rarely send out an email promoting just one book, we usually send a newsletter about several books, interviews, blog tour, giveaways etc. Now imagine your ideal audience reading that email, what would make them choose your book over the other books.
Now that the groundwork has been set, let’s move to the next part –identifying your ideal audience. Writing books is an art, but it’s also a business so I’m going to treat this as I would when talking to a client at work.
I will be calling readers who read the genre your write and love your books “Target Audience” or “Target readers” and I’ll call the readers within this audience who would actually pay for your books, or would after being exposed to your brand and nurtured until they are sales ready “Ideal audience” or “Ideal Readers.” I hope you don’t mind, I just really need you to get into the business headspace.
The interesting part is that identifying your ideal readers or target readers is actually quite simple despite the effort it requires. It’s a lengthy process but you cannot skip it.
There’s no need to rush, take as much time as you need to set the foundation of your business and when it’s time to run marketing campaigns, you would reap the benefits of knowing your target readers.
It doesn’t matter what stage of the book production journey you are in: whether you are still writing your book, if it’s in the final stage of production or if your book is already released.
[Tweet “No matter the stage of book production you are at, it is important to know your readers”]
Knowing and understanding your ideal audience is a must, to get you started I’ve included a template and a checklist, feel free to use them to know who your target audience really is and once you do, you’ll be able to connect with them online and offline.
This way, rather than target people who read the genre you write and MIGHT like your book, you will know who WOULD. Most importantly, you’ll be able to get their attention and guide them through their buying journey and eventually increase your book sales.
How to Collect Important Reader Information
To answer the question you’ve been asking since you started reading this: How do you identify and understand your target audience.
Knowing who your target audience and ideal audience are, is all about collecting, and analyzing the right information. There are four ways to collect this information.
[Tweet “There are four ways to collect information on your ideal readers”]
- Interview readers in your genre:
You can do this by email, social media, or through online surveys. Ask them if they have heard of you; ask them if they have read any of your books? What books did they like? If they haven’t what kind of book do they like? Would your book be a perfect fit for them?
If it wouldn’t then they are not part of your ideal readers as they might not be willing to pay for your book. You can treat them as cold leads that can be warmed up over time by nurturing them, or as my boss at work always say by bribing them. Ultimately, they should not be prioritized over hot leads, i.e. the readers who love your work, readers who your book would be perfect for and readers who buy your books.
- Look through your contact database:
Go through your mailing list, Facebook friends and fans, or twitter followers you have interacted with to uncover trends on how they found you.
What books did they like? What posts did they interact with? What content (blog post, email, or social media posts) did well and which didn’t? What did they like about that post, what platform did you write the post on?
- Through forms and other conversion tools on your blog:
If you already have a website or blog with contact forms, newsletter forms, and any type of opt-in forms. Check if those forms capture important reader information such as: which of your books they have read? Which of your books is their favorite? Why did they like that book? How many books they read on average each week? Which of your characters they liked? What did they like about this book?
Some authors get this information from readers by using giveaways and landing pages offering some sort of ‘bribe’ -usually a free book to get readers to fill in those details.
This information lets you know what your ideal readers think of your book, what they want to see from you in the future, what about your brand appeals to them and what doesn’t.
- Feedback from bloggers:
You can also ask book bloggers who have made posts about your books; be it a book review, an interview, or a guest post. Ask them how the interaction with the piece was; what links received the most clicks? How many people read the post? Where did they visit before landing on your post?
This step depends on the amount of traffic the blog gets, as well as what tools the blogger has on the blog for collecting this information. Keep in mind that the bloggers might not give out that information but hey, you never know until your try.
Understanding Your Negative Target Audience
By now you should have an idea of what questions and information you would need to know to understand your target audience. I have arranged a list of questions to ask your target audience, and in the downloadable template, I filled the questions with my own information to get you started.
Before we get to that, it’s important to know whom your NEGATIVE target audience is.
Negative target audience or negative target readers are readers who are not part of your target audience. They could be readers who do not read your genre, they might be readers who do not meet the age requirement to read your books, and they might be readers who read your genre but would not read your book because of the pairing.
[Tweet “Negative target audience are readers your book would be a bad fit for.”]
Using myself as an example, I read strictly LGBT books, but I cannot read an M/M/F book or an F/F/M book. Therefore, even though I read LGBT books, if you wrote a bisexual romance or erotica book, I would be part of the negative audience. I would still put your book on my blog but personally, I wouldn’t read it.
Take a minute to think about your negative audience, write this down so that when you start marketing your books you know to include details that they would identify and keep off, you don’t need them on your mailing list (for that book) when you start lead generation campaigns and email marketing. Knowing your negative audience would let you separate the ‘bad seeds’ from the good ones, leaving your target audience to engage with your post.
35 Questions to Understand Your Target Audience
Now that you know who your negative audience is, it’s time to get back on track and identify your target audience. Below are 35 questions to help you identify and understand your readers. I have divided the questions into groups to make it easier to process. I recommend downloading the checklist and the template, as I answered these questions to get you started and to help you.
- Age: If you write erotica then 16-year-olds aren’t your target audience no matter how many books they read or buy.
- Gender: Some genres have readers of a predominant gender. For example, the romance genre has predominantly female readers.
- Language: If you are targeting the South American or Asian market, then your book has to be written in a language they can best connect with.
- Location: This might not seem very important but it will be useful when filling the “Offline community” section.
- What genres do they read? What subgenres?
- What romance pairings do they like? Which do they dislike?
- How many books do they read weekly?
- How do they find out about new book releases?
- How do they get book recommendations?
- Online Community
- What Facebook groups are they in?
- What Facebook pages do they follow?
- What blog/website do they follow or subscribe to?
- What Twitter accounts do they follow?
- Why are they in any of these online communities?
- Offline Communities
- What events are they likely to be at?
- What bookshops or book clubs are you likely to find them in?
- When was the last time they bought a book?
- What is the most they are willing to pay for a book
- What would be their ideal book price?
- How many books do they buy on average monthly?
- Shopping Preference
- How do they buy books? Do they buy books online, in person or in bookstores?
- What online stores do they buy books from?
- How do they search for books on these online stores? For example, do they search by author name, by title or using filters to narrow down books by genre, ratings, price etc.
- Ask them to describe a recent purchase. Why did they buy this book? What was the evaluation process like?
- Your Brand
- How did they hear about you?
- What online platforms do they interact with you on?
- What do they like about your books?
- What do they dislike about your books and your brand?
- Which of your book characters did they love the most?
- Which did they dislike?
- If you were to recommend one of your books to a new fan, what book would you recommend?
- Why would you recommend that instead of any other?
- What social media post, blog post or email had the most engagement?
- What did you do differently?
- Elevator Pitch
- Pitch each book in one sentence.
- Pitch your brand in one sentence.
I know the questions are a bit overwhelming but there’s no need to rush, take your time to answer as many of these questions as possible. Answer them using information from your readers as well as from potential readers, if unsure of how to proceed you can use my answers from the template to get started.
I recommend using the checklist along with the template to ask these questions, as they have been personalized and reads from the reader’s point of view.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post despite the length, don’t forget to read the next book in the series on the reader’s buying journey. Until then the checklist and template should keep you busy.