Do you really know the audience for your genre?
If you’ve ever questioned whether what you’re doing is working, then the answer might be "maybe not".
It’s worth spending the time to become a fan of your genre and get to know what your audience is really looking for.
Although this may not seem like it will translate into sales, it’s the book marketing piece that can make or break your success as an author. Because writing the book is the easy part.
Book Immersion is Method Acting for Authors
You may have heard of an acting technique known as “immersion” or “method acting.” The actor takes a role and runs with it in every aspect of their lives. In essence, they become the character.
Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for it. Before filming Last of the Mohicans, he lived in complete isolation in the Alabama wilderness where he tracked, hunted, and skinned animals for food. This may seem extreme, Mr. Lewis is a brilliant actor. He lives and breathes every role he’s in. Your experience with writing, publishing, and marketing should be the same.
Book immersion is slightly different. It’s getting to know your market and your audience in a way that takes a lot of the guesswork out of your marketing strategy.
Success Leaves Clues
A lot of indie authors I talk to struggle with the concept of book marketing. What’s interesting is that struggle is in the “where” and “how” to market. They believe that they have tried everything. Often though, I find they haven't tried everything that matters.
At a recent conference, I attended a panel led by authors making six figures on their books. They talked about things they did and didn’t do. This includes marketing ideas that bombed. Their secret to making so much money with their books is relatively simple—they know and understand their market.This includes not just what their market wants, but where they hang out (in terms of social media), and their motivation for buying. And you need to get there too. First, look at other, similar authors in your genre. Not household names, but those doing well, albeit perhaps slightly off the radar. Even if you have some authors in mind, take time to do a Google search: “genre and author.”
You may have to go several pages deep to complete a list of authors, due in part to ads by publishing companies and promotional service that can dominate the top results. Your goal here is to find authors with a high Google ranking who might not be otherwise well-known. This tells you that you’ve found an author who is getting exposure because they’re doing a lot of the right things.
So What Are the Right Things?
Social media: What social sites do they use and how often do they post? Reading through a dozen or so of their posts. You may also get some ideas about going forward, in terms of your own social media.
Video: Are they doing a lot of video, such as Facebook Live video, book trailers or anything else? Do these seem to get a lot of traction? Video is huge right now, so if theirs are doing well, you may want to get camera-ready and do some of your own.
What Are Your Readers Saying?
Avoid the pitfall of ignoring genre research. It’s a common oversight since writing is a creative, often heart-driven endeavor. However, it’s a mistake to leave the left-brained planning side of the business in the dust.
Find out what it is your readers want. What are they interested in seeing in stories and characters? How long are the books they’re reading? Then be willing to meet them there by changing whatever you need to in order to capture your audience.
There are expectations that follow each niche and genre. Authors who try to go rogue here could really damage their success.
Read Books in Your Genre
The six-figure authors nearly all said that they read voraciously within their genre. Don’t skip this step. If you’ve written a memoir, read other memoirs.
Remember your Google search? Consider reading books by the authors you identified there. By reading their books, you’ll not only see where you need to grow and change, but you can support fellow authors.
Don’t Forget to Network
Although networking events can be beneficial, I’m referring to reaching out to authors you found in your Google search. Connect with them, acknowledge their good news, and even offer to share their promotions with your readers (even if your list is small). Make the effort to get to know them.
Immersion doesn’t get more complete than connecting with successful authors in your market.
Act Like a Fan
Be genuine. In order to really understand your genre and gain insight into the mind of your reader, immerse yourself in a real way. Share your author crush with others, feel what it’s like to be a fan and part of a tribe. The best authors really connect with their followers—so see how it makes you feel! And then treat your fans the same way.
Read More Than Your Own Reviews
Take a look at what people are saying about similar books to learn what readers want. Both what they want more of and what put them off entirely.
What if your book is already released? Well, if you self-published it, you can easily make changes—even change a book cover—to align it better with your market.
Even reading one-star reviews can be helpful. I think you’ll find that most one-star reviews will say that the books either needed editing or a stronger storyline. Or, in the worst-case scenario, that it literally had no clear storyline.
Focus on How You Can Grow
Don’t discount the power of fan groups on sites like Goodreads. Why? Successful authors are always focused on growth and can use these to build their readership.
Making personal connections is more powerful than just about any advertising opportunity. Plus, this gives you a chance to reach out for feedback on ARCs when you’re in the final stages of production.
The takeaway here is that to be successful in your genre, you should be an expert in it. You can get there a number of ways. Keep in mind that your genre may shift and evolve, and your expertise will need to change with it.
So live and breathe your genre. It will ensure you maximize opportunities to grow promotional opportunities, and ultimately, your readership and sales. Invest the time. It’s worth it.
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