At the beginning of this series, I explained how book marketing is about knowing your readers and giving them what they want. But how does knowing your reader profile really benefit you?
In this post, I’m going to show you how you can solve most book marketing dilemmas simply by thinking about your target readers, using some key examples to demonstrate.
What Would Your Reader Want?
When you don’t know who you are trying to reach with your marketing it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying a little bit of everything in an attempt to be everywhere. Then you lose your focus and can struggle with making decisions, or make ill-informed choices.
When you know your readers, however, most things will fall into place, and you no longer need to guess at what to do for the best results. Instead, you can ask yourself, what would your reader want or expect?
I wrote in a previous post about how knowing your reader profile can help you make decisions about your cover and distribution, but it can help with every decision.
When you know your ideal reader really well, you will know how much you should charge for your book, or whether promotions will be important. You will know which social channels they use and therefore where you should be active. You will know what to write about on your blog, or whether video content would be a better idea.
Let’s go through some common book marketing questions, to see how knowing your reader profile can help answer them.
Digital Only or Print and/or Audio Versions Too?
In an ideal world, you would have all formats of your book available. But there are various things to consider, particularly when it comes to audiobooks, such as finding and paying for voice talent, and there is also the cost to print books, and file conversion for eBooks. So there may be financial or other reasons why you choose just one format. But the format your target reader prefers should certainly be a factor.
If your ideal reader would only ever buy a print book, you want to be sure you have a print version available. If you write popular genre fiction, your readers may be completely satisfied with eBooks only.
It can be hard to know what your readers prefer until you have enough of them on an email list or in a Facebook Group to be able to ask them, but there can be some clues.
Follow the Clues of Your Reader Profile
- What are the norms for your genre or type of book? Genre fiction, especially romance, does very well in Kindle Unlimited, which is, of course, eBook only.
- How old are they? It would seem likely that younger people would prefer eBooks, being the super-connected generation, but that may not be so. A UK poll a few years ago found that 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer traditional books over their digital equivalents. Two of the main reasons for this were the perceived value for money of physical books and the emotional connection to them (being able to hold and smell them!). Other surveys and data since then have echoed this. I have heard elsewhere recently that physical books offer welcome relief from screens. By contrast, you may assume older readers prefer physical books, being the traditional format, but commuters can enjoy an eBook, and an aging population can benefit from the lightness of an e-reader, the ability to increase the font size and the option to change the screen brightness.
- Are they male or female? A study carried out for eBook retailer Kobo in 2015 found that women represented 75% of the most active eBook readers (spending at least 30 minutes a day using eBooks). Around 77% of the most active readers were aged 45 and over, with the largest single group (30%) aged between 55 and 64. Nielsen UK data for 2015 also found that females aged 45-plus represented a quarter of the population of eBook buyers. Older women carried less purchasing heft in the print book market, according to the research.
Although the data here is a little old, I haven’t found more recent research stating that things are any different now. If anything, eBook sales have declined across the board, but there are unlikely to be major shifts in terms of who is reading the most eBooks.
Should I Go Wide or Be Exclusive?
This has been argued, and most probably will continue to be so for some time, in many places, with lots of good reasons to choose either option.
I recommend that authors look at what their direct competition do and what those readers expect.
A Word About Comps
If you’re not sure what your comps (comparable books) are, look back at my previous post on finding comps so you can do some research on this. If you have tried pitching your book to an agent or publisher, you may be familiar with the idea of having comps, as they are essential for many departments in the trade publishing house— from acquisitions to marketing teams, to sales reps. They give each of these groups a starting point; rather than re-inventing the wheel each time, they can follow a plan that worked well previously, so they can set some realistic expectations, i.e: 'we expect this book to perform in this way because that’s what happened with this previous book'. Of course, there are always surprises, but comps help with both planning and implementing those plans. As an indie, I strongly urge you to identify and study your comps.
Again, if you write genre fiction and all your competitors are exclusive, with your readers racing through books as part of a Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription, you most probably want to consider being exclusive, at least until you have built a great reputation and fan base. Otherwise, what would tempt readers to pay for your book(s) on top of their KU subscription?
You can check to see if a comp is in KU by visiting its page on Amazon and looking for the Kindle Edition price; if it’s in KU it will be $0.00 and have the Kindle Unlimited logo next to it. Small print below shows the price to buy the Kindle edition if you are not a KU subscriber. If the book is not enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, it will simply show the Kindle edition price.
If your readers are unlikely to be KU subscribers and are comfortable with buying books, then wide may be a better option for you. If your comps are published by one of the big 5 publishing houses, they won’t be in KU, as none of those publishing houses have any books enrolled in KU.
How Should I Price My Book?
This is another topic hotly debated and again I encourage authors to get to know their readers and comps to help them make a choice.
What is the price point your readers are willing to reach? Many authors report raising their prices slightly doesn’t have a negative impact and sometimes even improves sales.
Who your readers are can have an impact on what they are willing to pay. Older people may have more disposable income and/or value books more highly and therefore be willing to pay more.
Preferred price isn’t something you can necessarily ask your readers, though it could be added to a survey. As an indie author, you have the freedom to experiment. Watch your sales figures when you do so and you will learn what your readers are willing to pay for your books.
Every book will have a price ceiling, so it’s important to work out where that is. It will definitely be different for different types of books.
How Often Should I Email My List?
If you have an email list, you should send at least once a month so that your subscribers remember who you are and why they signed up. Whether you should email more often than that is in part up to you—what can you commit to? - and in part up to your readers—how often do they want to hear from you? This can depend on the content of your emails too; if you send funny, inspiring, motivational or really useful emails, subscribers may be happy to hear from you a few times a week. But if your emails are a round-up of things you have been doing and would fit more comfortably in a monthly newsletter, that could be a better option.
You can make a choice about the type of content you send based on what your readers most want to receive, but again, this has to be something you are comfortable with and can sustain. If you’re not a natural humor writer, don’t promise to send funny emails.
Consider the age group and other demographics of your readers. How often do they typically check their emails, how many emails do they normally receive?
Don't Forget Your Analytics
Keep on top of your analytics! How many people open your emails? How many click on links you include? Watch your unsubscribe rate too. If a lot more people unsubscribe than usual after a particular email, think about what you may have done differently and learn from it if you can. When readers engage with your emails—open them, click through to your website or Amazon, or reply—you are certainly doing something right.
If you get many unsubscribes and/or little engagement or even have your emails marked as spam, you want to look at what you are sending and how often and consider making changes. You should also check how many people are signing up for your emails in the first place—are they genuinely interested in you and your books?
Should I Be on Instagram or Twitter?
Social media is one of the easiest dilemmas to solve when it comes to deciding where you should be active. As well as thinking about how much time you can devote to it and your preferred channels to use, consider the channels your target readers are using.
Each platform is popular with different groups of people, depending on age, gender, interests and how they like to communicate. Look at the demographics of users of each platform and compare them to your target reader—which platform is the best fit?
Wherever your readers are, that is exactly where you should be.
Keep Listening and Learning
These are just a few of the questions you may have, but thinking about your readers—what they want and expect–should help you make the right book marketing decisions.
Keep learning about your readers. Survey them, talk to them on social media, ask questions via your emails. Let them help you; you could solicit their opinion on a choice of cover options, for example. Listen to feedback; sometimes you will get things wrong. In that case pay attention to what your readers are telling you. If on balance it seems the right thing to do, make the change they are calling for.
Next time we’re going to look at the ways you can get in front of your target readers and let them know you exist with a well thought out outreach strategy.
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