The independent author surge has given rise to dozens of “how-to” books and articles on publishing, promoting, and marketing. With so much information available, the first time author is all too often overwhelmed and, as a result, spends a lot of time climbing the ladder only to discover that it was leaning against the wrong wall.
We’ve all heard the real estate mantra, “location, location, location.” It’s the number one rule in real estate, and it’s often the most overlooked. If location is the mantra of a realtor, target should be the mantra of the independent author.
Before you reserve your blog tour dates, build your website, buy your ads, or even design your cover, you’d better know exactly who it is you’re hoping will read your book. Seems elementary, right? It’s not. The first question I ask any writer seeking advice from me is, “Who is your target market? Who’s going to be reading this?” More often than not, I hear, “anybody,” or “everybody.” I stop them right there and tell them to figure it out before they put pen to paper. There is no such target audience as “everybody.”
It’s not as much of an issue in the nonfiction world as it is in the fiction space, but knowing your target clientele is paramount in any marketing endeavor whether it be a book or a bar of soap.
I don’t know your story, only you do. I do, however, know my stories. I’ve written several, published one, and am getting ready to publish my second. The currently published title is called Jamaican Flowers. It’s about a hippie scientist trying to find a cure for bipolar disorder using a cannabis/Jamaican orchid hybrid and, in the process, mend a broken relationship with his daughter. I’ve deliberately crafted everything around this book to cater to my target.
Jamaican Flowers is an action/adventure fiction novel with a lot of cursing, violence, and drugs. I wrote a male lead character. Based on the story, I knew that my audience would likely be males aged 18-35, and more specific, those in the “cannabis crowd.” Yes, I thought my story would best appeal to male stoners.
Never one to put my eggs in a single basket, I needed a secondary target. What other sector of society is made up of males 18-35 who like action/adventure stories? Yep, the comic book crowd. So there it was; my primary and secondary target audience. I was now ready to build around what I thought they’d like.
I hired my friend, Alan Gallo, an amazing comic illustrator and artist, to draw the cover. I wanted it to look very 1960’s psychedelic like a Hendrix album cover but have the main story elements conveyed; the twin daughters, marijuana, a cherry blossom tree, and some really cool comic-type lettering. Here’s the result:
I used strong colors and purchased the “Keep on Truckin” font. I needed to make sure that the web elements complimented the book and the “feel” of my personality. My headshots were casual and I kept the majority of my web content light and funny.
I knew that a lot of stoners wouldn’t likely have tablets or be willing to sit in front of a computer to read my raucous adventure. Denying them ease of reading meant they’d walk away. In addition to formatting JF for electronic delivery, I worked with Createspace to offer a print-on-demand paperback.
Advertising and Social Media
Now it was time to get the word out, and as you might imagine, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to do when you know to whom you’re marketing. I put a lot of my marketing budget in banner advertising. I used a company called Designpax (http://www.designpax.com/) to design my banners (example below).
I researched websites that catered to my audience: medical marijuana sites, hightimes.com, comicartfans.com, and dozens of others. I advertised my book on a lot of sites that didn’t have any other books advertised. It was a huge advantage in gaining exposure to my target audience.
*Note* If you want people to buy your book, you need to get them to the place where they can do it as quickly as possible. If you do banner advertising, send the clicker to your Amazon page, not your website.
It’s a given. You need a Facebook page and a Twitter account. For all things social media related, I tell people to talk to Rachel Thompson. She’s amazing. (badredheadmedia.com)
These are the pearls, the bits that cost me something – money, lost readers, bad reviews, etc. I paid the price. Hopefully now you won’t.
Everyone is telling you they’re a MUST. I say they are great IF you ascribe to the right tour. I failed to heed my own mantra and did a blog tour without first researching the stops. I ended up with a crowd that wasn’t anywhere near my target. They were largely females who liked paranormal romance, chic-lit, literary, women lead characters, etc. As the result, the majority hated Jamaican Flowers. It wasn’t their normal fare and far out of the realm of what they were expecting. I should have looked for a tour that catered to my target.
Learn the difference between line editing and copyediting. I had my book line edited and then published. It didn’t matter that I reviewed it after getting it back. My eyes had read the same story a hundred times and glazed over many of the errors. I had to have it re-edited (copyedited) and then reformatted in all forms; electronic and paperback.
Send out advanced copies of your book before publishing it and get some reviews, at least 3-6 (Ed. Note—I recommend at least 10 ready to go when you release). It will not only help new readers feel confident picking up your new title, but will also offer feedback ahead of publishing.
Do them and spend your daily budget simply trying to increase the “likes” on your fan page. Don’t try to send people to Amazon to buy your book. Every “like” on your fan page is a potential built-in customer for your next book.
That’s it. Know your target and cater to them. Best of luck as you work to stand out in the crowd. I wish you a short ladder leaned against the right wall!
Need personalized help? Check out my BadRedheadMedia.com services page.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.