Find My Audience Wants To Help You Find Your Audience!

Hi Writers,

My name is Mark Schroeder. I’m an entrepreneur–and an aspiring fiction writer. I’m reaching out to you because, you see, you and I, we share one and the same experience: we have finished a novel and now we are both looking for readers. Just where are they, anyway? Have you found them?

We’ve both turned  to the “How To” guides of John Locke, Jason Matthews, M.R.Mathias, and others; and of course we’ve looked at the web sites of Hocking and Konrath, to see if there is any secret sauce that they have that we need to add to our own narrative sauce.

We started a Twitter account, and what a great thing that is, but it’s also a bit of a feeding frenzy, isn’t it, one that you’re compelled to join for no other reason than to not be left behind? And of course there is Facebook and LinkedIn and the numerous reading communities to join, the book covers to be designed, the editorial to see through and etc. It’s a friggin’ full-time job, it is. And with poor pay. At least for now.

Really, this doesn’t feel much like a revolution to me; or, rather, it’s one that is taking place in fits and starts. I get it that “social” may well change the nature of the act of reading, or that the Kindle may impact comprehension and reading speed, that you can store your whole library on it (Bezos is brillliant), but really, I’m interested in How To Sell Books. Aren’t you?

Right now, we are all looking to attract readers to us. When I think of that, for some reason I am reminded of what Marx said about Hegel, that he had “stood him on his head.”

So, here’s where I start: it has to to with direction. Perhaps we need to change it.

The next step? A visit down the rabbit hole so I can see what tools are down there that help writers do “this marketing” thing  better. I will share what I find, but would welcome your thoughts. What do you need to do a better job at marketing yourself as a writer? What would be your “perfect” tool?

I look forward to your comments!

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Find My Audience Wants To Help You Find Your Audience!

  1. I’m just starting to sell my writing and I have several issues have been on my mind.

    First, I’m not a salesperson. People who have been successful selling their books through social media usually have active social lives and a good marketing instinct. Many of them have a long professional background in sales or business as well as a little money to invest on things like professional editing and cover design. I have an interest in marketing techniques, but it’s not a calling for me; I’d rather spend my time writing.

    Furthermore I don’t have a large social group that can help kickstart my efforts. Successful social media campaigns often begin by leveraging a group of close friends and acquaintances to reach out on their social networks. While I believe my writing is worth reading, I’m a relatively quiet and reserved person. So are many other writers and readers. Are we looking at a future where one’s social savvy is just as important as one’s writing chops? I hope not, because a lot of talented writers will be left behind.

    With that in mind, and with all affection to my wonderful Twitter friends and followers, I’ve found marketing my books through social media to be a mixed bag. Twitter is excellent for connecting with other writers, and I’ve found a great, supportive group of other writers there. But with so many indie writers connecting on this medium, can feel like everyone’s trying to sell their books to each other. This may be a great way to incubate new writers. But if we want to be commercially successful, we have to break out of this I-buy-your-book-you-buy-mine echo chamber. Eventually, we have to market–and be marketable–outside the indie writer community.

    Finally I think that the quality issue is still a concern for a lot of fiction readers. I know there are plenty of high-quality indie books out there (including mine, hopefully), and that the “self-published” stigma will fade as more and more writers become successful on their own. But readers in general like the idea that writing has to pass a gauntlet before it makes it to the shelf. I don’t think hiring copy-editors is a solution, and waiting for readers to rank your book could mean too few stars, too late. I want my editors to have a financial stake in the success of my work. I think that’s a part of the traditional publishing infrastructure that should survive. And I think it will survive, in some form. Some of us will be willing to take chances, but most readers still want independent evaluators to make a ruling on what’s good or not. And most writers would still love to have a publishing contract.

    That doesn’t mean I’m pessimistic about indie publishing–if I was, I would have waited to publish “New Year’s Day.” I’m incredibly enthusiastic about the future of publishing. But I am interested in how we free writers from the burden of marketing, and ensure high-quality books reach their audience/s.

    I have some ideas about how to make that happen, but I’d like to hear from other writers too.

    • Hi N.V.,

      What a wonderful, thoughtful post! It will be interesting to see how many other writers share your views regarding Twitter. I know I do:)
      If you have time, take a look at Kathy’s comment below re: rankings.
      I will keep you up to date. Thanks again, Mark

  2. I’d like to see a tool that would automate/manage all the different social media accounts, help me publish my book, and give me with a unique look. I’d really like a way to get reviewers, too.

    I love this idea! Tell me more. I’ll keep thinking.

    • Hey Song of Yourself (or should I say Whitman:),
      Thank you for the post! Really like your first suggestion — some way
      to aggregate all the information on “your” specific audience of readers.
      Will keep you up to date! Best, Mark

  3. I self published my first novel in March of this year and my second in August. I hired a professional editor to make sure my first book was clean of typos and up to standards and had the cover created by a professional as well. Being new to the whole self publishing adventure I decided the investment was worth it as I didn’t want to offer the readers a substandard product. I started promoting it on Facebook and Twitter, published it on Amazon and the Smashwords Premium Catalog then waited for the sales to roll in.
    Well, I had sales but not enough to break even on my investment for several months and lately sales have dropped to the lowest level since I first published. I know only having two books to offer makes it rough to make a regular income unless you are well known by a large audience, but how do you get your name out there without coming across as a pest? It seems like the market is flooded with so many other authors trying to get noticed, that we all seem to get lost in the noise. If you come up with any ideas, I would love to hear them.

    • Great post! It’s interesting. I was telling a Venture Capitalist that I was thinking about starting a business to help writers market themselves, and she said “writers don’t have any money.” Maybe that’s true, but self-published writers certainly have to put out. I would be interested in how much you have spent. You don’t have to be specific. I’m going to do a post on this. Thanks!

  4. KAzzese

    Great Idea! What do I need? Well, first of all, I’m not so sure that every writer who wants to sell a book has studiously reviewed all the resources you mention. A Cliff notes version of all those tips and suggestions could be a great start. Have you read “The Happiness Project?” She does a great job of synthesizing the last, oh, 2,000 years or so of philosophies on happiness, and then puts the big ones to a test in her life. Something like this could be very useful.

    I agree that we need to break out of this writers buy other writers dead end. But I wonder if writers could rate other writer’s books– create some standard template to submit for review (synopsis, first 10 pages, sneak peek at 5 pages later in the book…). Writers could pay an entry fee or agree to rate 25(?) entries as payment for their submission. Entries with strongest scores float to the top and then more of their book gets released for further reviews. Then maybe “group” PR could create some buzz around the 25 best books each quarter in 5? 10? book categories, helping the idea of indie books break into the consciousness the general consumer (like what Robert Redford did for movies).

    As for tools I need, a really simple way to crawl the web for conversations/groups, etc that are talking about the kinds of topics (or other books) I can imagine my reading audience caring about, with a dashboard of ways to post/advertise/tweet into each one. Is that possible?

    • At the risk of filling up Mark’s comments section, I really like this idea. Peer review is how academic articles are selected for publication (& believe me, academics can also struggle with self-promotion and social activity). Academic articles are usually sent back for revisions several times, and I think that process is really important for all writers. Most of us are doing this work for our friends and associates anyway.

      I’d really like to see genre-specific panels of writers and editors that can provide some sort of pre-publication seal of approval to writers. Something that says “professional quality.” Maybe it could be funded with monthly dues ($5/month) or a percentage of sales–something that doesn’t tie an editor’s approval to the specific work. I strongly believe that professional associations like this will develop among indie writers, that readers will look to them for guidance, and that most of us will end up being members of more than one.

  5. @nvbinder Yes there are many authors using social, and they aren’t the best book buyers but they can be reviewers and we need that.
    I have chosen to use social as learning and sharing rather than just selling myself and have some mild success on different channels. I only have a limited amount of time to dedicate therefore I actually time myself and measure how I am doing. I see my blogsite that has poetry has increased from average hits of 100 a month to 8000, and I see sales increasing very nicely.
    Each author has to find three software sites they feel and understand and engage into the areas where readers are. At first I got many social networking gurus contacting me and I sold them books, now I am seeing more of the specific reader that my work targets ( a very tiny part of the population wants to read literary thrillers and poetry). My recommendations:
    Facebook is carries the largest audience but you can’t sell a book on there with all the screaming going on. There are about 900 useful sites I’m compiling a rating list and will post in a week or so – will post on my blog when complete
    my twitter @ cgbarbeau I will RT your links if you are doing the same for others, it doesn’t need to be books, anyone who is caring and gets the medium benefits from sharing. You don’t have to be selling ice to eskimos.

  6. It is a full time job with notoriously low pay. This was one of the first things I learned in my fiction workshops – if you want to roll in the dough, then do something else.

    Whether you are self published or get a publishing house to pick up your book, one thing is consistent – you are wholly responsible for the marketing and promotion. No one – not the publisher or the retailer – will do it for you.

    I published my first short story collection for the e-reader market two months back. There was the initial rush of sales of everyone I knew through my existing social networks. Then it trickled. To pick it back up I’ve put the physical back with the digital. I spent the thirty bucks to get 1000 postcards made up with my book cover and the purchase information on them and you can now find those all over town. I’m also working on setting up some readings and trying to develop a co-sponsor with a distillery (the work is called “Songs About Whiskey”). Commercializing? Sure. But a sale is a sale.

    For my next one I am starting to blog about topics that relate to the themes of the book. Having a consistent blog builds an audience (even if they don’t know they are the audience for the book), enhances your SEO, and builds connections to people who will talk about you (whoever you end up linking to). So when the book does come out, even if it’s fiction, you are established as something of an authority.

    I looked into Locke’s book and a lot of what he says rings true no matter what you’re trying to sell online. You have to build an audience, build their trust, and they will get talking about you. Even in the digital world, Word of Mouth is king.

  7. Oh! And don’t fear submitting your work to contests and to those who review for publications. Even a free, public paper gets your name and the title of your book in front of potential readership.

  8. Nick Antinozzi

    Too much to say and too little time. Great job.

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