Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How to Find Your Readers by Alison Henderson

I know you're hoping I have the answer to that perplexing writer's conundrum and am preparing to spill the beans. No such luck. Believe me, if I knew I would definitely share. Instead, I'm hoping for a give and take brainstorming session here.

I've been thinking about this topic lately because I have a book coming out this fall that will be the second in my female bodyguard agency series. I'd like to do more targeted marketing instead of my usual scattershot approach. A significant number of readers enjoyed the first book in the series (note: I said enjoyed, not purchased. Big distinction). I'd like to get the word out to them about the second book on the off-chance they might actually buy a copy. 

Like you, I've read innumerable articles about book marketing that advise, "find your readers and market to them where they hang out." Great! But you have to figure out who they are first, and that's no easy task. Very few of us are lucky enough to have well-attended booksignings or participate in large reader events where dozens of readers come up and tell us about themselves. So how do we identify them? The members of my mother's book clubs always enjoy my books, but does that mean my readers are largely in their eighties? Possibly, but I doubt it.

I've received a few emails from readers over the years, but not enough to give me much insight. I decided to turn to my reviews--might as well get something useful out of them. Since almost 20K people downloaded UNWRITTEN RULES during its free days three years ago, I was lucky enough to get a large number of reviews. I decided to read back through them looking for any useful data. Most of the reviews said basically the same things. Here are some common threads:

  1. Enjoyable, fast read; good pacing
  2. Appreciated the lack of off-color language and graphic sex
  3. Successful suspense plot
  4. Fun and enjoyable characters
To me, these suggest busy, fairly conventional people looking primarily to be entertained. I can definitely relate to that.

Two reviews stood out for me for different reasons:

"Absolutely brilliant book. Lost myself in it for hours. Hope there are,ore like this in the pipe line. We'll done for a really riveting read."

"This is a fast pasted novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I started reading and could not put it down. I ended up reading threw the nite and my shift was a 15 hr one."

The first review is from a man. I was very surprised by the number of men who read this book and enjoyed it--probably due to the legs on the cover. This might mean I should look beyond the romance community for more general readers. Book Bub would be the answer there, if I'm able to get the book accepted.

I think the second review may define "my reader"--someone who works hard and is looking for a diversion to lighten her load. If I can help someone else get through a 15-hour night shift, I've done all I set out do as a writer. 

But where do these readers hang out online? My best guess would be Facebook. They also might get emails from bargain book recommendation sites. I'm not young and hip, and I doubt my readers are either, so I'd be surprised to find them mainly on Twitter or Instagram. For this new book, I'm considering trying a sponsored Facebook ad or two. Does anyone have experience with them? Ditto for FB readers groups--any positive experience there? If so, which ones? What other venues have you tried?

Remember, we're all in this together, and I'd do it for you. 

Alison
www.alisonhenderson.com


21 comments:

Margo Hoornstra said...

Oh, Alison, if I knew, I'd share too. In my experience, I've had no problem finding readers (my free days, too, have garnered thousands of downloads and a number of 'loved this book' reviews) - it's finding buyers that has me stumped. Harder and harder to do these days with the increased competition out there. (I'm not being much help here, am I?)My suggestion would be to go where the readers already are en masse. Book Bub being a prime example. Although I do know, from a marketing standpoint, if it takes a potential customer more than two clicks to get to your product, usually, you've lost them. Best of luck with whatever venue you choose!

Diane Burton said...

Wish I knew too. I've tried blog tours. Met some interesting people but no bump in sales. I put one of my books on Wattpad (a combo Smashwords-Wattpad promo). Many readers. Since the book is being serialized, I hoped readers would get so anxious to read more they'd buy the book. Again, no bump. Will they get to the end and want to read/buy the next book? No idea. Good luck with Book Bub. I hear it's very hard to get in.

Brenda Whiteside said...

You pose a good question which all of us would like to know the answer to. I've tried some campaigns that netted me more newsletter sign ups and Amazon followers. I'm not sure how many sales. So hard to track. If I wrote books with an audience I could target, it would help. A writer friend of mine writes books about women in rodeo. She has museums, clubs, western events, etc she targets. Works for her.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Alison, you have my sympathies (and anxieties). Never have I seen a bigger crapshoot. When we consider a retreat for next year, I pose this activity. We find a person who is REALLY good at this business (social media, branding, advertising, selling books) and have that person walk us through what we need to do next. This person could evaluate our websites, help us do the right connecting with Facebook & Twitter, and show us how to find our readers. I don't think we know enough about how to let the bots find us. We could buy that person's time if we have to...she might get some clients through the process. Point is, we need hands on tutorials on this. Sure it would be nice to write and talk about writing, but the thing we don't understand is the very thing you are talking about-how to sell our books.

Alicia Dean said...

Very good questions. Like the others, I don't know the best way to find your readers. You asked specifically about Facebook ads. It is my understanding that, if done right, they can be effective. How much it impacts sales and how effective is not clear. I've never done one, but I intend to, once I figure out what's 'effective.' I think Rolynn's idea is brilliant about bringing someone in, but our retreat is a long way off. I wonder if we could find someone who would do an online hands on course (I know it's not the same as face to face), but it might be helpful to gather a handful of authors who could split the fee and receive one-on-one and general marketing tutorials. Thoughts? Sort of like a customized online workshop.

Andrea Downing said...

Alison, like the rest of the gang--no idea. But I will say different genres have different places that bring in readers. For instance, for western historical there are a number of FB groups that are brilliant. Otherwise, no idea...some paid advertising seems to work, other paid places bring nada. Crapshoot all the way.

Judy Ann Davis said...

Everybody has said what I'm thinking. Yes, I believe the market so flooded with digital books, we are lost in the shuffle. However, I have heard so many times--so many that I want to pull my hair out: "I only buy/download books that are 99 cents or free." -OR- "I don't spend more than $4.99 for any book." So I believe it's targeted advertising coupled with the right price. Great post!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Jumping back in. Yup, I'd do something on line if it was super-interactive, step by step AND the person is big smoke in the novel sales area. How the heck do we find that person?

Peggy Jaeger said...

This is the riddle for the ages as it pertains to writers! There is so much stuff for free or marketed at 99cents that is simply AWFUL,that it is hard to get quality stuff noticed by most readers. I've tried Netgally and although the book was downloaded by a great many readers, not many deemed it worth their while to write a review. Amazon's new rules about who can review and who can't aren't helping either. Goodreads is a place chock full of reviewers, but again, most don't want to pay more than 99 cents for a digital book, much less plunk down over 15 for a paperback. I guess the real answer is to keep writing good works, establish a base core of readers and put your faith in word of mouth. Social media sites for promotion that are free like FB and twitter do help. I wish the answer was easier nd more clear cut great post, BTW

Alison Henderson said...

Margo, I know it's difficult and expensive to have a book accepted by Book Bub, and it helps to have a lot of great reviews. That makes me wonder whether I should put the first book on sale for $.99 and try to get it on Book Bub in conjunction with the release of the second in hopes of finding readers who want more. Or maybe I should wait until I can get some review for the second. What a quandry!

Alison Henderson said...

Diane, I've done a blog tour for each release so far, and I've never seen much effect. Haven't decided if I'll do it for this one. They seem to be a lot of work for very little return.

Alison Henderson said...

Brenda, you make two good points. #1-A lot of the marketing strategies I've seen focus on getting newsletter sign-ups. That won't work for me because I don't have one and don't plan to start one. #2-It's very hard to define your reader if you don't write to a very specific niche. That's what I'm struggling with right now.

Alison Henderson said...

Rolynn and Alicia, I LOVE the idea of a (semi) private digital marketing tutorial! I have mixed feelings about online vs. in person. I think we would each get more from a hands-on session, but it would be MUCH more expensive. Since the cost of attending a retreat is already a challenge for several of our members, this could be a problem. However, it's well worth exploring. The first step might be identifying an appropriate expert, then determining the best way to work with her (or him).

Alison Henderson said...

Andi, when I wrote Westerns, it seemed to be easier to find the readers--not that that necessarily resulted in sales. I'm having a tougher time with contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

Alison Henderson said...

Judy, appropriate pricing is certainly a huge issue these days. I don't mind a few free days or short $.99 sale here and there to drum up interest or reviews, but I don't believe in that level of permanent pricing. Unfortunately, many readers don't agree.

Alison Henderson said...

Peggy, I hadn't considered Goodreads ads. I should look into that. I take solace in the fact that a large percentage of the people who've read my books enjoyed them, but I'd love to get them in the hands of more readers.

Jannine Gallant said...

I know where NOT to find readers who buy books. Blog tours produce nothing. At this point I'm only doing a very few blogs that seem to get a lot of views. Just Romantic Suspense and USA Today Happy Ever After Blog being two. Who knows if either produce sales, though. BookBub is another place to find readers, but your book has to be on sale, and it is hard to get accepted. I've been a guest on Facebook parties and not seen much of a result in sales. I haven't been motivated to throw a FB party, however. I'm just not that sparkly and cheerful, nor do I have an endless supply of half naked men photos to post. I don't know if there is a person out there with a sound sales strategy who would give us her advice without charging us more than we're likely to make off said advice. Call me a skeptic, but if the answer were easy (or cheap) everyone would be doing it. I've heard FB ads work better than boosting your posts, but I've never paid for one. Interesting discussion, ladies! I also fail to have a great answer.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, I have to agree about blog tours, especially since I have no access to the big blogs you mentioned. I also have ZERO interest in Facebook parties, either as a host or participant. I might give FB ads a try this time if they're not too expensive, but only if I can come up with something really eye-catching and they're not too expensive.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Jannine, I think you nailed it. Yep, what you say.

Leah St. James said...

Ah...the question that has consumed so much of my time for the past several years. I agree that blog tours are ineffective. Sometimes I think it's mostly other authors visiting to support the authors but who won't necessarily buy the book. Facebook parties can be really fun if done as a group and if there is an engaging and specific theme, but I wouldn't attempt one on my own. They probably don't translate to big sales for little-known authors (like me). As others have said, I worry about the glut of free and low-cost books. I think readers are conditioned now to not pay for books for little-known authors. It is a pickle.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Hey, ladies. As discouraging as this topic and discussion can be, isn't it great to at least know we're not alone? Cheers ;-)