Friday, August 3, 2012

Writing 101: Know Your Audience

I've written a great many blog posts on punctuation and grammar, word usage and various ways to self-publish. What I haven't written much about is marketing, though it is a huge part of self-publishing. Some experts say that marketing is most of self-publishing; I read somewhere that many advocate spending 80% of your time on marketing and only 20% on the actual writing. But I believe in fundamentals. Build a book from a strong foundation of good grammar and perfect punctuation, and it'll all work out.

But let's face it, you're going to have to think about marketing sometime. Before you launch your strategy and start spending time on promotion, you've got one important task to complete. You've got to know your audience.

Picking Labels

Readers like to read, and most readers enjoy many different genres. But if you write a sex-soaked historical drama with a love-heavy bent, you've got to realize your words are going to attract mainly female readers. Likewise, if you write a book that largely takes place in a high school then you should try to find as many teen readers as you can. It's not always so cut-and-dry, of course, and it's never easy for any author to define themselves or their work. But you're going to have to.

Before you can even publish a book, you're going to have to pick genres. Many authors are afraid of putting themselves into a neat little box and choosing a single genre, believing that this may keep them from getting sales in other markets. This simply isn't true. The readers who go across genres are going to go across genres anyway, despite the labels. In fact, focusing strongly on one or two genres (and all the readers therein) is one of the most effective ways to sell self-published boots.

So how do you figure out where your work belongs?

Who Are You Writing To?

You've got to identify your readers so you know how to market your work. Familiarize yourself with main genres, and find out where your book fits. After you pick one main genre, you can branch into other genres and market toward that crowd as well.
  • YA. Is your main character under the age of 20? Are most of your supporting characters around the same age? If so, it's very likely that your book qualifies as a young adult book. This means you should appeal to teens primarily. You'll want to market strongly on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to connect directly with your audience. 
  • Romance. Romance books are written for adults, though plenty of YA books also contain a romantic element. If your books feature adults who are engaging in intimate acts, you do not have a YA book but a romance novel. Depending on how graphic those sex scenes are, you may even fit into the erotica category. Market your book on blogs that are dedicated to either the romance or erotica genre. You should also look for blogs that talk about love in books, a characteristic of romance works.
  • Mystery. Is there a mystery element in your book? Mystery books do not necessarily have to be about murder, though this is common. If the book revolves around a crime or crimes that characters are attempting to solve, you can fit into this genre. There's a huge market for mystery books. Look for crime and mystery blogs where you can connect directly with your readers.
  • Fantasy. Fantasy books appeal to a huge audience of readers. If your work contains fantastical elements like magic, dragons and wizards, you can probably fit in well with this genre. You'll find lots of fantasy fans on social media sites, and there are many book blogs dedicated solely to the genre. 
  • Paranormal. Many books containing paranormal elements can also fit into the fantasy genre, but paranormal is starting to become a genre that stands on its own. If your books contain ghosts, zombie, vampires or other paranormal creatures, you can fit into this genre. Many teens are very interested in this genre, though it also appeals to adults, so you'd be well-served by marketing on social media.
Once you learn how to categorize your work, you can hone your marketing efforts by focusing on genre-specific blogs and forum groups where you can find your readers. Don't ever be afraid to label yourself or your work. In fact, you should put on as many labels as you can get to fit. Know your audience, find your audience, and start marketing your book based on what they like to read.

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  1. Good insights. I'm trying to write another adventure with a touch of romance. I am also writing this as a novella, that seems what busy people want. Publicising ourselves using blogs and social media is important too.

  2. Nice article Jade, I never really understood why for some authors it's so hard to label your books in one or a few gengres? Does it destory any fundementals about the book? I mean Labelling your novel is basicly explaining the main issues and what your book talks about very vaguely, am I wrong?

  3. Thanks for the comments! Yes, Nic, you've got it right. Picking labels gives authors a starting point, so they know in which direction to go next. It also saves a lot of frustration and wasted time when you're sending out review requests. Some bloggers are very specific about which genres they like and don't like.