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Business Musings: Define Your Target Audience: The Intermediate Stages (Branding/Discoverability)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

In the past eight or so years since indie publishing took off, writers found that the commodity they lack the most is time. Time to write. Time to research. Time to read. Time to market.

We get inundated daily with shoulds and have-tos. Someone is always so much more successful than we are, and they’re successful at something we’ve wanted for a long time.

Then there are the overnight sensations, the folks who claim to make $50-100,000 per month on their writing, even though they have only published five or fewer books. They have some kind of marketing system, and 100,000 people on their newsletter list. They have figured out how to game Amazon’s algorithms or they’re the first people to use that brand new marketing tool (cough: Facebook ads) that some gigantic corporation has come up with. Or the first to use it effectively.

If you only follow these five steps, you too can make $50-100,000 per month on your writing as well.

Only it never works that way. First of all, there’s no way to know if the folks who claim to have a working system actually do have a working system. There’s also no way to know if that $50-100,000 they earned in one month was for just one month or if they consistently earn at that level.

Have they done it for four months? A year? Five years?

Because I don’t know about you, but what I care about in this business is staying in it for the rest of my life. That means building a business, not being an overnight sensation. (Or, becoming, as the music industry so aptly calls it, a “one-hit wonder.”)

This blog is geared toward the career writer, not the person who is in it for a fast buck and will leave when the going gets rough. (As many of you have noted in my comments and emails, the gurus of 2011 and 2012 have mostly disappeared. Even their websites are down. The ones who have survived have transitioned to career writers and generally don’t use gimmicks any more.)

. . . .

When I wrote the initial target audience post (six weeks ago!), I assumed that you either had no idea who your audience actually was or were so new that you had no audience. Today’s post assumes you have an audience, but you have no idea who they are.

Now, a lot of what I write in these branding posts (and many of my other posts) takes into account the fact that none of us have any time. Most of us lack the big bucks that major corporations have as well. So doing some of the market research things that marketing and advertising blogs tell you to do to figure out who your audience is are things that we either don’t have time to do or the funds to pay someone else to do it.

Besides, how many of you want to send out newsletters or updates to readers, asking them to take marketing surveys? Think about it from a brand perspective. How annoyed would you be if your favorite author wanted all of your personal data so that she could sell to you and people like you better than she already is?

If my favorite author was a nonfiction writer who was a marketing guru and her topics were only about marketing, I probably wouldn’t be annoyed. But if my favorite author was a Regency romance writer who had never contacted me before…well, at best, I’d ignore the email. At worst, I’d make a little mental note of my annoyance and do a small compare/contrast: is it still worthwhile to me to buy her books after she annoyed me? Probably yes. But if the annoyance continued…

So how do you find out about the audience you already have? And how do you find out about the audience you might be able to build?

The answer is both simple and hard. You take the information you already have available to you, extrapolate from it, and continue to pay attention to the world around you to gain even more information.

Sounds straightforward. But what does all that mean? What information do you have already? You probably had no idea you have information, except—if you’re lucky—emails from readers who liked your work. And please, don’t email them back asking them for personal details. Just thank them for taking the time out of their day to make your day a bit brighter.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

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Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Kristine Kathryn Rusch

6 Comments to “Business Musings: Define Your Target Audience: The Intermediate Stages (Branding/Discoverability)”

  1. Science Fiction & Fantasy (SFF) is one of the few genre subsets that has a majority male readership (68% male). The average SFF reader is a married 30-year-old (55%), college educated (52%) male who is a moderately active reader (38% read 12 or more books a year, and 35% read 5–11 books a year), buys a moderate number of books to match (20% buy 12 or more books a year, and 32% buy 5–11 books a year), and cares about convenience above all else.

    This really caught my interest, since I write fantasy.

    When I first started publishing in 2011, I assumed – like Kris – that the majority of my readers would be women. But my first real fan was a young man in his late twenties or early thirties, married, and college-educated.

    I was delighted to have such a fan, and I began to question my assumption about my readership. As more and more reviews from men began to appear, some younger than my first vocal fan, some older, I realized that my audience was not primarily women. Women do read and review my books, and like them. But I can’t help noticing that some of my most glowing reviews have come from men. Interesting, that.

    I’d been imagining that my audience was perhaps evenly split between men and women, but now I’m wondering if it may be rather closer to the 68%/32% split quoted in the Reading Pulse Survey.

    FYI: https://www.readingpulse.com/

    • I have only anecdotal evidence, but I think fantasy skews more female than male. I definitely agree with science fiction being more male. I know I get a lot more guys emailing me about my space opera series, even though I do female protagonists.

      I suppose it depends on the sub-genre of fantasy too. Lots of women reading urban fantasy and character-driven secondary world fantasy. The epic behemoths may go more to the men. 😀

      • Thanks, Lindsay. All of what you say is very interesting. Clearly I have more thinking to do about my audience! 😀

        (Especially since “character-driven secondary world fantasy” describes my fiction well, and should obviously be in my keywords. It isn’t right now. But it will be soon! I’m not sure how I missed out on that one.)

      • You and Kris should get together and exchange marketing assumptions. 😉

  2. Thanks, PG, for the reference to this post. Lots of good stuff to think about in the original post, including a number of insightful articles she links to.

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