Hunting Your Audience
(This is the second part of Braxton’s post. Read “Audience? What audience? here.)
For many, finding their audience is like a novice out duck hunting. Imagine, up at the crack of dawn, sitting in a blind on a gray autumn day. You’ve thrown out some decoys, hoping they attract the right ducks, and sit—and wait. An hour later, nothing. Two hours, four hours. You rub your hands for warmth and say a quick prayer. Suddenly, you hear them. You look up and there are thousands of ducks heading your way. But then, the flock passes by overhead. They aren’t landing with your decoys. In desperation, you raise your shotgun and shoot into the middle of the flock. Two ducks fall into the water nearby . . . while the rest fly on.
Yep, as an Indie author, finding the right audience has been like that. I started out blind to all things marketing. Branding my book covers? Took three tries. The decoys? Ads aimed at people I thought would like my books. Rubbing my hands for warmth was actually wringing my hands wondering what to do next. And my attempts at advertising? Pretty much a shotgun blast that brought in a fraction of a fraction of the readers the ads went to.
I’ve learned much by doing and a lot more by failing. If only the failed attempts weren’t so expensive . . .
Not all of the failures were my fault. The market keeps changing. What worked last year isn’t working now. When I wrote this, we—I and nine other authors—were about to release a box set of brand new novellas: Kill Zone: Ten Deadly Thrillers. Our goal was simple. Sell enough (at $0.99 on pre-order) to make the USA Today bestsellers list. Jan Thompson spearheaded the effort after a box set she developed last year made the list. Despite the efforts of ten authors, we’re a week away from release and have only 20% of the numbers we need.
A year ago, advertising on Amazon held a good chance of turning a $200/month author to a $10K/month author. Then everyone and his cousin flocked to Amazon ads. Now, you’re fortunate to get your ads to show. Facebook was the same way a year before that. Bookbub, the holy grail of book advertising, accepts fewer than 20% of submissions. They’ve turned me down 15 times. Other promotional venues have shown moderate success, as long as I gave my book away for free.
So, the bottom line is that you really do need to understand your audience because it will require thinking outside the box to be someplace where they can find you . . . as well as faith and prayer. How do you stand out from the ever-growing crowd? First and foremost, write a quality book. Then, with that knowledge of your audience, find a venue that directly targets them. Don’t go with a certain promo just because everyone else says how great it is. That might be old news. For me, I’ve got a new place to try—now that I have a fresh perspective on my audience. And with faith and maybe more than a little prayer, that effort should pay off.