Finding the ideal reader for your book can be the difference between a bad review and a good review. Bad reviews can be hard to accept as an author but they can also give you insight into your marketing and who is reading your book. They give you a chance to ask “am I reaching the right readers for my book?”
Every author gets bad reviews.
Imagine you’re a novelist looking through Goodreads at some of your new book’s latest reviews and this is what you come across:
This is not an epic, beautiful tale of a wonderful family’s trials, or whatever. It is a long, poorly written story of a family’s sex life.
How does this author take such an interesting and impactful topic and write it so bland, emotionless and boring?
Was this book well written? No. Did I still enjoy it anyway? Also no.
This is the book that made me ignore other people’s recommendations. I have no idea what anyone sees in this piece of trash.
Yikes. You can imagine how hard that feedback would hit a person. They might think the author should hang up his or her hat and find a nice job in a tea shop or selling timeshares.
What if I told you that these were reviews that were left on the recent critically acclaimed books, respectively, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a National Book Award Finalist; The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020; The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab, which made nearly every 2020 “best of” list; and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize?
Showing up in front of your ideal reader matters.
Sometimes the wrong person stumbles on your book, and there are just going to be those people who don't like it. But sometimes these bad reviews come from bad marketing, along with targeting the wrong types of readers. By ensuring you know exactly WHO your reader is, and making a concerted effort to market to that particular audience, you can make sure that reviews like this are far and few between. That they only happen when the wrong reader stumbles across the book.
And it makes sense that most of the reviews are good for these books. Not only are they all great books, they also all have major publishers lined up behind them with loads of expertise in audience targeting. That’s how you know that finding and showing up in front of your ideal reader matters – the big publishers are willing to spend big bucks doing it.
Authors have to know how an ideal reader.
But indie authors and new voices in writing don’t have that luxury. We have to know how to target our ideal reader on our own, and we need to start figuring it out as we are writing, and carry it through our marketing efforts. We need to dig in and do the work early, and constantly check our work! Otherwise, we’ll end up with readers like the ones above who just don’t “get” us. Readers who don’t know why we’re telling this story and hate the way we’re telling it.
I’ve seen reviews like the ones above on books that clients brought to me for relaunches. These books were well-written, urgent, interesting, powerful. And unfortunately, without proper reader targeting, they found an audience who just couldn't connect with them. They left salty reviews. They didn’t check out the back catalog. They didn’t tell a friend, unless it was to tell the friend to “skip this one.”
But when my clients make the small changes needed to their marketing to find and speak to their ideal reader? The great reviews roll in – “I felt like this book was written for me!” – and the sales come, too.
My clients often learn an important (and pretty encouraging) lesson: it wasn’t the quality of the book that was generating the lackluster reviews and sluggish sales. It was merely incorrect targeting in the book marketing.
Getting in Front of Your Target Readers
Click here to join an exclusive workshop with my friend, Belinda Griffin. She’s a book marketing expert who has mastered the art of audience targeting, and she’s coming to share her secrets with us! No matter what your publishing journey looks like, this is the workshop every author needs to connect authentically, leverage publicity and grow their platform! This workshop is now on demand, which means you can watch (rewatch) it anytime!
Do you ever feel like you’re a smidge behind the trends as a writer, and you pay for it in a big way? Like if you’d started a blog sooner, it would have done better? Now it seems like there are too many blogs out there, and not enough people reading them. Maybe by the time you noticed everyone starting a podcast, you felt it had become too saturated as well? Or you finally try TikTok, thinking it will be your big break…only to gain a whopping 9 followers after 3 months?
I’m not saying you should give up on those platforms, but I wanted to share something that might give you an edge that keeps you going on those days you feel so far behind everyone else.
You probably know several authors with thousands of email subscribers or even thousands of followers on social media. How many do you know who have thousands of subscribers to a text list? I don’t even know many with hundreds on their list. Maybe they have them and just aren’t sharing the numbers, or maybe they aren’t bothering because they don’t feel the need for a text list.
But as I’ve seen other businesses and even churches sending mass texts, I knew it was something I wanted to join. The problem was that I assumed it was expensive and a hassle. I’ve already got tons of stuff going for my blog, email list, and social media. Adding one more thing seemed overwhelming. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the area where I could stand out.
Still, I didn’t even know it was called text marketing and had no idea what words to even type in Google.
Then I signed up for a webinar with Tony Robbins and started receiving texts about it. When I opted out of the texts, it sent me a confirmation that included a link to the text marketing service used. I started my free account immediately and haven’t looked back!
Here's why this tool is so important for authors:
Enough businesses use it that the technology is familiar and well done but not yet saturated. You and your readers are probably on some mass text list, whether from a church or a business providing alerts of discounts. But they aren't so prevalent that they get lost in the chaos (as many emails do).
It's similar to emails but with a higher open rate. Marketers always mention that we need an email list in addition to social media because we don't have control over social. But email is our turf. Plus, people may take a sabbatical from social but not so much from email. The same is true for texts. And texts have an open rate of something like 98%! The highest open rate my weekly emails have gotten in the past 3 months is 37% whereas something around 20% is average for email open rates. So maybe you gain only 23 subscribers in your first couple of months, but you’d have about the same amount of people opening that text as you would have opening an email sent to 100 email subscribers. As with email, you can create different segments for different groups of text subscribers. Much of the other lingo and capabilities are similar. They can work well together. Maybe someone unsubscribes from your email list but continues receiving texts.
It doesn't have to be another overwhelming task to add to your to-do list. Because texts are so short, they are much faster to create. In fact, I usually schedule 4 or 5 at once which takes 45 minutes tops, whereas I only get 1 or 2 emails typed up per week and can take about an hour each. My texts are a way to connect with my readers regularly without putting in tons of time, and they don’t have to put in tons of time to read it. Learning how to use this tool before other authors will establish you as an authority they turn to once they realize the benefits. You will have answers to their questions and be able to help them because you have the data and experience to do so. You have people you’ve learned from about how to start and grow an email list or social media platform. You will be that voice for others if you learn early on how to use text marketing well.
You can easily promote them in a paperback or at a speaking event. While it's easy to link to an email list in an ebook, people may not be as likely to type in your web address. Plus, they might get distracted as they do. But with a text list, you can type “Text CLUTTER to 31996” or whatever Textword you choose that's available (I just used mine as an example), and your readers can simply text that word to be subscribed to receive texts from you. I think that piques curiosity as well because it's something not many authors are doing yet. It’s also great for speaking events because maybe they don’t have time to wait in line to submit their email address to you, but they will send a quick text. Texts are a great way to build trust and be able to conveniently tell your readers about future books.
People don’t often have multiple cell phone numbers. Yes, they may get a new number, but people often tell me they have multiple email addresses and use one of them to sign up for stuff so that it isn’t going into their primary email. People don’t do that with their phones. You’re usually getting their one and only number that they check nearly every day even if they have a separate work phone.
Now you know why you should give this a try, but I’m also going to show you how to set it up well.
Pay attention to text marketing that you love and that you don’t enjoy. I do this with email, too. I’ve opted out of a few text lists because it felt like spam. Buy these, join that, remember this. They didn’t talk to me like a friend. I was just a way for them to get their message to one more person. Then I signed up for Heather Parady’s texts. She sent me a short, encouraging message each Monday. There wasn’t a link in every text. So when I started my texts, I knew I wanted to send a quote about simplifying your life each week. People love being inspired. And they love getting texts that don’t require anything of them!
Connect with readers regularly. Don’t just send a text when your book is released. Provide value week after week. Give them a reason to sign up. I like how detailed this fiction author is about text marketing, but she mentions that she already had 100,000 subscribers. So it doesn’t seem like she really needed the text marketing. She talks about how expensive her texting service was and how hard it was to get subscribers until she made a good offer. I’ll address that below since I use a different provider and offer, but she only sent 4 texts that year. I send 4 a month. I used to think less was more for my email list, esp since my audience doesn’t like clutter. I found that it actually works far better when I send one email a week that they look forward to and therefore isn’t clutter. It makes them feel like they know me, so they don’t mind when I ask for a favor every once in a while. That’s why I based my texts on the same system.
Make them want to subscribe. If you don’t think your texts are awesome, you won’t be as excited about promoting them. But when you’re providing value and building something amazing, you’re motivated to continue sharing it and encouraging others to join. I give away the audio version of my book, Packrat to Clutter-Free. It’s relevant to the topic of the texts, and it’s something they can’t even buy at this time. When you send a good text, you can use that content to show others how awesome it is to receive your texts. I promote my texts every week at the bottom of my email by sharing the quote I sent in my text that week. This repurposes my content and allows those outside the US to see the quotes since they can’t sign up for the texts. I also promote my Tuesday Texts on Instagram once a week. I don’t get tons of new subscribers but a couple here and there really adds up when you know they are virtually guaranteed to actually read your message.
Make it easy to subscribe. Online, I share this link rather than just saying “Text Writing to 31996” because it’s easier to click the link than memorize what number to text it to if they’re on their phone. If they’re on a computer, their phone might be in the other room. Plus, it’s pretty, and it gives me their name, too. At conferences, attendees may have their phone off. So it’s a good idea to have your Textword and number on a bookmark or sticker they can take with them.
This is the easy, reliable, affordable system I use. Once I found them, I searched other text marketing providers to compare. It started making me nervous when I saw so many big name companies working with them. I thought it would be too expensive. While the 50 free texts don’t get you very far because you could only send one text to 50 people or two texts to 25 people, the $29 plan gives you 500 texts a month, which rollover. They have simple video tutorials like this one to help you set up a page for people to subscribe. They always respond to my emails when I have a question about how to do something.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a budget to work with, keep it in mind until you have an income you can draw from to make the payments.
But if this is something you see the value of investing in, definitely check it out here and try the free version to see if you like it. You can use this code, STR1168, like I did for a discount off the first month of a paid plan.
It may be a slow start, but I still gain 1-3 new subscribers each time I share my text list with people. That may not sound like a lot, but I count each phone number as 4 people on my email list since so many of them don’t actually read my emails. Starting small helps you get the hang of it and see if it’s something you want to continue investing in. I’ve found that my text subscribers really enjoy it, so it’s worth it to me.
I hope you find that learning this fairly new technology early is something you thank yourself for later!
This month, we were delighted to have one of our favorite people, Cindy Tyler, CEO of Vervante. Cindy presented on options for selling books directly from your website. She also talked about the power of the email list, and why book marketing is an ongoing project. This is our last Women in Publishing webinar for 2019!
Where Inspiration Flows and Business Grows
Vervante offers what no other publisher does – the ability to grow by connecting with your customers. Subscriber email lists are your #1 asset for business growth, so why send your customers to another site to buy? Sell from your site, send us the order from ANY shopping cart, and we'll print and ship to your customers. Whether you need one or thousands we've got the easy, affordable solutions you need.
Independent authors certainly have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. There's no getting around the fact that Amazon is THE number one stop for readers looking for books. As hard as it can be to get your book noticed on Amazon, there are strategies to work your book up through Amazon's rankings. Having your book on Amazon comes at a cost, though. You pay a hefty commission to Amazon–essentially, Amazon makes more per book than you do for the book.
The best way to keep the lion's share of book sales is to sell books directly to readers, via your own website or in-person events. Companies such as Women in Publishing Summit sponsor Vervante, will help you put a shopping cart on your website and distribute your book to readers. It is important to note that if you have your book on Amazon, AND you are selling directly from your website, to abide by Amazon's pricing policies, namely that you cannot sell your book cheaper on your website than Amazon.
Benefits of Selling Books Directly From Your Website
You can build relationships with your readers. When someone buys your book from Amazon, there is no way to follow up with them or add them to your mailing list. When they order from you, you can capture their email and send a personal thank you!
Higher profit margins. You can sell your book at the same price as it is listed on Amazon, but pocket more money from sales.
You can create your own attractive sales page, with your own branding. Whether you design your page yourself, or use an out of the box solution such as WooCommerce or Shopify, you have creative control. The best part is that Vervante works with many of the available e-commerce solutions out there.
There is more work involved in selling books directly from your own website, but in exchange, you get to keep more of your hard-earned sales!
Join us on Thursday, October 17th for a free webinar with Cindy Tyler, CEO of Vervante.
Cindy Tyler is founder and owner of Vervante, a publishing and distribution company with a 17-year track record. The Vervante team provides services for authors and infopreneurs to create and distribute books and a wide variety of products quickly and easily. Best of all, they do so without hidden fees or any hassle. Before launching Vervante, Cindy had a 17-year career with Xerox as a highly successful account manager. She then worked for a start-up company in Silicon Valley building a print on demand business before “print on demand” was much of a concept. Several corporations were early converts to the concept of printing their books on demand rather than using traditional publishing methods. The startup company went public and was then bought out by Barnes&Noble.com. Shortly thereafter the dot-com bubble burst and the company was shut down. Within a few weeks, Cindy started Vervante and she hasn’t once looked back.
Learn more about how Vervante can help you sell more books, and participate in a live Q&A with Cindy!
If you can't attend live, we'll send you the replay.
Preregister for the 2020 Women in Publishing Summit!
When we learned that Write Publish Sell ambassador and Summit presenter Erin Casey was using Patreon to support her writing, we asked her to write a blog post about it!
In the world of publishing, authors are always trying to find unique ways to market their books. From paid Facebook ads to author takeover events and giveaways, there are many strategies you can test out to help you find the best fit for you. One platform that some creative minds are starting to utilize is Patreon.
What is Patreon, exactly?
This is a platform where creators provide services, and patrons agree to pay a monthly (or by project) membership fee to support the creator. It’s a way for you to interact more personally with your readers and keep them updated about the ins and outs of your work. There are many creators who successfully gain enough patrons to help them create new products regularly (Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, Seanan McGuire, etc). For as low as $1 a month, patrons can get access to your work and help support you! This applies to both traditionally- and self- published authors. Check out my Patreon account to see how an author can use it.
How it works:
Set up an account on Patreon to outline your project and the purpose for your page.
Create tiers that will entice patrons to donate different monetary amounts to your campaign.
Create “paid posts” and free posts for your patrons and potential audience.
Publicize your page through Patreon tools and social media.
Setup: A good setup will help bring in more patrons. You need to be upfront about what you plan to offer. Here are a few tips to help:
Promotion: Choose eye-catching profile pictures and banners to grab people’s attention.
Overview: Clearly explain who you are and what you’re offering. Don’t tell your patrons you’re planning to post one story each month then post three when they are only expecting to pay for one. Let them know who you are and why their patronage is so important to you.
Tiers: Create reward tiers to entice patrons (to be discussed below).
Plan:Pick a plan that works for you. For example, 5% of my pay goes back to Patreon while the rest goes to me. This plan allows tools to master membership. Other plans can give you additional features. The pricing page explains it in more detail.
Set goals: Patreon has an option where you can indicate different goals you want to meet. Example: Goal 1: $25/month = payment for a website. Goal 2: $50/month = payment towards marketing materials. Be transparent about how their donations can help you. Start out with small goals so that you reach them faster. It will encourage people to add in that extra dollar to help you hit that next goal.
Tiers: Tiers are used to encourage patrons to donate certain monetary amounts to your cause. Again, this will come out whenever you indicate you’re posting a “paid post.” You can also do teaser posts or free posts. But what kind of tiers should you do?
Most important: pick tiers that 1. you know you can deliver and 2. won’t cost more than what you’re receiving.
Low tiers: Provide several low tier prices ($1, $2, $3, $5) as people are more likely to pick these over the higher tiers. These can include things such as access to all “paid posts,” shout outs on social media, hidden stories, behind-the-scene information, etc. These are all things you can easily send to a patron the moment they sign up.
Middle tiers: These should obviously provide more rewards as your patrons will be paying quite a bit higher to support you ($10, $15, $20, $25). For example, you would give them everything from the initial tiers along with, say, their name on a dedication page, a printed copy of your book, swag, an e-book, etc. You want to make sure your patrons feel like they’re getting a lot in return for their generous donations.
Upper tiers: Few people generally choose the upper tiers, but some creators do get lucky, so make sure you have good rewards. These are generally tiers that are $50 and above. These rewards could include more personalized items, such as a personal story written just for the patron, a skype call with you, writing advice, etc. Again, make it worth the cost.
Don’t be afraid to offer a large tier ($100+) in case you get a fan who is really dedicated to your work. Just make sure you can deliver.
Delivery: Delivery, above everything else, is the most important aspect of Patreon. If you promise to post something each month, then do your best to stick to that schedule. Some patrons can donate to you monthly whether or not you post something. Some will set it so they only donate when you create a “paid post.”
If you’re going to miss a deadline, let your patrons know so they’re not sitting there, wondering why a post didn’t appear. Missing deliveries is one of the biggest reasons people tend to lose patrons. Be honest.
Don’t post more “paid posts” than what you promised. Patrons may only intend to pay you $5 per paid post, and if they’re only expecting one a month, they’re going to be very surprised if $10 suddenly comes out of their account. If you want to provide more material for your page, that’s fine, but don’t make it a “paid post.”
When someone becomes a patron, be sure to deliver their rewards as soon as possible so you don’t risk losing them. They’re willing to support you; show them the courtesy of thanking them in return.
Promotion: Once your Patreon page is set up, you’ll want to promote it in as many ways possible. Sharing it across social media and by mouth is great, but there are a few other ways you can give it additional attention:
Feature it visibly on your website. Let readers know there are ways they can support you if they want to do more than buy/read your book.
Add it to a newsletter.
Post free material frequently enough that you have reason to share it across social media. Only patrons can see paid posts, so you’ll want to leave some things free.
Don’t forget to mention it when you’re promoting your work in person.
All of these elements should help you get started with your Patreon page. Check out other creators to get some ideas on what works for them, and how that, in turn, might fit your image. Most of all, be honest, kind, and thankful. Your patrons are doing you a great service by supporting you. Be sure to thank them by living up to your promises.
Erin graduated from Cornell College in 2009 with degrees in English and Secondary Education. She decided to expand upon her teaching knowledge by leading writing sessions at first for the Iowa Writers' House and now for The Writers' Rooms.
She attended the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009 and has been a recruiter ever since. She is the Communications and Student Relationships Manager at The Iowa Writers' House and one of two Directors of The Writers' Rooms. She writes children's poetry and stories for Whimsical Whiskers and volunteers at RARE, a raptor rescue center.
She's also a devoted bird mom.
When not volunteering and working, she's writing her LGBT YA fantasy story, posting urban and regular fantasy on Wattpad, and sharing her literary journey on Instagram.
She released her first book, The Purple Door District, in December 2018. Her next book, Wolf Pit, is set to come out December 2019.