If you’ve ever said something like: “I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right,” or “None of this seems to be working,” then maybe you aren’t spending enough time immersed in your genre becoming a fan and getting to know your audience.
And while that suggestion may not scream “sales!” to you, it’s actually the book promotion piece that can make or break a successful author. Because honestly, writing the book is the easy part.
Get in the Zone
There’s a technique in acting called “immersion” or “method acting” and what this means is that the actor immerses himself or herself into a roll in such a way that they become the character.
Daniel Day Lewis is best known for this. For his role in Last of the Mohicans, he lived in complete isolation in the Alabama wilderness where he tracked, hunted, and skinned animals for food. And while this may seem extreme, Mr. Lewis is a brilliant actor. He lives and breathes every role he’s in, your experience with writing, publishing, and marketing, should be the same.
When it comes to book immersion, this kind of focus takes a slightly different angle. What we’re talking about here is getting to know your market and your audience in a way that takes a lot of the guesswork out of what you’re doing.
Success Leaves Clues
A lot of indie authors I talk to struggle with the concept of book marketing, but moreover their struggle is “where” to market and “how” to market. They tell me that they’ve tried “everything,” but have they really tried everything that matters? There’s a big different between the two. Let me explain.
I was at a conference recently and attended a panel led by six-figure authors. Meaning they are all making six figures on their books. They talked about things they did, or didn’t do. Marketing ideas they tried and failed at, and things they may never do again. So what is their secret to earning six-figures? It’s simple.
They know and understand their market.
What their market wants, where they are in social media, and what moves them to buy. The first piece of figuring this out (and this will save you a ton of time) is to look at other, similar authors in your genre. Stay away from household names, but look for authors who are doing well, though maybe slightly off the radar screen.
You can find folks in your genre by searching on Google, doing a Boolean search (insert genre) and author. This will pull up a list of authors, and you may have to go as deep as five pages to complete a list, because you’ll likely find ads for publishing companies and promotional services that serve your particular genre.
But the reason you do this search, is to find authors who rank high on Google but aren’t well-known. This tells you that you’ve found an author who is getting a lot of exposure because they’re doing a lot of the right things.
The Right Things
- Social media: What social sites are they on and how often are they posting? This piece of the puzzle could help you out enormously in terms of genre immersion. Because you’ll really get a sense of where these readers gravitate to, what gets them commenting and what falls flat. Reading through a dozen or so posts is helpful and could save you a ton of time. It should also give you some ideas about going forward, in terms of you own social media.
- Video: Are they doing a lot of video, such as Facebook Live video, book trailers or anything else? Do these seem to get a lot of traction? Are their videos getting a lot of shares or likes? If so, this could mean you need to be camera ready to do a few videos on your own.
- Blogging: Are they blogging? If so, how often and what are they talking about? What kind of images are they using?
Listen to Readers
Most authors I speak to, don’t spend a ton of time researching their genre and this is a mistake. Writing is a creative, often heart-driven endeavor and as such, the left brain planning side of this, often goes out the window.
Get to know what your readers want in terms of content, characters, story, book length and, be willing to change whatever you need to to appeal to your reader. This is important, because readers want what they want.
There are expectations that follow each niche and genre and when I talk to authors who say: “Well, I know that’s what’s expected but I’m doing something different.” I don’t think they sound brave or revolutionary, I worry they’ve gone rogue without realizing that this could affect their success.
Read Similar Books
Are you a fan of your genre? If you’ve written a memoir, have you read other memoirs? If you haven’t, you should. One thing that nearly every six-figure author said on that panel is that they are big fans of their genre and they read voraciously on their topic.
And again, you may want to start reading the books of the authors you identified in your Google search, in fact, I recommend that you buy at least one book from every author you research. This won’t just help you identify other aspects of what your readers are looking for, but it’s a nice way to support your fellow author. Win-win.
I’m not speaking about networking events, per se (though the right ones can be of great benefit) I’m speaking instead about networking with some of the authors you identified in your Google search, and others in your genre you may have met at conferences. Offer to share their good news or promotions with your readers (even if your list is small). Make the effort to get to know them.
In terms of book/genre immersion, you can’t get much better than hanging with people who write in the same market.
Act Like a Fan
This is one of the best ways to get some good insight into the mind of your reader. If you’re going to become more immersed in your genre, become a real fan. Share your author crush with others, feel what it’s like to be a fan and to be part of a tribe. See how it makes you feel to get notes from the author, to see posts about cover reveals and release dates, to be part of that inner circle. Your fans need to feel the same way.
Not your own, when was the last time you read the reviews of similar books? If you’ve never done this, you should. There’s a lot to be learned in terms of what readers want more of, and what they want to see less of, or what put them off entirely.
How will this matter to a book that’s already been released?
Well, if you self-published it, you can easily make changes – even change a book cover – to align it better with your market.
Even reading one-star reviews can be helpful. One thing I can guarantee you is that most one-star reviews will say that the books either needed editing, or a stronger storyline, or literally had no clear storyline.
Focus on Growth
Successful authors are always focused on growing their tribe and many made their way up the ranks by participating in fan groups on sites like Goodreads.
Those personal connections are more powerful than any ad you could place. Plus, once you establish real relationships with genre fans you can enlist their help, like offering them ARCs in exchange for feedback when you’re in the final stages of production.
For the Long Term
The takeaway here is that you need to be an expert in your genre; there are a number of strategies to help you get to that point; and then that expertise needs to keep evolving.
If you don’t live and breathe your genre, I can assure you there are a lot of missed opportunities for sales, promotion and readership growth, right under your nose. So invest some time in becoming a fan.
And if you’re not sure what’s missing or why your books aren’t selling, and would like help pinpointing what is stopping you, I’m here to help! Plus I’ll throw in some bonuses for you – click here to get started!