Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Tragic as it is for readers and authors alike, there’s no supernatural sense that alerts you to a book you’ll enjoy. Until we all evolve a little further, writing a great story is no guarantee of an audience and authors have to know how to find one.
Finding an audience can be one of the most frustrating parts of publication. To help lessen the irritation this article presents three shocking truths that will prepare you if you’re just starting out, or at least reassure you that you aren’t doing anything wrong.
1. They’re all over the place
To misquote Douglas Adams: The internet is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind bogglingly big it is.
Sadly your audience, not yet knowing they’re your audience, are inconsiderately scattered all over it. It can be tempting to believe that one site holds the key to a sudden, mass audience. While a certain blog or site might deal with similar subjects to your book and attract a lot of traffic, one review won’t make you an overnight sensation.
Even if you’re writing about a niche subject matter then that just means you’ve limited the sites your audience might enjoy to the thousands rather than the millions. And only a small percentage of people who see your work mentioned will go on to find more about it, with only a few of them going on to purchase.
That might sound depressing, but it’s true of any kind of marketing. Turning those who see your advert into customers is called conversion, and it’s a notoriously low yield business. It has to be: you’d be bankrupt in a day if every advert you saw led you to buy something.
One of the ways to counteract low conversion is to increase your advertising. For authors, that means appearing in as many places as possible. No matter how small the audience pool a single conversion matters, so apply to every site you can for reviews, interviews and guest posts.
The audience for your book is spread all over. There’s no single site that’ll get you an immediate audience, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. A few conversions here and a few conversions there really do add up, and satisfied customers are adverts all on their own.
In fact reader reviews are an essential part of finding a wider audience…
2. There’s no magic bullet
Every so often someone claims to have new numbers on what types of marketing make a reader pick up a book, and every time they’re wrong. Why? Because conversion is a process that happens over time.
When it comes to entertainment a lot of people associate a degree of familiarity with quality. It may be that someone sees your book advertised through a promotional service but thinks nothing about it. A month later it might pop up as a recommendation on the iBookstore, be recommended by a friend, or be reviewed on a blog. That might pique the reader’s curiosity enough for them to look at your reader reviews or blog posts. If they then go and buy the book then it’s the blog that gets the credit, but really it’s the cumulative effect of many different types of advertising.
This is called brand awareness, and involves steadily legitimizing your product until it becomes familiar enough for a reader to trust. A book mentioned on one blog is just a book, a book mentioned on three blogs must have something to it. A book mentioned by various sources over a protracted period must be something special.
Different types of people like different types of marketing and every new advert works towards that cumulative effect, so engaging in a diverse range of promotional activities is doubly effective. Book giveaways, listings on promotional sites like BookBub, reviews, guest posts, and interviews all work both individually and as part of an interdependent brand awareness campaign. The more types of marketing you try, and the more widespread your targets, the more effective each individual advert becomes.
Thankfully it’s a process that can be combined with contacting a lot of sites, allowing you to pursue many different audiences in many different ways. That might sound like a lot of work, and it is, but good news…
3. It takes time, but it does work
Building your audience is a gradual process, but as I mentioned above there’s a snowball effect. The good news is that everything you gain with your hard work doesn’t go away. That’s why cumulative advertising works: people will remember your brand for a long time after seeing your advertising.
Conversion isn’t instantaneous, but it does last. Even those who read your work and didn’t enjoy it still know you as a brand, and brand recognition is powerful. Just being a name people know will get you more readers, and more readers will further increase your brand recognition.
It takes a long time for people to forget you, so as hard fought as every victory may be each one is a victory with lasting effects. Keep selling yourself and your work, keep reaching out to new groups in every way possible, and your legitimacy as a brand will increase exponentially. All you need to triple the effectiveness of a review is for someone to recognize your name, or the name of your book. That recognition can come from a fan’s Facebook conversation or something like an advertised giveaway, as long as it’s enough to catch their attention.
Success in gathering an audience hinges on your ability to play the long game. Authors who expect an immediate audience are quickly disheartened, but those who know it takes a while will be thrilled by every gain. Remember that the first review you get remains searchable forever: no matter what the immediate conversion rate of one advert is it sticks around, part of an ever-growing library of brand recognition that’s constantly recommending you just by existing.
Audience building is a gradual, often painful, process powered by continuous effort on the part of the author. With that said, anyone engaged in the process should be comforted by the knowledge that they’re always moving forward. The snowball is always growing, the momentum doesn’t slow, and as long as you keep pushing you’ll see results in the long run.
There are few things more thrilling than the day you realize you’ve gathered a respectable audience, and that you earned every last one of them.
Standoutbooks is all about helping authors to market their work, whether that be through our own marketing services or by providing the latest and best information on how to promote books. For further advice try our articles on book trailers, social media and book giveaways, or contact us directly through the comments section.