self-publishing-answers[simple_series title=”Self-Publishing Answers”]

One of the things I often talk about here is the amount of emails I get regarding marketing, self-publishing, and general writing questions. I’ve tried to respond to each and every email I’ve ever received, and I’ve done my best. 

But it occurred to me that these questions (and maybe my answers) might be able to help someone else out there. 

So I’m starting a new series I’m calling “Self-Publishing Answers” that I hope will at least help you frame your own questions when you’re working on your books. I may not have the right answers, but there’s a lot I’ve been able to figure out in this industry just by messing things up. If nothing else, learn from my mistakes!

Self-Publishing Answers – Episode 1

Carson Craig writes in, asking this: “I am currently editing my manuscript for a fiction novel and preparing for publication on Amazon (self-published). My question is “How do you find your target readers to get the word out about the release of your book?” 

My response, via email, follows. I’ve added some notes for the blog version, below each paragraph: 

Hi Carson;

Congrats on the book! Enjoy the process!

This is crucial to self-publishing. You’re in charge of everything, so be sure you’re enjoying every stage of it, unless you can afford to outsource certain aspects (layout, design, etc.).

I like to think of myself as a target reader (if I don’t like, how can I expect anyone else to?!), then build an “ideal reader” profile from there. Ask yourself the basics:

How old are you?
Male/female? (hopefully so far, these answers are obvious…)
Where do you live? What language do you speak?

Check out my Self-Published Book Marketing Plan if you’re unfamiliar with where I’m going with this. It’s free after you sign up for the newsletter/mailing list. 

Take some time to really go nuts with this — when you’re done, extrapolate from that a little more: if you’re 25, expand your “ideal reader” age to 21-35, or maybe older. Do this for all the questions (if you’re from America, and speak English, consider that your ideal reader might be from the UK, Canada, or Australia…)

Once you’ve built a thorough profile of this “ideal reader,” the fun part (read: hard part) starts:

Go find that person. Literally, go ask people. You can do this offline (book signings, conferences, school, etc.) and online (mailing lists, forums, etc.), but neither is “easy” or entirely “fun.” Unfortunately, there’s no “magic bullet” for this stuff, you’re just going to have to put in the extremely hard work to test what works/what doesn’t. As an example, here’s what I did:

After building my ideal reader profile, I went to go find them.

I built a website geared toward what I was trying to sell (nonfiction book about marketing/self-publishing) and what I was trying to learn (fiction writing), then slowly (read: very. slowly.) started building my platform by guest-posting, writing constantly on the blog, and working nonstop. It was painful, but it worked: I soon had a small (~300 people) list of readers who were actively interested in engaging with me and wanting to learn this stuff too. The key for me was realizing I wasn’t the “guru teacher” here — I was “just one of them.” We were and are still in it together, and that made the process fun, useful, and educational for us.

If you have your own question(s) about any of this, send me an email. I’d love to feature it here!

When my novel came out, I had amassed close to 2,000 people on the same list, who were at least open to hearing about it. I then planned a marketing campaign using Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) for pre-release sales of the paperback, which were fulfilled initially by CreateSpace then by my own publishing company (I’m a nerd, leave me alone).

That company is called Turtleshell Press, and we’re not-yet-sorta-kinda-maybe open to the public. I’ve pushed back the “official launch” until I’m a little more confident that we’ll be able to really provide a stellar service, but one of the things I’m most excited about is a brand-new POD (print on demand partnership that I’m trying to build. More on this later!

Once Amazon’s marketing machine found my initial ~100 sales of the paperback, and I scheduled a promo for the Kindle version, things started “working” on their own, but not forever. Things slowed down drastically and continue to do so every 3-6 months, and I have to “jumpstart” them again with promos, sales, and advertising.

Amazon’s “machine” is their marketing powerhouse. They can sell books like no one else, through recommendations engines, “Customers Also Bought” lists, and top-100 lists galore. It doesn’t take much to get on one or more of these lists, but it will certainly take some effort and thought up front. I like the concept of “front-loading” your marketing — an initial push right at the beginning of your launch, even at the expense of not doing much ongoing promotion. 

All of this helped my “target readers” find the book; there’s not just one thing and there never will be — if there were, everyone would know about it and everyone would do it!

The takeaways: 

Your “target market” needs to start with yourself. I don’t care if you’re writing a YA sci-fi adventure about an estranged girl from another planet and you’re an 82-year-old biker from Earth. There’s got to be a reason you’re interested in writing it, right? 

Tap into that reason, then extrapolate an “ideal reader” profile around that concept. 

Any questions? Send me an email or, even better, leave a comment!