Today I read a short article on Gizmodo titled “Study Backs Up Creeping Feeling That Facebook Is Just For Old People Now,” and it reminded me of a truth many authors fail to realize. Our job as authors is to find readers for our stories. This is not a Field of Dreams business; when we build it, readers don’t automatically come to us. We have to go find them, and the easiest way to do that is to go where the readers are.
This is a point Chris Fox made in his book Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books. Instead of expecting readers to magically find him and connect with his books, Fox went out and found his niche readers on specific platforms, then he took the time to get to know them.
His method flies in the face of “common knowledge,” which insists that authors should build their presence on every social media platform, a textbook Field of Dreams attitude: If you build it, they will come.
No, sorry. That’s not the way it works.
Here’s how authors used to connect with readers in the pre-Internet days. After their book was published, their publisher or publicist would set up book signings, appearances at conventions, and, if they were lucky, TV, radio, and newspaper interviews. The first two were the best forms of marketing. They got the author in front of potentially interested readers to whom the authors could then pitch their books. If readers liked the book, they would buy and share it with their fellow readers, thus generating the all-too-valuable word of mouth advertising we all dream of.
The book business still works this way, only now readers can also be found online in various social media platforms, niche interest forums (like Reddit and GoodReads), and other places.
The disconnect comes when authors refuse to switch from their writing hat to their business hat and really think their marketing through with the same intensity with which they write their stories. Connecting with readers, and then gradually easing them around to buying your book, requires a focused, managed approach, which takes more time than most authors are willing to expend on this end of their business. Instead, they simply follow “common knowledge” and wear themselves out trying to be everywhere at once in the slim hope of finding their audience.
That’s like a folk singer showing up at a Metallica concert trying to sell copies of his latest CD.
A much better approach is to figure out what kind of book you’ve written, give serious consideration to the readers you want to connect with, and then go find those readers. If you’re writing Young Adult Fantasy, what in the world are you doing on Facebook when the people who use it the most are older than your target readers? Yes, adults read YA, and yes, they have kids in their lives for whom they buy books.
But you’re not selling to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and neighbors; you’re selling to teenagers (the bulk of your audience), and where are teenagers these days? Increasingly, not on Facebook.
Fox’s approach is dead on target. He spent weeks, if not months, simply building a presence on a social network he knew his target readers frequented, and all that before he published a single book directed toward those readers. He thought the entire process through, made a plan, and implemented it, and he did it without once using sleazy, used-car-salesman marketing tactics.
His approach can, in fact, be broken down into two simple steps: Who are your targeted readers? Where are they online and off?
Answer these questions and you’re well on your way to building a foundation for future marketing.