Marketing: Know Your Audience

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about marketing. Nick Cole has a new course on book marketing he’s pimping and Russell Newquist of Silver Empire Press and Brian Niemeier, have gone back and forth talking marketing.

You can find their posts here and here and here.

I find it all fascinating since I finally have work to market.

Gratuitous plug: Check out Children of Whitechapel at LibertyIslandMag, St. Lucian’s Star at Lyonesse and my free short, Jake. Also, pick up my novel, Path of Angels for an interesting adventure into the dystopian world of Aadi and Mischa.

One thing I’d like to add is that all the tips and tricks won’t do diddly if you’re marketing to the wrong audience.

You really have to know who your readers are, not just who you’re writing to.

Yes, I see that confused look on your face.

“Know Your Audience” is common enough advice.

It generally means to speak in their language. Use popular tropes of the genre. Give them exactly what they expect.

It helps if you read and write in the same genre. You know the ins and outs of that genre. You know the language to signal readers that your book has a HEA (happily ever after) ending or that your story resembles those written by John Saul or Michael Crichton or Diana Gabaldon.

It is not so easy if you write across genres or write on the edge of a particular genre. Your target audience and your readers may be two different groups. While you write to one, you need to market to the other.

Take gay romance novels. The target audience for those are MSM, however, one of the largest groups of readers of those stories are middle-aged white women. So, while writing should be toward the former, the marketing needs to include the later group.

One challenge that I’ve found with Path of Angels is figuring out the audience for the book. Yeah, I know, I should have had that figured out before I wrote it. But, seriously, have you ever tried negotiating with characters? It does not work. They are like fictional terrorists who wake you up in the middle of the night forcing you to write. Trust me on this.

The primary audience that I wrote the novel for, older Catholic/Christian teens, is not turning out to be the audience that is primarily reading the book. Go figure. In fact, those reading the book are not at all who I expected would be interested in it. More on that later.

Religion, Catholicism in particular, is a major part of Path of Angels, which causes some unique audience issues. I stuck to the teachings of the church, while letting my characters have a bit of free reign to do bad stuff. While I took much of the premise from conspiracy theories, I purposefully tried to keep the tin foil hatting to a minimum. The one thing that I did that was probably my downfall is that I didn’t use some of the currently popular YA tropes (love triangle) or include the typical liberal requirements (obligatory gay character).

Nonreligious readers see that there is religion in the book and go the other direction, because religious fiction more often than not is sucky. Admit it, you know it is. It trends to being overly preachy or unrealistically fluffy. And the general public doesn’t want to read that. They just want good stories with characters that are somewhat believable.

On the other hand, religious readers, can be flaky. You have some that freak out over any story that doesn’t have the characters acting perfect in every way, or you have adults who like the books, but wouldn’t suggest it to teens for whom the book is written because of either the violence or the sexual content. And of course, there are always those who have religious objections to one detail or another.

Sometimes, you can know your audience and still be unable to convince them to try your book. Or in my case, all sorts of readers that I never expected, mainly men, are reading it and liking it. I would have never in a million years figured that judges and lawyers would be interested at all in my book, let alone like it. It’s just odd.

What’s odder still, they are the ones who are pressing for the sequel.

From what I’ve gathered talking to those who have read my book, it’s the fact that it is different from the usual lineup of YA fluff fiction. My characters aren’t the usual goodie two shoes you find in some religious fiction. And my story has some (not a lot) believably to it that you don’t find in popular YA dystopians.

 

So it seems that I need to adjust my marketing a bit to take this unforeseen group of readers into consideration.

 

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