Friday, May 20, 2016

Finding Your Audience Part 1 – Pre-Launch Steps

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

This is a question many writers face at one point or another, because it's at the core of what we do--we want our stories read by someone who will enjoy it. But it's the finding that can pose challenges. I'm going to touch upon certain aspects that could help you position yourself better. With a HUGE caveat--I'm still working on this myself :)

This post will be broken out into different elements so you can determine your weak areas. Knowing this will empower you with the information you need to search for indie articles that can give you corresponding advice. Also, I will be breaking this up into several posts, because the post-launch tips are meaty enough to deserve its own space.

Research Phase -- Is there a market for my Beetle-Shifter Coming of Age Dystopian?

Some writers do this kind of market research before they even commit to writing a book. Some wait until after the first draft. Some skip this altogether, perhaps because their goal is to simply publish their story and aren't as worried about discoverability. Chances are if you're reading this post, you do want to find your audience. The first step is to make sure there IS an audience for your story. Can it be put into at least one of Amazon's fiction categories? If so, great! Next, see if it's popular. To do that, go to the Top 20 bestsellers in that category and look at their rankings. If book #20 is ranked in the 100k range, then there isn't a lot of demand for books in that category. Sure, it means you can easily make #1 in that category, but it won't gain you much visibility since there aren't a lot of people looking for those books. There are some great articles out there on how to more finely research your market, as well as some tools that can make this easier, like KdSpy (affiliate link) that will give you a quicker way to analyze your market on Amazon.

There are outliers, sure. There wasn't a demand for YA books about wizards until J.K. Rowling hit the scene. If you're in such a category (one where the demand is not high) just know you need to up your game in the other elements--in other words, the book needs to rock it like Rowling.

Development Phase – Your writing is making a promise, whether it's conscious or not

Some writers might wonder why I'm including the writing phase into a discussion about finding your audience, but this is crucial. Your writing, your voice, and the choices you make in the crafting of your story will define the audience you will attract. You hear a lot of writers talk about Branding, and branding starts here (or even in the research phase). Your writing will establish a promise with a reader about what to expect when they start a new book of yours. Sometimes, this will feel like natural steps for you to take when you're fine-tuning your prose, but sometimes it can be big decisions that can narrow your audience and attract a certain reader.

Case in point (and spoiler alert): my debut novel, Must Love Breeches has an epilogue that I struggled with not only getting it to hit the right note, but also on whether to even include it. I had an agent who wanted me to scrap it, I had an early reader suggest I just make it an Extra to download. At the core of all this advice was a fear that a reader wouldn't like it. But, even though I was worried about the same thing, I distinctly remember that the decision came down to what kind of reader I wanted to cultivate/reach—it was risky, and believe me, I’ve paid for it in some of the reviews, but I don’t regret it. I’ve had readers email me that they loved having their mind blown like that.

So for this element, make sure you’re doing all you can to craft your story for the audience you want. And deliver.

Some articles to help:

Production Phase A – is your cover and blurb attracting your audience?

Now that the writing phase has been dealt with, another aspect to make sure you’re finding and reaching your audience is to make sure your product (that’s what your book is now) is flagging down your target audience. This is where many indie books derail. Some don’t invest in professional covers. Some mistakenly market to an audience that they know is popular, but their book isn’t what that audience wants, and poor sales, or even worse, poor reviews result.

This is crucial to get right. This is like your billboard sign on the highway. It does you no good to promise donuts at the next exit (cuz everyone likes donuts) and what you’re really offering is some other kind of pastry that’s just as good if they’d at least try it. That’s false advertising. Or worse, a billboard so muddled in its message and design, no one has a clue as they zip past what you’re even selling.

A well-designed cover and well-crafted blurb will help target your audience. I write romance and there are subtle and not-so-subtle elements that need to be on a cover to signal to a potential reader what’s inside. A professional cover designer will know these cues. Same with a blurb. You don’t want to water down your blurb to appeal to everyone. You want one that signals the story promise you are making to a potential reader. It will make some say, “oh, that’s so not for me,” and others say, “gimme now.”

Some articles to help:

Production Phase B – sweating some not-so-small small stuff

You should also take the time to research your niche market and determine what the typical cover price is for your book. Some genres can take a higher-priced indie book, some can’t. Also your price will be finding a certain audience.

In addition, there are things you can do to your metadata that will help your target audience find you. Metadata is the information you fill out when you upload your book to the different vendors. Some ask for you to insert keywords as part of this, and it’s well worth taking the time to research book metadata posts and choosing keywords.

Now’s the time to also ensure you have a clean, professional website with your bio and your books.

Some articles to help:

Post-Launch Phase

This is probably where most writers focus when they research how to find their audience, because they’ve now got their book out in the world and it’s not getting the traction they want. And they panic.

If you’re indie, it’s not too late to go back one step and take a second look at your cover and blurb and to fiddle with your keywords. But let’s say you’re good on all the other aspects above and now you’re ready to wave your pretty flag in the air (your book) and find your readers.

Honestly, there’s no magic bullet here and strategies can vary depending on your genre. Next month, I will share some things that have worked for me in case they can work for you too. Stay tuned for Part 2!

What other pre-launch tips and advice would you have for a writer to help maximize their efforts to find their target audience?

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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About Must Love Chainmail: A Time Travel Romance

Trapped in the wrong time, she needs a knight in shining armor, but this damsel in distress might be the real savior.

A damsel in distress... 

With a day planner attached to her hip, the last thing Katy Tolson wants is a romance that threatens her well-ordered life. She's set to marry the safe--but bland--guy, but something's not quite...right. A careless wish thrusts her through time into medieval Wales and into the arms of...

A knight in somewhat shining armor... 

Sir Robert Beucol, half-Norman and half-Welsh, lives with the shame of his father's treason and vows to reclaim his family's holdings and thereby his honor. To prove himself to his king, he must be more Norman than a full-blooded Norman. What better way to show loyalty than to fight his mother's people? He has no desire to be sidetracked by the mysterious wench with pink toenails, peculiar habits, and passion smoldering behind her cool, collected exterior.

A rebellion that challenges both... 

The Welsh uprising fits perfectly into Robert’s plans. Katy’s on the other hand? That’s a no. As they embark on a perilous journey through the heart of Wales, each passionate encounter pulls them closer  together, but farther from their goals. When everything they value is at stake, can they save each other and their love? 


  1. The advice you give on considering whether or not your cover is attracting your audience is golden. Someone in a recent writer's group made a comment to me that made me consider the cover for my up-coming new-release might need some tweaking to attract my intended audience. Thanks for the advice.

    C.L. Wells