Business Musings: Define Your Target Audience: The Early Stages (Branding/Discoverability)
I love this blog. I love it because you readers make it so much better with your questions and comments.
Last week, I wrote about the early stages of building a brand. In that post is something that seems pretty straightforward to me—define your target audience. Some of you remarked in the email and the comments that you’ve been struggling with this one thing for a very long time.
Oh. What a revelation to me. When I write these blogs it becomes clear to me sometimes just how many things I do automatically.
I’ve worked in retail since I was sixteen years old. I owned my first retail store at the age of 21. I currently am co-owner of two brick-and-mortar retail stores and um…three?…five?…online retail stores (it depends on how you count some of my businesses).
For me, finding a target audience is like putting on socks in the morning. The socks are in a drawer, I open the drawer, give the choice exactly three seconds of thought, grab the right pair, and go.
The rest of you don’t see a single sock drawer. You see one of those sock collages where every sock that the photographer can fit in the scene is presented along the floor, in a beautiful and colorful pattern. Yeah, that takes tons of work. And no, that’s not what I mean.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this step to my attention. It is hard to define your target audience if you’ve never done it before. And I had forgotten that entirely.
Let’s start as basic as we can.
What is a target audience?
A target audience is a specific set of people to whom you want to market your book.
I know, I know. You want everyone to read your book. But if you step back and think about it, you know that you will not achieve that, no matter what you do. Not everyone reads, for one thing, and not everyone reads all genres or all the writers in a particular genre for another.
You need to drill down into who you want to market your books to. Once you figure out who you want to market to, then you can figure out how to market to them.
Why Does Choosing A Target Audience Matter?
Choosing a target audience matters so that you can tailor your marketing campaign to that audience.
This weekend, I had dinner with a group of friends. We were talking about TV and movies, and one friend asked me if I had seen Get Out yet. She thought I would love it.
I said I don’t find humor in the situation they were presenting.
She looked at me like I was nuts. Humor? She said. It’s a horror movie.
I said all the marketing I saw called it was a comedy. Then she really looked at me like I was crazy.
We discussed the movie (heh! Word of mouth) and I decided, yes indeedy do, I would love to see that film. Absolutely. Based on what she said, not on what I had heard from the marketing.
When I got home, I decided to double-check. Had I seen marketing that said this film was a comedy? Turns out, I had never seen the trailer, which looked like generic bad horror movie trailer (which wouldn’t have appealed to me either).
So I looked at the online and print press, and saw headlines like this: Jordan Peele on making a hit comedy-horror movie out of America’s racial tensions, and an entertaining and clever satire that is equal parts funny and terrifying. On and on and on.
No one I spoke to that night mentioned that the film was funny. Not a single soul.
On that level, it was a marketing fail, probably done because Jordan Peele is best known as a comedian (or was, until this film did well). The trailer, though, which I just watched, does appeal to horror audiences.
That’s a proper target audience for the film.
You can have more than one target audience for your product, but I’ll get to that in detail in a future post.
If you know who your target audience is, you can talk to them directly, in a language and a tone that would appeal to them.
You see examples of marketing directed to target audiences all the time. During the United States football season (fall) in 2014, the National Football League finally figured out that it had a demographic it had never targeted before—women. Ad after ad featured women watching the games (not serving food), buying gear, and dressed in clothing with a particular team’s logo. Some of this was because of the scandals that had engulfed pro-football (and the NFL wanted women on its side), but a lot of it had to do with studies that had shown that 46% of all NFL fans were women. And until those studies, the NFL had ignored that particular (large) portion of its audience.
The NFL made a significant change, with some pink merchandise that supported Breast Cancer awareness, and a variety of female apparel from maternity jerseys with team logos to form-fitting tee shirts to leggings to just about anything else you could imagine. Fantasy football advertising showed women beside men choosing teams (or women in groups cheering on their teams). The change has worked and continues to work, growing the audience, despite the controversies still engulfing the sport.
That’s just one example of targeted marketing. There are a million others. You target audiences all the time without thinking about it. It’s as natural as breathing for you.
How? Well, my friends targeted an audience in that discussion. They believed that I would love Get Out. I needed to see it, and they hard-sold it to me.
In that same conversation, discussing some TV shows, the speaker apologized to another person in the room, knowing that person wouldn’t be as interested in the topic as everyone else was.
We know our friends. We know which friend to share the gory novel with, which friend can only tolerate sweet romances, and which friend reads nothing but nonfiction. You wouldn’t foist a sweet and unbelievable romance on the nonfiction reader any more than you would give the sweet romance reader the gory novel.
Find Your Target Audience Without Research
Later, we’ll discuss how to refine your target audience or even expand it through research.
But right now, most of you have no idea who your target audience is and you’re flailing about trying to find your target audience.
You’re looking outside your writing room, seeing no one lined up to read your work, and wondering how to find your audience when you have no audience at all.
You’re doing it backwards.
You’ve finished your novel. Now, take that novel from your creative office into your marketing office. (I’m using a novel here because it’s a finite thing. We’ll discuss career branding and marketing later.)
Figure out what that novel is. Fantasy? Science fiction? Urban fantasy? Steampunk? Drill down, figure out your subgenres.
Then, figure out what the book focuses on. Are the characters Chinese-American? Native American? Is the book set in Chicago? Does the book have female-only characters?
Any one of those factors might focus your marketing. Two of them focuses it even more. Three of them helps tremendously.
So…your novel is steampunk set in Chicago featuring Chinese-American characters. Your target audience might be readers of Amy Tan or Ken Liu. You might look for book clubs that focus on books with Chinese American characters or themes.
Or you could focus on the history of Chicago, and market to the Chicago media in one way or another. Would Chicagoans like seeing a steampunk version of their city? I think they might. Or would they like to see how the Chinese were treated when they settled in Chicago over a hundred years ago? Perhaps.
Try it. You can drill down your marketing that specifically.
Pick just one target audience to start. And then…
Tailor your marketing message to that audience
How do you do that? You put yourself in that audience’s shoes. What will appeal to them? When the NFL targeted its female fans, it didn’t show them hosting hen parties while the men scarfed snacks in the living room. That would have talked down to women. Instead, it created products specifically for women and then marketed those items to women. Some of the ads for the Super Bowl featured women, cheering as vociferously as the men usually did.
In a really good (albeit a bit too advanced for our purposes) article on defining a target audience, the authors Neil Patel & Aaron Agius interviewed Yaro Starak of Entreprenuers-Journey.com. They asked him how to build an online presence. He immediately focused on targeted marketing, and started with this:
I’d first focus on establishing a crystal-clear empathy with the audience I was planning to serve, so I know what their problem is, how they feel about it and what they currently do to try and solve it.
Empathy. You’re writers. Find out what the readers you’ve targeted like and then put yourself in their shoes. Figure out what would appeal to them as well as what would turn them away from your product.
Talking down to those women the NFL wanted to target would have destroyed the effort the NFL made. Someone, somewhere, spent some time figuring out what parts of the NFL appealed to women, and then pointed the marketing in that direction.
Yes, sometimes that takes research, and we’ll deal with that in a future blog post. But just as often, all it takes is a bit of thought and a whole lot of empathy.
Traditional Publishing Marketing
The thing that started me on this branding series was Targoz Strategic Marketing reader survey, because the data that Randy Ellison compiled showed over and over again that most of the stuff traditional publishing does as marketing doesn’t work at all. It’s clueless marketing, based on ancient assumptions.
If you’re following the traditional publishing path, you’re probably doing marketing wrong. If you’re doing what ever other indie writer is doing, you’re probably doing marketing wrong.
You have a unique product and you have (or will have) a unique brand. You have to make that work for you.
It sounds so easy, and it’s not. It’s hard thing to do.
You will get the marketing wrong
More often than not, you might target an audience only to find they really don’t give a damn. Or while you’re targeting one audience, a different audience for your work has developed.
I was surprised when I went to book signings ten years ago that a major audience for my Smokey Dalton books was expatriate Southern white women raised in the 1960s who, as children, were not allowed to walk into African-American neighborhoods.
Time and time again, I talked to these women, who loved the books.
Later I figured out what had happened. St. Martins Press, terrified that a white woman had written a novel about an African-American detective, had tossed the first novel into the sink-or-swim mystery marketing channel. Had I been African-American, they would have marketed the book to African-American audiences only.
Instead, St. Martins hid the book from African-American audiences. Which meant that the readers who picked up the book were often white. And the white women who found it probably would not have gone to the African-American section of the bookstore, so to those women, this book was unusual.
The African-Americans who found the books loved them too. But that audience grew slowly, which surprised me at the time.
While I worried that the book wasn’t reading African-Americans, a whole different audience was growing that I hadn’t seen until I went to some signings and gave a few talks at mystery gatherings.
This is what happened with the NFL. They marketed 100% to men, and only gradually realized that half their audience was female. Whoops.
What do you do when you discover an unexpected audience?
You can do several things. You can retool your entire marketing strategy for a different target audience. Or you can do what the NFL did, and add in a completely different marketing campaign tailored to the audience you just discovered that you had.
It’s okay to miss
Your target audiences will shift over time. Some of that will happen naturally given what you’re writing. Some of it will happen because of world circumstances. For example, in an article about the development and marketing of Get Out, there’s this little tidbit:
Conceived in the Obama era, Get Out hits theaters with even greater resonance now. …
“This movie was intended to call out racism in what many people were calling a post-racial era,” Peele said. “People didn’t want to talk about race. Now, it’s an undeniable part of the discussion again.”
Target audiences change. Or grow. If steampunk suddenly becomes as hot as apocalyptic fiction did a few years ago, then you would tailor your Chinese-American Chicago steampunk marketing to include the new target audience who had just discovered steampunk.
Specific, specific, specific
The more specific you are in defining your audience, the better chance you have at building readership. Readership grows outward from one reader to two, two to three, three to four, and so on. At some point, the readers will end up doing the work for you, like my friends did for Jordan Peele. My friends targeted me as the audience; your readers will do the same for you.
So, as you search for your target audience, don’t focus on the audience you do or don’t have at the moment. (We’ll deal with that aspect of this down the road.)
Focus on the audience you want. The audience whom you believe is perfect for the book you wrote. The audience who would appreciate it more than anyone else will.
Talk to those people in language that respects them—and language that interests them.
Yes, this will require some thought on your part.
And since I’ve been assigning homework every week, let me assign something here.
Instead of fast-forwarding through ads on your favorite TV shows, watch those ads. See if you can guess what target audience those ads are going for. You can test your responses by looking at the demographics for that particular show after you’ve done your guesswork. You’ll see how well that show is doing in an age group and income category.
But I’ll wager you’ll see that in the ads without even looking at the demographic information.
And let me give you a mighty big clue: listen to the background music. Usually it’s a hit song from a particular time period. If you know the time period (say the 1990s), you know that the ad is appealing to customers who are in their late thirties and early forties. The theory is that familiar music will make the viewer more receptive to the product.
(In my case, the hit song from my era often pisses me off at the product and makes me yell at the TV, I’m not that old! Which is the indoor equivalent of Get off my lawn!)
I hope I answered those of you who asked about finding your target audience. As we get deeper into the series, I’ll probably do two more blog posts on this very topic. But this is the starter post.
Because of what happened last week, I have one more favor to ask. Please go back and look at last week’s post, and tell me in those comments or this one if there’s something else I need to explain in more depth.
I’m writing another blog series that will become another book. I promise that I’ll intersperse some non-branding topics into this blog over the next month or two. But on branding, we have a lot to cover.
Remember, I’m mostly writing this series as a refresher for me. (I need to focus on this right now.) I hope the series will be useful to you as well.
If you want to support the entire series, and end up with a free ebook of the finished book that comes out of these posts, then head to Patreon.com and hit the appropriate level of support.
If you liked this post or the short series I’ll be doing for the next few weeks, and want to show your one-time appreciation, the place to do that is PayPal. If you go that route, please include your email address in the notes section, so I can say thank you.
Which I am going to say right now. Thank you!
Click paypal.me/kristinekathrynrusch to go to PayPal.
“Business Musings: Finding Your Target Audience: The Early Stages (Branding/Discoverability),” copyright © 2017 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog © Can Stock Photo / andrewgenn.
THANK YOU! (yes, I meant to use all caps.) I am months behind in commenting on this because I wanted to finish my revisions for my book before I made the leap to getting ready to publish. I hope you get this and I’m not too late in commenting. I am starting my learning with your series on blogging.
You admitting that target audiences were second nature to you helped me have a bit of hope that maybe one day it will come easier for me. Then the fact that you are breaking down ‘finding your target audience’ is meeting me where I am. I do feel like I’m looking at a collage of socks and all are mismatched.
So THANK YOU for the blog series and taking us by the hand to go down the path.
Claire Mendenhall (Jennings)
Thanks for going into this, Kris. I’ve been one of those staring at the sock montage (even if sometimes only at a section of that montage, because apparently I haven’t been as clueless as I’d thought).
This may be addressed later on but it seems to be coming up for me on Facebook every time I finish reading this article, so maybe I’m supposed to try and ask this question. I’m seeing a lot of people worrying about the “also boughts” on Amazon for their author name and talking about splitting into pen names–basically branding a name with a certain niche and not crossing out of that. I’ve always thought I’d do tone (rather more the KKR versus Kristine Grayson rather than specifically by genre). Although, as I grow in my writing (thanks very much to many classes and thought provoking comments by you and Dean and others at the anthology workshop) I find that tone is often a shade of gray and not nearly as cut and dried as I might like it.
My publisher’s branding is “We believe books are meant to be devoured”. My current pen name is about books that can be devoured easily–they are light fluffy things that don’t take long to digest but they have a broad variety (of genre) to chose from. My target currently is mostly women who want a light escape. Maybe they have other things to think about and need something light and engaging to take them out of their life for the moment.
I am okay with publishing some middle grade/ya books under the same name because while I’m targeting younger, the audience will still primarily be female and the books remain light.
But, I guess the question is, how different can your target audiences be from series to series and book to book before it might be prudent to have a different pen name?
That’s something your actual audience will have to answer. Your readers will tell you–“I want to read everything” or “I love your light stuff.” The first one means they’re reading for your voice; the second means they’re savvy enough to know some of your fiction won’t work for them. And if a lot say that, you have your answer.
[…] https://kriswrites.com/2017/05/24/business-musings-define-your-target-audience-the-early-stages-brand… How to find your target audience. And how to fine tune if it changes. […]
Even after deciding to embrace women as a market, the NFL took some time to get it right. For a few years, almost all of the merchandise they aimed at women (jerseys, hats, etc) were pink! And not in a support awareness sort of way. They just thought women would want pink versions of what men were wearing. As if women went around wearing nothing but pink. As if THE WHOLE POINT OF TEAM MERCHANDISE ISN’T TO WEAR THE TEAM COLORS. Well, in the last couple of years, the NFL has figured out their error and now offers lots of womens options in normal team colors.
Very interesting topic and one which I feel very clueless about. I’m writing humorous fantasy-mystery/adventure set in an invented pseudo-medieval world and I don’t know how to define my target audience, other than as “people who would like humorous fantasy-mystery/adventure set in an invented pseudo-medieval world”.
I can’t seem to break out of that circularity of thinking! Other than marketing my book as what it is, I don’t know what else to do.
I knew I was old when Ozzy Osborne, bat eating devil worshipping monster of Tip O’Neal concerned mother’s league circa 1984 was used to sell a mini van.
I am so sad…also, great article.
Kris, I’m wondering whether it is important to determine the more external characteristics of one’s target audience, such as “male, ages 30-45, enjoy watching sports,” or the more internal characteristics having to do with mind set and such.
I suspect it is easier to find and connect with these people if you know their habits than it is if you merely know how they think.
I suspect that when I did the homework you suggested after the post with the steps for building a brand, my definition of my target audience relies too much on internal characteristics. How do I get from habits of mind and thought to demographics? Or do I need to?
Here’s what I came up with for my homework:
“They seem to be a thoughtful bunch, intelligent and compelled to explore the depths of topics that interest them. A few read philosophy or theology. One was an English lit major. Some have suffered greatly, but not been broken by their suffering. They continue to live courageously, with hope for themselves and their loved ones.
“They are of all ages: teens, young adults just starting out in life, mature professionals at the height of their powers, and wise old grandfathers and grandmothers. But they all love a good story with heart and great characters, set in a world full of wonder mixed with verisimilitude.
“I also thought about the other books they like to read.
“So… the people who love my books also love Beauty, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End, Sunshine and Chalice by Robin McKinley.
“The people who enjoy my books also enjoy The Sharing Knife, the World of Five Gods novels, and the Penric novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold; The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper; The Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip; and Charmed Life, Dogsbody, and Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones.”
I feel like I am missing the point, and all of the above isn’t quite right.
Thanks for these posts. I am learning a lot!
Clearly, I can’t find the sock drawer. It’s almost like I’m blindfolded.
I understand writing for yourself and doing the marketing afterward. I understand figuring out a specific target audience. But then what? I have nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff who devour my medical mystery series. I’d like to reach more of them. My first foray into Facebook ads didn’t do the trick for me. So it still feels like I’m running around saying, “Who needs socks? Mine are fluffy!” to the wrong people.
I do know what you mean about studying ads. I find it depressing to walk into the doctors’ lounge when the CBC is playing ads are for things like senior dating or making your bathroom more accessible. We used to turn on the classical music station for my daughter, until a funeral home ad made me jump up and say, “Enough!” On a more cheerful note, my husband pointed out that Weird Al was targeting a certain demographic in his “Word Crimes” video with its old Windows screenshots.
I turn off or block ads, which is now a liability when it comes time to understanding them. Thanks for trying to clear away the haze.
I’m looking forward to this series! I have a vague idea of my target audience (fantasy readers) but have no ideas on how to communicate with them.
-sigh- I know who my target audience /is/, I just don’t know how to reach them. Where do you find sci-fi addicted Baby Boomers?
Maybe we can form a support group. A couple of years ago I described my target audience as middle aged people who loved Greek mythology, ST, SW, and Ready Player One.
I’m assuming (read hoping hard) that there will be methods for learning how to find those people once we’ve figured out who they are? I can narrow stuff down on a practical level now that you’ve spelled it out, but I have no idea how to locate and or target the people I think might be my target audience.
Yes, I need a method, too.
Yes, there will be methods coming up, but you won’t like them. This isn’t do A, B, and C, and get results. Marketing isn’t like that. It’s more art than science. It works until it doesn’t any more. But be patient. There will be ideas in the series (and remember, this is a series), but mostly, you’re going to have to do the trial and error on your own.
A lot of you are asking for specifics for your circumstances, and I can’t help you with that. This is part of business that you will have to learn, as I said in the post, by trying and failing.
Also, bring in empathy, folks. Stop thinking about your audience as “other” and start thinking of them as friends. That will help.
If you haven’t picked up Discoverability, there are some ideas in that book to help with marketing in general.
I had a friend who hadn’t watched football for decades (this was in the late 80’s) and she happened to be around when someone insisted they had to watch whatever game. She was stunned to find that rather than chunky, grim, squinting men in baggy wool uniforms (Butkus, Unitas) it was now muscular young men who smiled and wore very tight shiny trousers. They had personalities! She became quite fond of The Refrigerator. That era had different marketing and the NFL audience grew hugely — but they STILL didn’t market to women until recently.
There are a few shows that my husband and I watch, see the ads, and realize we’re not in the demographic. I have no interest in 90% of what’s advertised in @Midnight, but we watch the show. Sports, though, we don’t care about pickup trucks, cheap beer, or Viagra. (And FFS, why are family cruises advertising using Iggy Pop’s ode to heroin?) There are some series where every ad break has a product or medicine that one of us or our friends use daily, like Colbert… My lawn, get off it.
I’m always struggling with branding. I write children’s books. My target audience is 8 to 10 year olds… but they don’t buy the books. So do I market to parents, librarians and teachers who do… Do I make all decisions as kid centric as possible? Or do I target the adults…
Marketing is not black or white. You can do both things. You can have a marketing campaign for adults, and one for kids. Remember Saturday morning cartoon ads? Have you looked at ads on kid-specific TV channels? Those are targeted to getting the kids interested, figuring the kids will do the work of nagging. If you look at family-friendly TV shows, you’ll see ads targeted at parents. Same product, different tone.
Question, since you’ve said empathy is so important to finding and defining your target audience.
I don’t really have any. Never have. I’m also a close to textbook INTJ, and I’m basically immune to emotional appeals. They’ve never worked on me, and are more likely to piss me off than incite sympathy, never mind empathy. I don’t understand empathy even the slightest, and I’ve never really experienced it. The kicker is I’m a romance writer. I have zero trouble digging into emotions on the page, but in real life I’m pretty much incompetent. Probably because on the page I have the time I need to understand it, whereas in real life I don’t have that luxury.
How can someone like me overcome the almost complete lack of empathy, so I can do a better job of finding my target audience?
Great question, Rachel. Hmmm. I’ll need to ponder that…
Huh. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that may well be part of my problem, too.
I’m an INTJ as well. I find the best way to handle this is (wait for it) data. I don’t have to have a gut level similar reaction to a thing in order to understand it. What I do need to do is find people in my target audience, hang out, and listen to them. Their concerns may not be mine, but I can certainly do some data gathering about when they respond positively, when they respond negatively, their fears, hopes, concerns. Obviously, every person is an individual (I may be in my target audience, but I’ll respond very differently from my sister, who may also be in my target audience, but has a deeply different personality.) I picture myself as an anthropologist, seeking to understand what is effectively a different subculture.
INTJs tend to be good at thinking things through and coming up with practical solutions (at least I am – I’m an engineer in my day job). This is similar to learning the parameters of any other situation so we can work within it effectively. I am not a horse, but when I worked on a horse ranch in my misspent youth, I learned how a horse thought so I could predict and affect horse behaviour to keep our guests, myself, and our animals safe and healthy. I don’t have to panic at the sight of a rustling bush to understand why my mount is concerned; I don’t need to be an extrovert to understand why my horse feels more comfortable with the herd.
People are a lot more complex than horses, obviously, but we’re clever, right? It’s not that we INTJ’s don’t care about other people, it’s that we express that care in different ways, often by making practical, non-emotional, fact-informed decisions that benefit them. Our little research project will help us gather the data we need to connect people who will be pleased and delighted by our stories with those stories.
So maybe start by identifying a member of your target audience in your social circle. (Let’s take my sister as an example.) Invite your research subject for coffee (or make them a cup of coffee, or if they’re anchored at home by circumstance or preference, bring them coffee) or another treat of choice, and have a conversation. People often love to talk about themselves and what they like. Telling someone flat out they have valuable information and you’re interested in learning about how they see things is not only an honest, straightforward way to approach the conversation, but it often gets things off on a good footing.
Read any good books lately? Awesome! What did you love about them? How did you find them? Where do you usually hear about books? Where do you hang out online? If I were looking for a bunch of other (young mothers, romance readers, professional women, hockey-loving men, teachers) online, where would I look?
Once you have an online locus for your target market, head over there and hang out. Lurk, if it’s permissible by the standards of the community. Read any code of conduct, and make a solid effort to follow it – remember, you’re an anthropologist, today, and you want to be subtle, so you can see how people interact, how they think and feel about things. (You may want to be a more heavily participating member later on – if people know and trust you, you can legitimately pop on all excited when your next book’s out – but that really does have to be sincere, so I wouldn’t do that if it’s not a place you’re happy to participate regardless.) Right now, read, listen, learn. If it’s a blog, YouTube channel or something of the sort, pay attention to the comments.
It’s important to hold your own emotional reactions in check (‘getting pissed off’ for instance). To an INTJ, some (or a lot) of the conversation may seem unnecessary, irrational, or inefficient, and we don’t always have a ton of patience for that sort of thing. Remember, though, this investigation isn’t for our amusement, it’s a research project to understand the mechanisms behind the behaviour, so that later, you understand what people will do and why. So keep those emotions and frustrations disengaged in favour of the intellectual puzzle as much as possible.
My father used to tell me that no one does anything for no reason. There’s always an underlying cause and reasoning for every behaviour. It may not be good reasoning, it may be founded on false premises, and the individual may not consciously understand it, but it’s in there. Until you understand the why, you can’t help change what’s happening. (Granted, Dad was talking about social justice and compassion, but the principles stand.)
Since it’s harder for us to intuit emotionally how people are feeling, we may need to lean on one of our strengths – the ability to comprehend and synthesize.
I haven’t used this technique on a target market (yet), but I’ve sure used it to improve my relationship with my extremely extroverted, emotional mother.
Hmm. Lots to mull over there. I’m not data driven, though. Never have been. I hate math, tracking data, and spreadsheets are the stuff of nightmares for me. I’m very much a make it up as I go person, and if it works I’ll repeat it. This is probably why I haven’t had a lot of luck experimenting with FB ads, all the data required to be successful with them just makes me shut down. The engineering brain is just as much of a mystery to me as the emotional brain or the extrovert brain.
My favorite subject has always been history. When it’s reduced to nothing but data, I totally understand why people think it’s dumb. History is all about the stories for me, about what daily life was like, how people thought. Which is all data, now that I think about it, but I don’t process it the way a data-oriented person would. It’s something I do with my characters, either through watching them play in my head within the boundaries of the time period in question, or by writing something that incorporates what I’ve learned. I process the world and what I learn through my fiction. When I can imagine something on a foundation of facts, I’m far more likely to understand it.
My strengths are my I and N, and both are in the 90’s. Gathering data isn’t a big component of anything for me. I find the idea behind the data far more interesting than the actual data.
I totally already know where most of my target audience is, and I hang out in those places myself as a reader. I have the data I need, but it still doesn’t make sense or help me in any way. I don’t write what they expect, even though when they actually read it they end up loving it and telling everyone they know about it. Getting them to take the chance in the first place is what I’m really trying to figure out. I’m making progress, but there has to be another tool out there that’ll help.
This is why Kris’s comment about empathy being a component resonated so much. It feels like it could be the missing piece, but I have no idea how to approach it. I understand emotion on the page, and the written word is what gets me emotionally involved. I’ll cry over a book character (including my own) a hundred times before I cry over something in real life. I’m also more likely to get emotionally invested in a book or a long-running TV show than a movie or even real life. Could be because fictional emotion still has to be logical, and I know how to build it from the foundation up.
Marketing is storytelling as well. Data-driven only in that you need to know where to focus. But tell a story in your advertising, and you’ll get people’s attention. Use your storytelling skills in your advertising, and you’ll do better than most writers will.
Excellent advice! Something I can work with, once I figure out how. I already prefer to let my fiction, in the form of excerpts and my characters interviewing each other, do the talking for me.
Thanks, Kris. I’ll be reading the series as you post it, and picking up a copy of Discoverability.
“Tell a story in your advertising”
Well, that’s what I do. I make up little stories describing my books, hopefully funny because I write comedy, and that’s what I use on the FB book groups. I get a few sales, but not many. Maybe I’m not in the right place.
With gratitude from INTJ females everywhere… 🙂
Based on the number of INTJ writers I know on FB, we’re present enough to need help. But nobody knows we’re out there, and we’re not usually the type to seek help or even acknowledge that our lack of emotional IQ is a problem. Especially when it comes to finding our readers.
(In my case, the hit song from my era often pisses me off at the product and makes me yell at the TV, I’m not that old! Which is the indoor equivalent of Get off my lawn!) –
Or when they use songs that they don’t understand like when someone used Bowie’s Jean Genie for a blue jean commercial.
Another clear, strong study of what goes into the business– “the” business sometimes meaning every business except publishing.
Here’s something that could be given in more detail, though it’s definitely an expansion beyond what’s here: how do you narrow down target audiences besides the broad strokes of finding demographics and setting similar to your protagonist? Most of your examples are of either of those, or basic genres, or else about recognizing an audience that had grown without help (NFL women, or Smokey’s white readers). So I’d love to know what other methods you’d suggest for defining an audience for a book.
I have 3 more target audience posts planned, and will go into some of that. Thanks for the suggestion!
Thanks for saying that, Ken. You’re getting at something that I’m finding hard to articulate, but it has to do with differentiating between the broad brush strokes of demographics and setting versus the precision of “prefer lyrical fiction with great characters and strong plot.”
I suspect that the former may be extremely useful for finding one’s audience, while the later may be necessary for branding for that audience. But, ideally, one has both sets of information.
I seem to have the detailed information, while lacking the broad brush information. Good to know.