Entrepreneurship has been the talk of 2020. With the COVID-19 virus sweeping the world, many new businesses have been born. It is a delight to see people take something as detrimental as a deadly global pandemic and use it as the catalyst for stepping outside their comfort zones. Every day someone is beaming about their new business endeavor, and I am here for it.
Self-Publishing a book is a business, too, so if you published a book this year, congratulations! This is a fantastic accomplishment that deserves recognition and celebration.
But Self-Publishing a book is not a business for every author.
There are two kinds of authors. We must identify them before going into it:
- Authors who publish books for themselves
- Authors who publish books for an audience
If you publish a book for yourself, you are not necessarily interested in creating a writing business from the book or making money. You might have published this book as a primary teaching tool to awaken the lost sheep, or you may have published this book as a lifetime goal you always wanted to achieve. You might want to print a few copies for family and friends, but you aren’t interested in creating a business out of it.
You are doing this for yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that, but also, in this case, you don’t have to continue to read this post.
You probably should though. Ya know, in case you change your mind.
If you are Self-Publishing a book that’s important to you AND appeals to a particular audience, you want to keep reading this post.
You write a book for yourself and then try to sell it to everyone.
“Most self-published books are vanity projects, which means, the author paid for the privilege of having them published, and spent money getting professionals to help them edit, design and produce it, but they earn less than they cost.” -Derek Murphy
The mistake is you wrote this book and did not think about who you want to read it so you try to appeal to everyone.
“It’s easy to fall into the habit of writing what you love or writing to impress your peers or your editor. That might make for good writing… but it won’t necessarily attract readers. To do that, you have to write for, well, readers.” – Writer’s Digest
Who are these readers? Hint: They are not everyone you know.
Dear Indie Authors, Please Identify Your Target Audience in 2021.
Identifying your target audience means identifying your customer demographics and then figuring out which tools will best attract them.
Rather than targeting everyone, you are focusing on the ideal customer for your business. “That means, stop
begging, asking for help and support. Stop desperate, useless marketing tactics like spamming Facebook or blasting Twitter.” (Murphy)
You are not only identifying the ideal reader, you are thinking about real, actual people who would like to read your book.
“A lot of writing advice encourages you to define this ideal reader… but forgets to mention they need to be actual readers. If your ideal reader isn’t real, no one will read what you write. Instead of deciding what to write and defining a reader for it, start by defining your reader and writing for them.” – Dana Sitar
When you know your target audience it makes it easier to find your tribe. Your focus is on the people who are there instead of those who aren’t because you know you can’t please everyone.
But that’s what selling to everyone is like: trying to please everyone.
“Most self-publishing authors see their books as an investment, when it’s actually a gamble. It’s a gamble because they don’t know how to reach their readers (or who their readers even are). They don’t know whether anybody will really enjoy their books. They hope to make some money from their books but because they didn’t write it for the money, they are OK with continuously spending more and more time, effort and money into their books even when they get zero results.” (Murphy)
Instead of saying your book is for women, think about who these women are in more specific terms.
“My book targets women history buffs, aged 25-45, who love black history but are tired of the same white male-dominated narratives.”
Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for? What real people do I know would read a book like this? Maybe there is a black woman I know who is always talking about Ta-Nehisi Coates and happens to be reading Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. She might enjoy my Stella Trilogy.
Not so Good Example:
“My book targets women 20-70, suffering, that want to feel better.”
This one is too broad. Every woman you know is suffering from something and want to feel better, and it will be hard to market a book to this wide of an age group. You got millennials and senior citizens in the same club.
Why Does It Matter?
Once you know your target audience and what they want, you can give it to them by being of authentic service to your tribe, which means offering exceptional value consistently. Consistency builds trust, and people buy from brands they trust.
Understanding our target audience doesn’t mean our family and friends won’t support us. It means we are not targeting them in our marketing. To target is to direct an action or message to someone or something. Pookie and Ray-Ray may know you, but are you trying to direct your message to them?
How many family members have bought your book?
But this doesn’t only apply to Self-Publishers but entrepreneurs in general, especially in the age of social media. Most people have not even done the basic work of securing a website. You appear out of nowhere with something to sell. You then tell people to cash app you the money and expect them to trust you enough to do it. You can have all the faith in the world, but it still doesn’t exempt you from following a basic business practice.
It’s easy to become frustrated and exhausted about the lack of support for a company without much to show for your efforts when you are trying to appeal to the broadest possible audience. If you start a business and then spam all your Facebook and Instagram friends hoping they will support you, your message may seem inauthentic and doesn’t really resonate with anyone in particular. – Tucker Max, How to Write For and Target the Right Audience for Your Book
Another benefit to knowing your target audience is knowing you don’t have to be everywhere to be seen. If your audience does not hang out on Facebook, you do not have to be on Facebook. If they are not on Instagram, you do not have to be on Instagram. It is easier to be consistent when your attention is focused instead of divided. Go where your people are and build.
Indie Authors, and new entrepreneurs in general, would be a lot happier if we focused on serving our targeted audience instead of everyone we knew. Everyone does not care about you or your business, and it’s a waste of time, energy, and resources trying to appeal to everyone. No one is obligated to support you. People do not care about your product, book, or service. They only care about what it can do for them. Please understand this.
“If you aren’t writing for an audience and carefully considering the commercial viability of your project, if you aren’t expecting and planning to make more money than you spend, and learning exactly what it takes to achieve that, then you’re publishing for yourself, and it’s a big risk and gamble.”
Are You Building a Book Business or a Hustle?
Self-Publishing a book is expensive without a return on investment. As Murphy explains, it just becomes a gamble. I like to call it a hustle. When I think of that word hustle, I think of someone doing anything and everything to make it instead of aligning oneself with a strategic plan and purpose. If you are continually spending money to produce something that doesn’t give anything in return, it can quickly get frustrating.
Excellent cover design, editing, ISBN, and all that is basic; we should all know the importance of this in 2021. The self-publishing service providers, coaches, vanity presses, and assisted self-publishers rarely talk about how authors can make money from that book they just paid five thousand dollars to produce. Launching a #1 Amazon Best Seller is great, but that doesn’t mean the author is earning money. Being on the Amazon Best Sellers list is cool but what’s even more neat is having a faithful readership because a loyal audience will bring consistent book sales.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay to publish a high-quality product. It is to say that without an audience to buy it, it will feel like a waste of money.
Identifying a target audience is the key to any business’s success, and I mean success outside of personal gratification. In 2021, I hope we can all do better (myself included) in focusing on those who best fit the people we want to serve.
Looking for more Indie Author Basics? Click Here.
Don’t forget that if you have read My Soul is a Witness I am trying to reach 20 Book Reviews before this year closes and we are almost there! If you have the book (and have read it), do consider leaving an honest review on Amazon.
Why It Matters:
It’s a real challenge for Indie Authors to market books without Amazon reviews because reviews act as social proof and establish credibility and competence in the publishing marketplace. Are you an author? In need of reviews? Be sure you RSVP for my 2021 list. Click Here.