Dear Indie Authors, Please Identify Your Target Audience in 2021


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.

The Problem.

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

The Problem.

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 beggingasking 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.

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?

I’ll wait.

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.

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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.

How to Review on Amazon:

Click this link. Scroll down to ‘Write a Customer Review,’ rate and leave your thoughts on the book.

Also, I am Soul is 99cents on Kindle for a limited time.

Self-Publishing (The Right Way) Is Not Free

I read a book a couple of weekends ago. I feel it has the utmost potential. To be clear, this isn’t a book from my book review service. I read this book on my own time from an author I do not know. I enjoyed the testimony; I loved the cover, and I can relate to much of the information.

Unfortunately, the book was in such terrible need of editing and formatting that it was troublesome to get through, which broke my heart. I am not usually ultra-sensitive to typos and such when reading a book for leisure. I am only irritated when the errors are so bad I can’t enjoy or understand the story.

I could tell very little money went into this book’s production just from reading it.

That is when I knew what I wanted to write to you as we enter this new month.

I know because I have been here. I have published books written in a Microsoft Word Document, turned it into a PDF, and uploaded it. I have not only removed a lot of my earlier works, but I have risked book reviews taking books down to revise them for this reason.

As many of us do when we enter Self-Publishing, I learned the hard way that authoring a book takes more than uploading a Microsoft Word Document or PDF to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Lulu. The hardest pill to swallow is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but it’s essential for new authors who choose to Self-Publish to be aware there are costs involved. Self-Publishing is not the easy route if pursued the right way. It requires both time and financial investment.

What Happens Traditionally:

I found it is helpful to understand what happens when someone publishes a book traditionally.

Traditionally, a publisher offers an author a contract. The author signs with the publisher who prints, publishes and sells the book through bookstores and other retailers. The publisher is buying the rights to the book and pays the author royalties from the sales.

Since this isn’t my area of expertise, I will leave it here. That’s the gist of it, but to learn more on Traditional Publishing steps, click here.

The most crucial part as it relates to this post is that the traditional publishing house “takes on the responsibilities and costs of designing, printing, distributing, and marketing the book.” (McLachlin)

Vanity Publishing

Vanity Publishing, the center of much controversy in the Indie world, is a publisher who publishes a book provided the author can pay for services. If the author doesn’t want to do everything independently and can afford to spend thousands of dollars to publish this book, a Vanity Publisher will gladly publish them.

Vanity Presses can look like Traditional Publishers to the untrained eye, but there’s a significant difference. The Vanity Press does not get paid royalties from the sale like a Traditional Publishing House. The Vanity Press gets paid money upfront from the author to publish them. The author is paying to get their book published. As you now know, this is not how traditional publishing works. After the Vanity Press publish the book, some allow the author to own the book and keep the profit from sales, but some Vanity Presses do not.

Why VP’s charge

Image Cred: Reedsy

Newbie authors get excited to be “signed” with Vanity Presses under the presumption they are like traditional publishing houses. They are not. VP’s charge authors to publish them because, without paying for services, there are no services. Vanity Presses have a bad reputation for outsourcing to mediocre editors and designers, so authors spend thousands of dollars (sometimes upwards of $5,000+) to receive poor editing and crappy formatting and graphic design.

Take Rocket Science Productions / RSP Marketing Services, for example, where “Phase One” of this publishing scheme involves a $595 payment for copyright registration and an ISBN. (ALLI)

Self-Publishing companies that promise you can keep “100% of your copyright” promise the new author something they already own because the work is under copyright from the moment of creation. If the author wants to go the extra mile and register it, they can do that for $45, according to the .gov copyright website here.

ISBN’s are expensive, but you can purchase a block of TEN from Bowker (US) for $295.

That’s TEN ISBNs for TEN separate books (or multiple versions of the same book) as opposed to paying almost six-hundred dollars for ONE.

Morgan James Publishing is another example, a vanity press that profits by selling books to their authors rather than readers. (ALLI)

Author Solutions and anything under Author Solutions and Xlibris are also Vanity Presses to watch out for.

The only people who get paid in this situation are the publisher or company offering the services. There are tons of people making six figures off green Self-Publishers. If I charged eight thousand dollars per author, I’d be a millionaire too.

The primary way to identify a Vanity Press is to understand one simple fact:

A traditional publisher pays the author, not the other way round.

But the traditional publisher also owns the rights to the book, which is why many choose to Self-Publish.

Self-Publishing 

With Self-Publishing, you pay to produce, market, distribute, and warehouse the book. This investment can get expensive, which is why I understand why writers fall for vanity presses. Suppose you pay $2,000 to get a book edited (which is not out of the ordinary for skilled, professional editing depending on the editing needed) and still need a decent cover and everything else. Why not pay $5,000 for a team of professionals to do everything for you?

The problem is that the books these “professionals” publish are low in quality, and sometimes the author doesn’t maintain the rights to their book even after paying so much to get it published. If you charge someone $5,000 to publish their book, it should look like it, and the author should own the rights to the book. There is no excuse for charging this much money to upload a poorly edited and formatted text with a generic cover to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and then call yourself a publisher.

Why Self-Publishing Can Be Free But Isn’t If You Do It Right

With Self-Publishing, you do not sign with a publisher, so there is no one to cover the cost of book editing and cover design. You are the publisher, so the financial responsibility is yours.

It will cost you nothing to upload a manuscript to Amazon’s KDP or Kobo or iTunes or whichever platform you’d like to use. You can take your Word Document or PDF and create an account with that platform and upload it. You can also go wide using Draft2Digital to make your book available on other ebook platforms like Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and iTunes.

But, if you want to produce a high-quality book, there are costs involved in getting the manuscript ready for publication.

You are not paying someone to publish your book, or I should say, upload your manuscript to KDP. You are investing in producing a quality product.

Technically, you do not have to pay anything to publish a book, but it will look like it.

You OWN your book, which places you in great authority, and with eminent authority comes greater responsibility. If you don’t want to be responsible for everything, then Self-Publishing might not be the route for you. It may be best to look into Traditional Publishing.

Again, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to publish a book. There are many great pre-made cover designs, for example, that are cheaper than custom made covers, and editors who have great deals.

This post’s purpose is not for you to think that paying a lot of money will make your book great automatically. No editor, despite how talented, can make a crappy story great again.

The purpose of this post is to inform those of you new to Self-Publishing that if you want to be an Independent Author/Publisher, you will have to invest some money in publishing your book if you want it done right. 

Click here for the Best Self-Publishing services and the worst rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors.


Looking for more Indie Author Basics?

Click Here.

Indie Author Basics with EC exists because after Self-Publishing my books, I quickly realized the lack of information available to Indie Authors. Sometimes the only way to learn is through experience, and I have discovered some ups and downs that I think will help those who are just beginning. I do not present these as concrete, guaranteed solutions, but I hope new authors can use these tips to better the Self-Publishing experience and make it less confusing.

Let each one, reach one.

Author Scams and Publishing Companies to Avoid

I came across this excellent article this morning on identifying author scams and publishing companies to avoid. Click on the read more here link below for the full article.

“The great thing about publishing with major retailers is that it’s almost always free! And unless you’re 100% technophobic, you shouldn’t have much of a problem uploading your book to Amazon or Kobo or Apple Books within a few quick minutes. There is often value in working with a professional to optimize your blurb and your metadata or perfecting your author bio, but getting your book listed on Amazon is not something you need to pay for.”

Read More Here

FREE Ways to Support Your Favorite Indie Authors

Buying books written by Independent Authors is a terrific way to show support, and word of mouth is still a powerful way to make sure other people know of an author’s work without spending money. There are tons of ways to do this online.

Review the book on Amazon – Amazon is still a powerhouse and trusted source of content for readers. It’s easy to send a review via email, DM, or to post about the book on Social Media. While I am confident, the writer will appreciate any form of support, reviewing a book on Amazon will undoubtedly give the author more exposure. Amazon is the third-largest search engine with Google first and YouTube second. But then, “if we exclude YouTube as part of Google, Amazon is technically the second largest search engine in the world.” (E-Commerce SEO). Suffice it to say Amazon reviews are a great way to support your favorite author, boost their exposure, and act as a great social proof form. In short, an honest, legitimate Amazon review will help an Indie Author go far. In the words of Michael LeBoeuf, “a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”

Just because someone bought a book doesn’t mean they read it. Leaving reviews is a great way to show the author that you read the book, whether you enjoyed it or not.

Click here to review My Soul is a Witness on Amazon

Rate/Review Book on Goodreads – While many people are no longer fans of Goodreads (and I’ve fallen off a bit there myself), do remember that it’s a platform full of people who love to read and talk about books! Granted, some people reviewing here are rude, but that’s certainly not everyone. Goodreads is still an excellent platform to use as an online word of mouth to discuss books read. It also allows for the sharing of reviews for books not posted to Amazon for whatever reason. If you don’t have the book, you can utilize the Want to Read button to add it to your bookshelf. Adding a book will show up on your page, exposing the book to your followers/friends. If an author is hosting a giveaway entering the contest will also mark their book Want to Read and add it to your shelf.

Note to authors: I have heard stories about people taking advantage of authors hosting giveaways on Goodreads when it involves paperback books. Please research this on your own as I have no first-hand experience with it, but I’ve heard complaints.

Click here to add My Soul is a Witness on Goodreads

Follow the Author on Social Media – Through social media, you get to learn more about the author outside of books. Many authors post pictures of their family, friends, and pets. Authors share their daily routines, hold contests, and take readers behind the scenes. Readers can interact directly with their favorite authors by sharing a post, saving a post, commenting on a post, and liking a post. All of this helps contribute to helping spread the author’s message without spending a dime.

Follow me on Instagram Here

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Like/Follow me on Facebook Here

Subscribe to the Author’s Blog – Following the author’s blog (if they have one) is an extension of following them on social media. Writers have the space to share so much more about themselves and their life’s work and inspirations through blogging. It is a great way to network and become privy to new material as writers tend to publish sneak peeks and short stories to their blogs before they publish them. Writers also post their publishing process in detail on their blogs. You may be inspired to write your own book and learn a thing or two.

Click that lovely subscribe button to follow this blog

Join the Author’s Mailing List or Author Group – Joining the author’s mailing list or author group opens up an opportunity to get to know the author on a much more personal level. You are interacting with them behind the scenes, sort of speak. An author may go live so you can see their face, hear their voice, and interact with them in real-time. Authors explain the deeper meanings behind their stories, answer questions, host private, exclusive contests, and much more. Joining the author behind the scenes in this way shows you trust them with your email address and are ready to commit on a deeper level.

Click here to Join my Author Mailing List

Post Image of Book on Instagram / Facebook – Posting images of the author’s book – or pictures of you and the author at an event – to IG and Facebook (tag the author) is an excellent public display of support. It helps leverage the author’s exposure through cross-promotion. One of your followers interested in that book will potentially follow the author, purchase a copy of the book, review the book, and become a new fan. They may post the book image to their page, and the process repeats itself as one of their followers may find themselves interested in the book. It is a beautiful and selfless display of support and strengthening of the author’s network and the Indie Author community in general.

There are so many ways to support the Indie Author community. I have mentioned these previously, but one crucial component sets this list apart as making a real difference for your favorite authors:

Participation.

Following someone on social media, subscribing to their blog, or joining their email list or author group means nothing without an active commitment to engage.


My Soul is a Witness is Out. Be sure to grab your copy today and remember to leave a review when you have finished reading! 🙂

My Soul is a Witness is LIVE

Good Day Freedom Readers!

My Soul is a Witness is LIVE.

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Signed Paperback

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About.

My Soul is a Witness, a collection of poems that reminds us that there is still hope in our darkest moments. Nothing we go through is without a purpose. No pain we suffer, and no trial we experience happens without reason. It all ministers to our education and the development of ourselves into the people we are ordained to become. It helps to cultivate in us a spirit of patience, faith, humility, and self-control.

Be safe and enjoy your week!!

Dear Indie Author, Don’t Let People Rush You

It’s easy to get caught up watching everyone else publish their books when you are still writing yours. In the Indie world, people publish frequently; some writers are churning out hits every month. And as we sit there, watching them hit Best Seller’s Lists and USA Today Best Seller’s list, we must fight the urge to rush our WIP (Work in Progress) just for the sake of getting something out there. Some people write best-sellers in a few weeks or months and some people, a few years.

It’s not just watching others publish that can make an author anxious, but it is also excited readers. Authors love their readers and rightfully so! Without a reader, there is no book, so authors cater to the literary needs of their tribe, listening to feedback, praise, criticism, suggestions, and recommendations. But, even in this instance, the author must hold ground!

Authors, lean in close…

No matter what these people say to you, stand firm because the compliments are captivating! Readers know how to stroke the ego. They are truly good at what they do. Do not underestimate it. Suddenly, you are the best author they’ve ever known (yes, more than Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison, JK Rowling, and Maya Angelou), and your book will give them life. Like, literally give them life. They will die without your next read.

Everyone breathe.

It is going to be okay. I can assure you, the reader is not going to die.

Simply smile, nod, and inform them the next book is coming, but it is not here now.

Trust me. Everyone will live.

Take as much time as is necessary for your masterpiece. Make sure it is as polished as you can afford to make it, and then, when no one is paying attention, it is done.

Your people will love the surprise!

Here are classics that took longer than a few months to write:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  (1 Year)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (2 Years)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (6 Years)

The Lord of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (12-17 Years)

 


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