Friday, June 6, 2014

Just Who ARE You People, Anyway?

I don't know who my market is.

That's okay, but I have to change that.  The story I'm telling with the Armageddon Series, starting with The Blessed Man and the Witch, is going to be told my way, because it's the kind of story I would have wanted to read.  But I don't know who I'm telling it to.  Yet.

There are some very graphic, brutal, horror-themed elements to it, so I can't market it to romance readers.  It's got a lot of harsh language and a few intimate situations in it, so I can't sell it to Christian fiction fans, despite the Biblical themes.  I term it a supernatural thriller, but that's such a broad category as to be almost meaningless.  But it'll have to do for now.  Perhaps it's horror.  A lot of thriller readers don't like their thrills to be too graphic, too...horrible, though.  And, I'll admit, the fact that the story is told across several characters has made it difficult for some readers to get into.

This problem of finding a market is far from unusual, and every publisher works hard to do it, from the big New York firms to self-publishers like me.  It takes time, money, and a great deal of effort.

Bland platitudes aside, here's a perfect example:

I publisher I worked for for over twelve years had created its own market from scratch.  Nobody else was doing what they were doing in the beginning.  The company's founder was brilliant: he identified a niche and filled it.  And for decades, his company was on top.

The whole story of why they're not on top any longer is not for this blog post, but two major things contributed to knock them off of their perch: changing laws regarding what can and can't be published in the United States, and the rise of the internet.

The latter was the worst hit, and still is for many non-fiction publishers.  Why buy a book when you can find the information on-line for free?  The internet forever altered the market, and my former employer did not change with the times.  They don't know who they're selling to anymore.  They used to do occasional surveys, but rarely changed marketing strategies as a result of the information provided.

So who's buying their stuff?  Millennials?  The 45-60 age group?  Just men?  Men and women?  And if they don't know, how do they market to them?

My intent here is not to trash my former employer, but to use them as an object lesson: learn who your market is, or you're wasting your marketing efforts.  Write what you want to write, and if you want to change the story you want to tell to suit your readers, great.  But you have to know who those readers are.

There are people out there who will buy your book.  They just don't know about it yet.  Get out there and find your audience.

TL; DR: Learn who it is your book is written for, and sell to them.

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