Case Study: 10 Simple Steps to Promote a Novel, Part 2

I was grateful to be able to use Linda Cassidy Lewis as a case study on how to profile a Right Reader.  Since she’s a glutton for punishment, she’s graciously allowing me to use her again… this time to illustrate what I’d suggest be her next 10 steps for promoting her self-published novel, The Brevity of Roses.  Last week, we covered the first five steps to promote her novel. These are steps 6 through 10.

6.  Reviews, reviews, reviews. From readers this time.

Amazon. Barnes & Noble.  Goodreads.  This step tackles social proof, as well — that’s the thing that convinces people to try your book.  Even if they don’t know the other reviewers, if there are a lot of other people who say they’ve read it, good or bad, then people automatically think “well, there must be something worth reading here” and more easily plunk down their cash.

Don’t be afraid of bad reviews.  Even wretched reviews turn out to be helpful — they convince potential readers that you haven’t just rounded up your family and neighbors to put five-stars on your book page.  In fact, they often promote a sense of controversy: how can there be five star and one star reviews for the same book?  Obviously people feel strongly about it!

Don’t use reader reviews on your book page or your promotional items (unless it’s really colorful/memorable, and I mean really.  Like the World of Warcraft testimonial “my husband won’t have sex with me anymore” sort of memorable.  Or, on second thought, perhaps not.)  But you still want to get as many reader reviews as you can.

Two ways to do this:  offer a review based contest. This is where someone can enter for a prize of some sort (not the book! Because presumably they’ve already read it!) if they email you proof that they posted a review about your novel.  I’d suggest prizes be either a gift certificate (for Amazon or B&N, for example) or something similar… nothing too nuts, like a Kindle.  Make sure that you don’t say what kind of review it is (no “if you give me a five star review, you could win $25 worth of books!”)   Here’s a great example of Kalayna Price using a contest to “get the word out,” including reviews.

The other way:  a new service called Book Rooster.  I just found out about this.  According to their website, they have 2,750 readers signed up, although I’m still not sure what the split is among the genres they mention.  In Linda’s case, I’d recommend choosing reviewers interested in women’s fiction and perhaps literary fiction, as well as romance.  The cost is $67. If this gets more popular, I imagine they’ll be raising their price.  I’m also sure there are other services and “swaps” for reviews out there, but this seems simpler, if a bit pricier.  As I hear more, I’ll post about it.

7.  Guest post.

This is one of the best ways to generate both traffic for your site and sales for your novel.  The trick is finding places that are good for this particular project.

When I get a genre project, once I’ve read the novel and the author questionnaire, I start to plan the launch.  In a lot of cases, this means blog tour, a term I initially recoiled from but have since been won over to.  A blog tour is basically an organized set of guest posts and interviews, orchestrated as an event and promoted as same.  Either posted on an author’s news/events page or on a separate page of its own on an author’s site, sometimes with an advertising “badge” that can be distributed with a link to that page, every stop is listed & linked.  Every stop is also publicized on the author’s social media.  This helps the blogs where you’re stopping as well as your novel.I like to shoot for twenty stops, one week before to two/three weeks after a book drops.

Linda’s case is special, first because she’s self-published and a lot of review sites still exclude self-pub, and second because her book has already “launched” and many review sites don’t review already released material, preferring to emphasize new releases for their readers.  Also, there’s the previous women’s fic/literary fic thing that I mentioned earlier.

In Linda’s case, I would suggest she get in contact with the self-publishing tribe, which is very strong.  I’d look for other authors who write similar material, and offer to swap posts on each other’s blogs.  I would suggest targeting some of the writing sites I mentioned in step 2, like Writer Unboxed if at all possible, and write guest posts that fit the tone of the site.  Getting a guest post on a site like J.A. Konrath’s is obviously the holy grail, but worth investigating.

Beyond that, you might look for things that are similar to the subjects covered in the novel.  I don’t necessarily recommend spending a lot of tribe building efforts there, but if your Right Reader is a woman for whom family is important and journeys of self-discovery are fascinating, then websites, blogs and magazines geared toward those audiences are the perfect place to target for guest posts.  Someone as fascinating as Jonathan Fields might be approachable; possibly Think Simple Now or Goodlife Zen would be solid candidates.

8.  Consistent social media.

Linda already has the tools, and a very healthy tribe.  She’s got a blog with regular commenters, showing an engaged readership.  She’s got a good number of Twitter followers.  What do you do with that, though?

I would create a strategy.  First of all, you don’t want to spend your entire life posting to Twitter, and Facebook, and all of that.  There are ways to streamline the process.  If you use something like Hootsuite, you’re able to post whenever you post a blog, for example, to both social media platforms.  Some people think that this is “laziness.” I look at it this way: not everyone I know on one platform follows me on the other — and if I post it on Twitter, odds are good somebody will miss it but catch it on Facebook, and vice versa.  It’s hedging your bets.

Decide how often you’re going to post about what.  Promoting your blog posts is important, but if that’s all you’re doing (or worse, simply mentioning your book is for sale, or your multitude of blog tour stops, or whatever) then it’s going to be a “ME ME ME!!” fest.  Nobody wants to hear that — and few do, since most either tune out or unfollow.

The rule of thumb is 80% useful stuff to 20% promotion.  I’d add one element:  interaction.  It’s not simply broadcasting, it’s engaging with your fellow social media peeps.  Tweet or post about stuff you think they’d be interested in.  On Goodreads, post book reviews often, about books you enjoy that you feel your Right Reader would also enjoy.  Post about breakthroughs in psychology, or a blog that you found fascinating.  Share.

Decide on how many tweets/posts you’re going to do a day, and approximately when.  I’d say at least three — shoot for morning, afternoon and evening.  If you have a spare moment, peek in, and comment. I’m more of a Facebook girl than a Twitter peep, but I’m slowly being won over… and Google Plus looks like it may blow them both out of the water.  I think it’s okay to pick one that you love, and support it with the others.  That means you can post on all of them, but interact more on one.  I’d do that about twice a day.  Agree with someone, wish someone a happy birthday, give an interesting tidbit or an authentic point of view on a topic.

It seems so small… but it helps.

Don’t know what to say?  Again, 80% should be contribution, or useful and interesting stuff, usually re-tweets (shared links from someone else.)  Look for headlines that are clear, and obviously helpful.  Also, finding things that your Right Reader would find funny and resonate with are often the stuff that gets the most traction: here’s the place to share those YouTube videos you find funny, or web comics, or simply humorous blog posts.

9.  Track results.

If you don’t have Google Analytics on your website, it’s worth getting.  (Well, it’s free, so it’s worth even more.)  Why?

Not only will it tell you how many people (unique visitors, not just you jumping on every ten minutes to see how it looks <g>) visit your site on a daily basis.  It says how many people looked at what pages… which means you can see how many people read your blog versus how many people actually looked at your book page.  You can also see where they came from.  Wondering which people are coming from Twitter versus Facebook?  Or how many people typed a keyword combination, like “roses and romance”?  This will tell you.

Because I’m a beast with a spreadsheet, I would encourage a tracking metric of some sort, to see how many followers you’ve got (or lost) from month to month; possibly checking which posts were the most popular, via visits and comments; and seeing where traffic is coming from.  I’d also say check only once a month or so.  It’s easy to get obsessive about this stuff, and that’s not healthy, either.

10.  Write your next release.

This seems obvious, and perhaps tongue in cheek.  I couldn’t be more serious.  In the Wild West of electronic publishing (and self-publishing), there’s a documented reaction:  your next book boosts sales of your last book.  Those who are succeeding are often the most prolific. I’m not saying push productivity beyond all reason, or emphasize speed at the cost of quality.  I am saying that the best promotional tool is your next novel


So here, in a nutshell, is what I’d recommend for the next 10 promo steps for Linda Cassidy Lewis’s novel, The Brevity of Roses.

Sure this looks easy… but what if you’re stuck?

I was running an outrageous special this month, beta testing the Rock Your Promo service for $25,  but the ten spots are already gone.  Until the end of July, I’m still offering it at a discount, however.  For only $50, I can provide a Right Reader profile, a website evaluation, and ten “next promo next steps” for your project.  This price is only available until July 31st, because the amount of time it takes to tailor each is more than I’d imagined!

If you found this article helpful, please re-tweet… hey, it could be part of your “80% helpful sharing!”  🙂


Case Study: Target Audience and Promo Suggestions

In this post, I’m going to illustrate how I profile a Right Reader, based on a writing sample and a questionnaire.

The Author:

Linda Cassidy Lewis, novelist who runs “Out of My Mind,” a blog about writing, self-publishing, and whatever else she wants.  Her bio:

“Linda Cassidy Lewis was born and raised in Indiana and now lives with her husband in California where she writes versions of the stories she only held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. She blogs about her writing experience—typos and all. The Brevity of Roses is her debut novel.”


The Excerpt and Questionnaire Answers:

Linda had self published her first novel, The Brevity of Roses, when I met her, and she’s working on more projects in a similar vein.  I agreed to analyze her Right Reader, based on her excerpt, and her answers to my prelim questions.  Here’s what she responded…

1.  What genre, and perhaps subgenre, do you feel your novel fits?  (If you don’t feel there’s just one, mention two that it might fit into.)

Women’s Fiction/love story with a literary bent.

2. Who do you see as a similar author?  Who is writing in a similar voice, or a similar subject matter? (Ideally in the same genre.) One of my critique partners says Nicholas Sparks, but I don’t know because I’ve never read a Sparks novel. My favorite author is Anne Tyler.

3a.What theme do you address in the novel?  Is it a theme you like to revisit in your work?

I addressed specifically how grief individually affects us and allied with that is the theme of letting go of the past. 

3b.  Is it a theme you like to revisit in your work?

The first part, probably not; the second part, probably.

4. What do you feel makes your work unique in your genre?  Is it your characters?  Setting?  Subject matter?

It’s unusual to have a male protagonist in Women’s Fiction, and also somewhat unusual to have three POV characters.

5. If you were pitching this to an editor, what would be your “hook”?

Oh boy, not my strong suit. I guess I’d say it’s a story, told through three viewpoints, of how one man’s search for love forced him to find himself.

6. How old is your protagonist?  Where does the story take place? Is setting important?

He’s 30 at the beginning and 40 at the end.   Mainly, in two fictional California towns.  Yes, the settings are important because of symbolism. For example, Jalal’s home is on the coast, literally perched on the edge of the ocean—a wealth of symbolism—and is often fogged in. Also, in the majority of the book, it has a struggling garden. All those elements are reflective of his emotional state.

7. What would you say is the major source of conflict in the book?

Fear, in general. Specifically, the inability to let go of the past, fueled by an underlying lack of self-worth.

8. Who do you think this book would appeal to, and why?  Who do you currently see as its “Right Reader”?

Women, aged 30-55, who enjoy the escape of reading, but don’t mind thinking a bit while doing it.

9. (This was specific to her, but applies to anyone who has an active blog.)  You’ve got a blog that deals with self publishing and writing topics, as well as promoting your novel and author brand.  Who do you feel is the readership for your blog?

Since I started my blog long before I made the decision to self-publish, it only recently reflects that. My blog has always been a sort of journal of my life as a writer. Other writers have always made up the majority of my readers.

The Profile:

Here’s the capsule profile I sent back:

“Women aged 30-55 in urban/multi-cultural suburban regions.  Reads Anne Tyler, Wally Lamb, Alice Hoffman, Amy Tan… possibly Audrey Niffenegger.  Likes Ellen Degeneres show, Oprah (when it was still on), maybe TV series like Brothers & Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee.   Probably married, still in touch with family – perhaps siblings, aging parents.  Has kids. College degree.  Probably has a job, inside or outside of the home…not hideously busy, but juggling.  Sees reading as a comfort & a treat; definitely reads voraciously. Owns an e-reader and impulse buys based on friend’s recommendations and interesting samples. “

What if you don’t feel any connection with the profile?

She shared with me that she wasn’t familiar with a lot of my references, and as a result might have felt a disconnect from her audience.  This shouldn’t be the case.  Your Right Reader should be someone you’d feel comfortable hanging out with, not a stranger you’re trying to capture!

After that exchange, I made sure to tie in authors that Linda was familiar with.  From there, she can hopefully see the connective tissue between what I feel her Right Reader likes, and what her Hedgehog or Unique Thing is.  In this case, it’s a mainstream women’s fiction with a male protagonist of a different cultural background, on a journey of personal discovery that involves a clash with family.  Everything I’ve entered in the profile includes elements of that in one way or another.

If you can recognize what makes your work special, and look why your Right Reader might be drawn to it (and what you both might have in common as a result) then you can see how the profile works.  That’s why I usually picture my best friend.  We don’t like all the same things, but I know what reading she likes; I know what books to recommend, know what movie tastes we share, etc.

The fact that I’ve commented that the Right Reader owns an e-reader is basic, by the way — if you’re selling an e-book, yes, you could sell to people who read on their computers, but it’s a minority and you want to target someone who is actively, hungrily searching for your book — not someone who could read your book, given the right incentive.

What if the profile’s wrong?

Of course I could be wrong.  This is more an art form than a hard science, and I’m no guru. But I do feel that this is no more complicated than Psych 101… or perhaps matchmaking. 🙂  At any rate, you’ve got the basics, and you’ll be able to dial in the rest as you get more reader input in the form of fan letters or blog comments — which, with any luck, you’ll get more of as you use the profile. 🙂

But what do you do with it?

Now that I’ve drawn the profile, what the heck do you do with it?

Next blog:  Recommended “Next 10” Promo Steps based on the Right Reader Profile.  I’m going to use Linda’s case study one more time, to show you what I’d do as a publicist for this profile and project.

If you found this helpful, please re-tweet!


How to Profile Your Target Audience, Part 3: Tools & Tricks

I was going to write the case study out, but it looks like this post is going to run long as it is, so I’m going to just show you my weird process, then show you how I walked through it with my guinea pig next time.

I’m still streamlining and refining the process, but this ought to give you an idea, as well as show you some neat tricks & tools to find your Right Reader and where she “lives,” as it were.

The Questions.

Here are the questions I ask when I’m stalking a Right Reader:

1.  What genre/subgenre do you feel your work fits into?  (If you feel you’re a genre-jumper, or genre-straddler, think of two places in a bookstore where it might be shelved.)

2.  What authors do you feel are similar?  Note:  these should be authors you recognize and like.

3.  What theme(s) do you address in your novels?

4.  What do you think makes your work unique in your genre?

5.  What do you think will satisfy readers in this genre?  What’s similar to other genre books in your books?  What conventions do you uphold that you feel your reader will appreciate?  (This will help reassure you that you’re in the right genre, incidentally!)

6.  If you were pitching this to an editor, what would be your “hook”?

7.  How old is your protagonist, generally (range)?

8.  Do your stories generally take place in one geographic location?  (I.E., Stephen King’s Castle Rock, Jim Butcher’s Chicago, Jennifer Crusie’s Ohio.)

9.  Do you already have hints of who you suspect your Right Reader will be?  What do you feel connects you to your Right Reader?  (What do you have in common?

These are not easy questions.  They’ll take some time, and some thought.  But they are important.

Who loves what I’ve got? And what else do they love?

Look at your answer to #4:  what makes your work unique.

This is probably the hardest question in the lot, for obvious reasons.  People have a hard time identifying what makes their work special, either out of a sense of modesty or genuine lack of perspective because they’re simply too close to it. Again, you could always ask friends what they think makes your work… well, work.

Once you isolate the Hedgehog (hee), you’re going to ask yourself:  what sort of person likes this in a book, generally speaking?  What’s similar to this quality in other things they might enjoy?

Let’s say you write murder mysteries. You write a series involving an amateur sleuth that works at a funeral home: that’s your hook.  You’re also pretty funny about it.  Right there, that tells me you’re targeting readers that like Black Comedies.  Extrapolate out:  they might also like movies like The Last Supper, or Harold & Maude, or they might have enjoyed the television series Six Feet Under or even Pushing Daisies. Depending on your level of macabre, you could include Dexter in there, either the television show or the Darkly Dreaming Dexter mystery series.

Category romance:  you always write steamy stories for one particular line, involving contemporary cowboys of one sort or another. We assume your Right Reader is hooked on this.  So what else might she like?  The television series Deadwood or Justified, maybe.  She might read Larry McMurty.  She might read Diana Palmer.  Maybe it’s more the credo:  she might like anything with a high moral code and a kick ass hero. There are plenty of authors, movies, t.v. series and films that use that:  anything from Stephen King to King Arthur.

“Wait!  I don’t know any of these things!  How can I profile my Right Reader if I don’t know popular culture?”

First, deep breath.  🙂

Second, look at what you like.  Your Right Reader is not exactly like you, but she’s not a complete stranger, either.  Odds are good you guys have plenty of stuff in common.  Remember what I said in the last post, about your Right Reader being someone you’d like to hang out with?  Well, you like your book, right?  And it was influenced by something, yes?  So work from that.  Assume your Right Reader would be interested in something that influenced what makes your book special.

Third… there are tools & techniques to help you figure some of this out.

The Tricks.

1.  Netflix.

If you go to the Netflix website, they have all their movies separated by genre:  action/adventure, dramas, romance, etc.  If you click on a genre, and then look down the right hand column, you’ll see their sub-genres:  action comedy, martial arts, comic book, spy action, and that’s just for action/adventure.  You’ll be able to find things that are similar to something you’ve identified, to sort of flesh it out.

2.  Amazon Advanced Search.

This is incredibly useful for a number of things, I’m discovering.  Put the hook in the keywords.  Taking the funeral home mystery, I did a search on keywords black comedy and funeral home, and I chose “mystery & thrillers” under the subject.  No books showed up. (So mystery writers — here’s your chance!  Field’s wide open!)  However, two British movies did show up:  Death at a Funeral and Keeping Mum.  Something to think of for later.  Next, I went back and took funeral home out, leaving just black comedy.  That came back with 35 book results.  I’m not saying that your Right Reader will have heard of all of these, but if you glance over the list, you might see some familiar titles to add to your profile.

(The other plus?  Both of these “tricks” will at the very least show you cool stuff that you’ll probably enjoy.  So that’s something, right? 🙂 )

3.  Gnooks.

I love this site.  Once you get a sense of what writer is similar to you (or you’d like to be similar to), you can look up that author’s name, and get a “map” of authors that are similar to him or her.  Feel your writing is similar to David Eddings?  Bam!  Look who else comes up in their visual web of similar authors!

“Remind me why I care about any of this?”

Stay with me. 🙂

You can go back to the earlier posts, part 1 and part 2, that talk about why I think it’s important to have a sense of your Right Reader.  But basically, all of this is for one thing, and one thing only:

Learning how to talk to your reader when you’re not communicating through your books.

All books are a form of communication.  You’re sharing a story, as well as a world-view, a theme, an experience.  When you’re not telling stories, they’re going to want to feel a sense of connection to you.  It will help if you have a sense of who “they” are.  Not all of them — you’ve got a finite brain, after all, and you’ll probably want to sleep at some point — but the ones who are the closest to you and your work.

If nothing else, you’ll never wonder “what the hell am I going to blog about?” again.

If you found this helpful, please re-tweet. 😀


How to Profile Your Target Audience, Part 2: Hedgehog Hunting

A lot of people seemed to respond to my initial post on how to profile your target audience, so today we’re going to continue in that vein.

Missing: One Hedgehog.

The stumbling block seemed to largely be figuring out what’s special about your story, or what I call your Hedgehog.

I remember working with an author who, when I asked “what’s special about your story? What makes it unique?” then answered:

“It’s a category romance. How unique does it need to be?”

Make no mistake: she loved category romance, and it wasn’t an intentional insult. In fact, if anything, it was a recognition of the sort of mental trap writing genre fiction can do for promotion.

You think “hell, I write Regency Romance/cozy mystery/vampire urban fiction.  I love my stories, but there are a billion of them out there.  I’m just going to put it out there, hope readers realize that they love my voice, and tell their friends.”

It’s more than your voice.

Yes, your voice is going to set you apart. But it can’t be the only thing.

Let’s look at the current everybody’s-writing-one genre: vampire fiction.

You’ve got your Twilight, your True Blood, your J.R. Ward Black Dagger Brotherhood.  Hot and sparkling and the whole damned gamut.  All of them deal with the same thing: vampires.  But you’ll notice each of them have their own signature.

Twilight is young adult, to start.  Then again, so is P.C. Cast’s House of Night series.  Different settings: different mythologies.  Definitely a different feel and different treatment.

Charlaine Harris has written a series of vampire mysteries, basically.  J.R. Ward has written an urban fantasy romance series with plenty o’ steam and a wild mix of aristocracy and ghetto fabulousness.  (If you read her, give me a “true dat!”)

My point is:  there is always something different. It’s never just “voice.”

Start with your genre/sub-genre.

What story are you writing?  If you were only allowed to shelve it in one section of a bookstore, where do you think it would most likely sell?

This will at least give you an idea of what you’re differentiating from, and where your Right Reader most often hangs out.  Granted, your Right Reader probably wanders around a bookstore or browses through online store categories, but there’s one place that’s going to be a comfort read.  You want your book to live there.

Also, you want to be able to use the shorthand of genre to describe what you’ve written, then add your twist.  “I’ve written an Urban Fantasy about demons (the genre/subgenre), where a spunky secretary discovers she’s just signed on to help her boss kill thirteen people to get back his soul (the hook/differentiator.)”

Don’t worry — we’ll talk about hooks, twists and differentiators in a second.

What book or series is it most similar to?

Unless you’re Chuck Palahniuk, do not tell me “it’s different than everything.” (If you are Chuck Palahniuk… well, then. Do whatever the hell you want, obviously. <g>)

If you’re writing genre fiction, you’ve got certain conventions that you have to maintain simply to provide the reader with a satisfactory experience.  When I read a romance, I want a happy ending, damn it.  When I read a mystery, I want a corpse, not a misunderstanding.

I don’t care how brilliant a writer someone is, if she sets me up and then plays me, that book’s hitting the wall, then the donation box.

Once you know who you’re similar to as far as voice and subject matter, you’ve again got a frame of reference.

One of these things is not like the others…

I’d say, read a lot of things in your genre/subgenre.  Especially look at the bestsellers… they’re there for a reason, and odds are good your Right Reader has read them.

What are the conventions and stereotypes of the genre?

Vampires — blood sucking, sexy sophisticates,  sleep-all-day-party-all-night.  Dracula.

Fantasy — sword & sorcery, wizards, powerful person somehow in disguise, band of companions, quest.

Cozy mystery — small towns, amateur sleuth, gossipy communities, kitschy gimmick

Now look at what you’re doing.  You’re going to want similarities — again, don’t want to completely spin out of genre orbit — but you’re looking for what makes you different.

Let’s take my original one:  category romance.  You’re writing not only for a fairly standard genre, but you’re writing for a very narrow niche where there are strict interpretations.  You may not even think you need to come up with an angle — the books sell themselves.

They might — but they don’t sell you.  And the most important reason for finding your Right Reader, and emphasizing your differences?

To get them to notice your writing.  And, you know, want more of it.

So you look at what’s standard, what’s expected.  Let’s say you’re writing for a “hot” series line.  Looking it over, you see lots of Alpha males, high-powered professions perhaps, or conversely heroic ones (firefighter, Navy seal, etc.)  You see sassy women.  Since heat is a key, the scenarios tend towards couples thrown together, or agreeing to brief flings only to discover they’re stuck for whatever reason for an entire novel.

Ideally, you’re going to twist one element. You’re going to take one stereotypical standard, and tweak it so the reader is surprised… and intrigued.

Most important: focus on what you love. Why you wrote the story.

If you’re writing more of a conventional story, don’t despair.  Instead, pour even more love into what you originally wrote the story about.

If you wrote a story because you love the idea of a wounded hero, perhaps a veteran returned from the war who falls in love with his at-home nurse… you go with that.  Yes, it’s a familiar trope.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful, and shouldn’t be emphasized. And that’s definitely what you want your Right Reader to appreciate.  So how better to connect with him or her than to put that out front?

Hopefully, in all these questions, your Hedgehog is going to amble out and say hello.

Trust that there’s something unique in your work.  If you don’t believe it, no one else will.

In the next post in this series…

The final part of the series, next week, will show you some ways to piggyback on greatness when it comes to profiling your target audience.

If you found this helpful, please re-tweet on Twitter, or “like” on Facebook (you can even use the handy-dandy little boxes, below, where it says “share the knowledge!”)


How To Profile Your Target Audience, Part 1

How to Profile Your Target Audience.Jim Butcher is the kick-ass, brilliant author of the Urban Fantasy mystery series The Dresden Files.  He’s got a number of unique qualities in his writing (as well as a plotting acumen that I frankly bow at the altar of) but I’d say his Hedgehog (or unique “thing”) is his world-building, and his “Buffy Noir” voice, as well as the twist of  a supernatural flatfoot roaming the streets of Chicago like it was its own character.

So who might like this?


I’d guess his Right Reader is male, probably between late twenties and early fifties, who likes Star Wars, D&D, Magic: the Gathering.

His Right Reader watches comic book movies like Thor and Green Lantern; he also likes The Adjustment Bureau and Inception.  Watches SyFy channel, probably stuff like CSI or Criminal Minds.  Probably reads a lot of blogs and is very tech-savvy.  Quite possibly plays World of Warcraft and owns several gaming platforms.

Now notice:  I largely don’t fit this profile, and I am a huge Jim Butcher fan.  I am a walking infomercial for the Dresden File series.

So why do I draw the profile this way?

Because these are people who are most likely to connect to it just from hearing about it.  They’ll read the back cover blurb, they’ll see the storyline, they’ll read the first page or two.  They’ll be in that section of the bookstore.  Or they’ll be lurking on the sites that might discuss it.

Also: they are the most likely to be very vocal about their enjoyment.  Furthermore, their network is most likely to be receptive to hearing about it.

I spread the word, too, but my network isn’t primarily paranormal/urban fiction, so the odds of it spreading are half of what his Right Reader would be.

How did I do that?

1. Start with gender.

Romance skews heavily female.  Sci-fi/fantasy written by men still skews male, even if fiction readers in general favor women.  With stuff like legal drama or police procedurals, it’ll depend on some other factors, like what gender your protagonist is.

Odds are good you’re writing for your own gender, and odds are equally good your publisher thinks the same way.  If you’re a woman and they’re asking you to change to initials, odds are good they’re trying to attract male readers, btw… they know women will find you anyway, and men might be more put off by “Jane Writer” than “J.B. Writer.”

2.  Look at age range.

Jim Butcher’s main character is in his thirties… young thirties, at that.  I’d use that as an initial, and then expand the range to about a twenty-five year spread.

I don’t worry too much about age, but it helps to round out your profile.  (I find I picture my Right Reader at about my age, or the age of my character.)

3.  Look at what makes the story special.

Harry Dresden, the protagonist, is a flatfoot Wizard who solves crimes and saves the world with a tongue in cheek elan.  That said, he also uses lots of Star Wars references, plays Dungeons & Dragons-styled games with his friends, and basically lives like a poor college student.  He’s funny as hell. All these details flavor his character and separate it from other Urban Fiction Noir out there.

4.  Look at who would most appreciate what makes the story special.

Star Wars fans, obviously.  People who go to the ComicCon.  D&D enthusiasts.  The short-lived show based on the series was on SyFy, so that was a slam-dunk.

I guessed on the TV shows, but there is a strong mystery element, as well as humor, in the series… and you get involved with the characters’ personal lives, as well.  That’s where Criminal Minds and CSI tie in: the Dresden series isn’t a light, cozy mystery, or a romance where the mystery element is almost secondary.

(For those cozy sort of stories, I imagine you’d see more fans of Castle or Bones.  This isn’t knocking them — it’s just that the forensic “look, a dismembered arm” factor is downplayed in those, and the humor and romance is turned up.)

5.  Picture someone you could imagine hanging out with.

This is crucial. If you don’t actually like your Right Reader, or don’t see anything in common with her… you’ve got the Wrong Reader.

This is an art more than a science. There’s no real penalty if you get it wrong, other than missed sales. (Which, admittedly, is painful enough.)

Most writers I know sort of flounder with their promotion, going for every audience possible, like shooting buckshot and seeing what falls.  Of course, sometimes they’re simply shooting in an empty field, and sometimes they don’t have a lot of money for ammo, but they try their damnedest.

(I need new, non-violent metaphors!)

In the next post in this series…

I’ll give you some hints and cheats on fleshing out your Right Reader profile.

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