The writer/publisher – part 24

Identifying your market

So many people write books for noncommercial reasons that it’s a wonder that they sell any of them. When I say noncommercial, I mean writing because they have something important to say, rather than to feed themselves.

Noncommercial writing is what blogs are for. You write until the fever leaves you, then you go back to real life and your job.


For the few writers who combine talent and good business sense, identifying a market for a book is as important as what they put in it. They write what experience has told them customers will buy.

For those of us who are new to the game, we have a couple of hard choices. We can learn the "rules" of publishing and apply them faithfully and hope that things will work out or we can start with the position that the "rules" are probably out of date and figure out what the real situation is today.

In a changing marketplace, old rules can become obsolete while you are writing your book. What worked last year may not even apply this year. This even applies to market segments. Once upon a time, there were genres and these genres were almost sacred. If you book didn’t fit a genre, it couldn’t be displayed in your local chain bookstore. Your book was a "nothing" and you were a nobody, because customers could not find you and the NY Times couldn’t review you.

Times have changed, although the basics remain constant. Your book needs an audience with money enough to buy it and you need to know that audience well enough to deliver something that will capture its interest.

Getting your book in front of customers

This is where the self-publisher can make a lot of false starts. When your book first comes out, a wide circle of friends and acquaintances will know about your book because of your blog. (Self-publishers without a blog need supernatural abilities. The rest of us will blog and self-publish.)

These friends and their friends will buy your book and you will see an encouraging flow of orders come in. After a short while the flow stops, not because your book is no good, but because you have used up your local and friendly audience.

This is the point that you re-open Dan Poynter’s book and John Kremer’s books and start reading in earnest about promoting your book. Hopefully, you will have the bright idea that in order to sell your book, you must get the book in front of customers.

You will probably smack yourself on the forehead at this point, because you will have realized that your customers rarely buy books from bookstores! Your target customers may buy their reading material at car washes or riding stables or cycle shops.

Maybe your customers, like mine, rarely leave their cubicles during daylight hours. How do you reach them? By advertising on websites they frequent during working hours! There is skill involved in choosing the right website, because your book and the website must be compatible. Otherwise the positioning is wrong and your book looks out of place.

BlogAds are a marvelous invention. You can rent space on a busy weblog for a few dollars a day and if you choose wisely, you will see immediate results. This graph shows the response to placing blogads on two new sites. This is traffic on my Bent Crow Press site and the sales curve shows a similar uptrend.

What you cannot see is that most of the traffic is being generated by the less expensive site with lower traffic. When I get this advertising campaign properly tuned, I expect to see even more startling results. These blogads appear on sites that have hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. I need to attract only an infinitesimal percent of those visitors and I will be in danger of changing my lifestyle. 🙂

I am running long here, so I will discuss the vital issue of performing customer surveys in a blogging environment in the next few posts.

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