Thursday, September 27, 2012

eBook Marketing: How Do You Target Your Reading Audience?

One of the first questions a new indie author must ask is what audience will buy my book? The second question is how will I market to this audience? Both questions should be asked way before you get to the publishing stage of your book.

In the old days, there was a very standard set of rules and procedures. If you were fortunate enough to get picked up by a publisher, you got the finished product to the editors and off your book went into the market place.

On the other side, if you had to do the publishing yourself that added a lot of extra action points to get your book to the reader and getting your book into bookstores was a major component in determining whether your book was a success or not.

Well the whole process has turned upside down. Now the marketing targets are all different and the bookstore is no longer the primary focus in marketing your book. It is a turkey shoot, as they say.

Marketing using social media and the Internet are becoming the top choices for marketing for self-publishing authors.

The author must determine their audience, what they read and where to find them all online.

Knowing your audience will be the key in how you approach the marketing of your book.

Multiple Reader Audiences
The first thing you must realize is that there are multiple audiences to address and each will require a different approach. I view audiences in three distinct groups, all separated by experience with online media.

1. Mature (55+)
Most of this group is new to electronics. Ebook readers and tablets are all new to them. They are accustomed to paper reading. Some have adapted but still fall back to paper. They look for the Deal of the Day or a low priced ebook. Their first selection maybe by genre or an author they like. They have no real online community involvement. Reaching them will take a more direct approach.

2. Working/Family Group (30-55)
These are readers that are established adults. They grew up reading traditional books but they are more computer-savvy than the mature group. They have adapted to ebooks because of the time and convenience factor. An online approach could work with this group but they will seek advice from more than online sources.

3. Mobile, on the Move Youth
They make quicker decisions. They can’t go anywhere and do anything without their cell phone or their iPad or some electronic device at the ready. They would rely almost entirely on online communications to make their buying decision.

They won’t read a book on their iPad but they may use the ebook for an information source. You see this in the resistance to accept e-textbooks. About 60% of this group does all their communication via cell phones exclusively.

In contrast, only 25% of the mature group use cell phones exclusively (No landline phone). (34% overall)

It’s like being in the right place at the right time to be successful. In this case, you need to be in the right genre and target the right audience.

Shooting at the wrong target
Let me share with you the experience I had with my first novel, Call Off the Dogs. This is a story about the JFK Assassination and now Jonathon Stone, my pragmatist, found another shooter from that day in Dallas and the adventure begins.

I was so anxious to get the book out the door, I didn’t do my homework.

Where did the book fit in? Was it a mystery, a detective story, a historical novel or what?

My primary audience was the mature group mentioned above. They lived through that period and all the conflicts and conspiracy theories. I choose to take a ebook only approach and targeted my audience online.

I made all the wrong moves to sell my ebook to my target audience. It probably didn’t help that Stephen King released his book, ‘11/22/63’ in the same week so all my pre-publishing marketing was written over.

Shooting at the right target
Let’s discuss some authors that know how to target their audience. First there is M.R. Mathias, a fantasy writer, who has been quite successful with his online approach to his target audience. He focuses his marketing at the younger audience through Twitter and Facebook. At last count, his twitter followers were in excess of 87,000.

His main asset is he writes quality books. Lots of them. Next he feeds them to his followers like Halloween candy and they buy it. Sounds like a plan to me.

Another example is Amanda Hocking and a group of young writers who are writing to the young adult genre and targeting them through social media. Amanda has over 17,000 followers on Twitter and her Facebook audience is huge. Just send them a tweet and she is off and running. It is like having a barrel full of 140 word bullets.

Let’s take a test to see if you’re following me
Let’s say you write a book about an old biker who wants to take one last trip across the country. The book would highlight his conflicts between the way he approached the trip when he was young and full of adventure. And then compare that to the current old man who has declined in health and aggressiveness going down memory lane.

So do you have a family saga going here? Or is my biggest target group all the bikers across the country? How do I target them? Oh yeah. Do you start tweeting the world about your biker book or do you try a more conventional approach and get involved in the biker community? I believe you are looking at the mature group not the mobile one.

My first move would be to get involved with the Harley-Davidson audience. We are talking over a million people in this group. I’d try to get into their stores, sell at their events across the country, get a book display in their museum and get an endorsement from their owner's group.

I’d let my beard grow, get me some nice looking leathers, buy a good looking Harley and hit the road.

Social networking and publishing an eBook exclusively would be my last choice in selling to this audience.

Are you off target?
Where is your audience and how do you get to them? Tweet to tweet or do you hit the pavement and do it the old fashion way?

You must answer right up front, who is going to buy your type of book and define the genre? And then concentrate on marketing to them where ever they are.

Some good sources
Jason Boog
If want to keep up with who the top indie authors are and what they are writing about a good source is Mediabistro – Galleycat by Jason Boog. @jasonboog
Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of Monday, September 17, 2012 by Jason Boog

Judith Briles
The Book Shepherd blog is another good source written by Dr. Judith Briles
"Publishing is riddled with obstacles. Sometimes nightmares for the author. You don’t need problems … you want solutions." She will shepherd you through the maze and chaos.
She also manages which is for authors who want to be seriously successful.
Dr. Briles can be found on Twitter: @mybookshepherd

M.R. Mathias
M.R. Mathias Fantasy Author is in the HBS Author’s Spotlight this month.
He can be found on Twitter: @ dahgmahn or at his website:
Also Mr. Mathias has written a must read book for indie authors about social networking and marketing books. The First Ten Steps - Ten proven steps to build a solid foundation for your ebook using free social networking.

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimhbs
Or EMAIL at:
View my website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer
Take a look at my NEW blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight
Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novel: Call Off The Dogs

Monday, September 17, 2012

eBook Marketing: Is Buying a Great Book Review Your Cup of Tea?

With the huge controversy brewing in the Book Publishing Industry over book reviews and how they’re obtained and used, I thought I would jump in on this.

We have exposed a problem in the trust of one of the decision points buyers have. Is the ebook as good as the review says it is? How much do readers/buyers rely on reviews? Could this start the end of a time-old tradition? Are there professional reviewers still out there that have strong ethics and do the job honestly?

Reviews are Part of the Game

Indie authors are easy to point the finger at. They already have an uphill battle against the traditional publishing and their large marketing machines. So if they buy a good review, is it gaming the system? What happens if they get a bad review? Do they bury it?

On the other side, traditional publishers call it a marketing plan. It’s the same thing, they just do it differently. It is just an investment in marketing. They sent out review copies to all the high powered media groups and get their feedback and then cherry pick the best reviews. The buying public has never called it a conflict of interest. Think back. Have you ever seen a bad review on a dust cover? I don’t think so. You’ll see the bad ones only online, where they are from customers or the reviews aren’t paid for.

Decision Making
So how important are book reviews to the buying decision? Will an author’s success depend on good reviews?

My first move was to review a study conducted by Mark Coker from Smashwords through Mobileread and posted on his blog. The study question was: “Select the single most common criterion you, the reader, follow to discover your next read.” The result was different than I expected but it should help guide indie authors in focusing their marketing effort.

The first item that caught my eye was: Reviews are considered first in the decision process only 7% of the time. I guess you can get used to reading words like: spell-binding, a real thriller, engaging, etc. after a while.

My pick for top method was second in his survey: 18% picked the ebook because it was one of their favorite authors.

That gets me to the survey’s top pick: 29% indicated that online recommendations from fellow readers, forums, blogs and message boards were first. That tells me that online communities are what readers are using the most to guide their decisions. The 7% may put this problem in perspective.

Do bookstores still fit into the process?

Remember the good old days when there were one or two bookstores in every mall. You could browse a store, make eye contact with the book cover, read the dust cover and the prominent reviews and that would close the deal right there.

Bookstores are slowly moving out of the equation. That touch and feel is not part of the process anymore. They are becoming more of a showroom.

Not the Internet. It has a massive number of books online and it’s really only starting. The reader has started to change their selection process and indie author must take notes. Ebooks will stay on the virtual Internet shelves of online retailers for a very long time without a space issue and so will all their reviews.

Time Management

As most indie authors know by now, time management is the key to their productivity. If you’re writing a novel, doing your marketing thing and trying to handle 1,000 followers on your twitter account, you have to manage your minutes.

Buyers and readers have the same problems. That is why the successful indie author must target their readers online. Your audience/reader’s attention span is getting shorter. As Coker’s study suggests, you must rely on online communications to get to your customers.

Remember you are dealing with a community of unorganized people talking about what books they like and don’t like. The question is: How much will they rely on reviews to make their buying decision and should you invest in them?

Are Buying Reviews your Cup of Tea?

An indie author has a big decision to make about buying reviews to sell their ebook. Some marketing experts say that word of mouth is the best way to promote your book. Whether it is word of mouth or tweet to tweet or by cultivating Facebook friends, the process will be online.

I am always doing a little study here and there trying to figure out what is going on in this crazy industry. Here is a quick one I will share. This is a very limited one involving reviews and success.

I choose a prominent indie author for the study who has had major success in the ebook market place. I took one of the author’s latest books and looked at the reviews versus success.

Source: Amazon buy page: contained the usual book description, a book trailer, editorial reviews, online reviews from major outlets, individual reviews and a brief question and answer session with the author.

Priced: $9.99 (not a cheap one).

Reviews: This book had over 350 reviews from verified customers and top ranking reviewers with lots of comments. (Would anyone ever read 350 reviews to make a buying decision? People have a hard time going to the second page of a Google search.)

Results: A 3 star overall rating (not one of the author’s better books)

Kicker: the ebook is 35th in sales in the Kindle Store.

Conclusion: The quantity of reviews gave the buyers a good indication of the quality of the ebook and they didn’t care. They purchased it anyway. In this case, the reviews really didn’t matter. The downside to the author is that the mediocre reviews will stay online forever.

So how important are book reviews and should you pay for them?

The goal is to get readers to go to your buy page, charm and convince them this book is for them and then buy the book. Right. If paying for book reviews is not your cup of tea, you must come up with another plan of attack.

You need to understand how the buying process works and study your audience. Where are they? How can I get to them?

The author sighted above has developed a following through social media and has written to a popular genre. The author is not relying on reviews to sell books.

The Internet has lots of noise in the social media area but that is still becoming a popular method of marketing and communications.

Independent Book Reviews

I hate to see the individual review services take the heat on this. Many are honest, reputable, long standing people. Some of them do the reviews because they love to read. Just a few cross the line.

The Internet has changed the way we look at book reviews because of the quantity of them available to readers. No more does the reader rely on quick-snapshots on the dust cover or a glowing review in a major magazine or newspaper. Now we have real live readers giving their opinions. I think one of the reasons only 7% use the reviews to make the buying decision is that there so many book reviews, which in some cases are not reliable, they look for information.

The tea party is not over.

Some of the big hitters are trying to add credibility to the process. For example, Amazon has had their own accredited review system called Vine for several years now.

It is an invitation-only review program that allows manufacturers and publishers to receive reviews for books that have been offered on Companies that use this service pay for access. Some receive a free book in exchange for the review.

The criteria for picking the reviewers is based on trust, whatever that means. The reviewers are not paid and the review will be published regardless whether the review is good or bad.

Another player in the review game is LibraryThing. They call their program Early Reviewers. They are more focused on publishers who furnish free advanced copies to readers in exchange for reviews.

They do have a program for self-published authors called Member Giveaways. The authors list their book in the program to give free to prospective reviewers. The reviewers are picked randomly. The catch here is they are not required to review the book.

Our host here, SPR provides a book review service. For a very small fee, the author gets his book reviewed by an expert and the review gets posted by SPR and with on-line retailers.

From reviewing SPR’s reviews they have posted, they do a good and fair job in reviewing the books.

There are other good review services that also show professionalism in their approach to the review process. Those are the reviews we need to get in front of the readers.

Maybe we can have some sort of industry accreditation system for reviewers put into place; a review that will give the readers a better idea of the quality of the book. You know, one that raises the flag when the book doesn’t match the reader’s expectations.

A big question I have is: If only 7% of readers use reviews to make the buy decision, do you need to buy 5 star reviews to sell your ebook?

That’s your decision. Before proceeding, check out some of the most popular online communities. There is a lot more to marketing than the book reviews.

Some sources

Some of the forums I follow are: Mobilereads, Kindleboards, Goodreads, Nookboards and LibraryThing.

A great blog discussion on the book review topic is: Should Authors Pay for Book Reviews? by Joel Friedlander on August 29, 2012

Another great blog that can help indie authors in the right direction is:

How To Get Amazon’s Top Customer Reviewers To Review Your Book by Joanna Penn on September 16, 2012. 

So do you have any ideas on how to improve the practice of paid book reviews?

How does buying your way in, benefit you in the long run?

Let’s build a list of forums through your comments that will help indie authors get exposure to there readers.

Or EMAIL at:
View my website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer

Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Take a look at my NEW blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight

Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novel: Call Off The Dogs