It's all very well for self-published authors to talk about reaching readers, but how do you find the readers you need to reach? British author James Minter, who lives and write in France, turns this question on its head and considers how readers discovers books, to help you home in on your ideal target readers.
Where or how people discover books is close to every indie author’s heart. Without discovery, there are no readers, no appreciation of the investment you’ve made to craft your masterpiece; no one will know your grasp of language, your eloquent prose, the sweat and tears, the long hours and the gallons of coffee/wine consumed to bring it to fruition. Hopefully this post will enable you, as author, to better target your marketing efforts to find the elusive Holy Grail you seek.
Here are the results of a Goodreads Featured Poll which is currently running on the https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/60770 website:
Each Goodreads member may vote only once and for only one of the 11 categories. I mention these two facts to emphasise the significance of this poll. At the time I'm writing this article, around 180,000 readers had voted. As polls go, this is a very credible number of responses. As indie authors/self-publishers, we should take note of this when designing our marketing strategies. Because it’s a Goodreads poll, it's not representative of all the people you may wish to target, but by definition, they are serious readers, so this surely has to be a good starting point. If you aren’t already on Goodreads you know what to do next …
Detailed Analysis of Readers
Looking at the figures in more detail, 28.5% – the highest percentage – say they found their last book to read through recommendations from friends. People trust other people’s opinions. So your existing readers are your best sales people, (or not, if you’ve written something below par or outside their taste span).
This means we need to care about our readers – I’m sure you do – and not take them for granted. The sample includes recommendations from outside Goodreads, again a significant point to note because this survey was completed by Goodreads members, so you would expect the site to feature prominently. But the question is phrased to be inclusive, on or off GoodReads, which drives home the point about the word-of-mouth aspect of getting you and your books known. Personally I've sold more books pressing the flesh following presentations, say, than through any other means. As a caveat, my target audience are the more mature adult who are less PC/internet/social networking savvy, and more old school. They like physical books.
The second significant category – Goodreads reviews, lists, book clubs and newsletters – is a bit of a catchall and accounts for 17%, but it does highlight the importance of reviews to authors, as well as the role of book clubs in getting your books known.
The third category is physical bookstores. People like to browse the shelves and are drawn by covers, the back cover blurb and the author. Thus I think it legitimate to bundle it with the libraries category, since they offer a similar experience. Combined, they represent nearly a fifth of the way books are discovered. For me, this is heartening since the demographics suggest most visitors to high street bookshops and libraries are by 40+ group, as this Random House infographic from June 2013 suggests. Although the role of libraries has changed, in the UK alone there were 306 million library visits in 2012.
The next category is Amazon – 8% of responses – but for one organisation, this is significant and says to me you’ve got to be on here and keep your author profile up to date, relevant and interesting. My second-pronged approach to Amazon is to develop my reviewer status. I review books and products, read other reviews, and respond by confirming whether a review was helpful or not, and I leave comments.
The remaining six categories – media, blogs, Goodreads recommendations, bestseller lists, gift and non-Amazon on-line stores, account for 23% of book discovery. On these, my observations are:
- national media is difficult for indie authors to get into
- bestseller lists we can only aim for
- gifts – I give books all the time to friends and family
- all the other on-line stores – if you’re looking to reduce the time you spend on marketing, consider giving up these sites, as the effort may not yield the return you want
Of particular note in this group of categories is Goodreads recommendations. Does this say from the first category above, the recommendations from friends on GoodReads is the major source of discovery? In a Goodreads blog post by Patrick Brown, Director of Author Marketing in December 2012, he noted that 79% of new books are discovered from friends offline:
Unfortunately, “known author”, the biggest category of in Patrick Brown’s analysis above, isn’t included in the GoodReads Poll. ‘Known Author’ tells us that readers tend to go with what they know, the safe option maybe, and are less likely to try someone new. The difficult thing for self-published authors is to achieve fame in the first place? How do you do this?All suggestions welcome, via the comments section below!
Like to share these findings and questions with other author friends? Here's our suggested tweet:
“How readers discover books & how to gain #discoverability for yours: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/reaching-readers-how-readers-discover-books/ via @james_minter & @IndieAuthorAlli”