Self-publishing: Finding Your Niche
But I Want My Books To Be Read By Everyone!
Everyone? It’s impossible. You can’t do it. Not even the best-selling authors can get everyone reading their books.
There’s an old saying that says ‘You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all of the time’. Or words to that effect. If you are wanting to target your book at everyone, you’re going to need a pretty big budget to do it.
I’d like to think that you are reading this now because you’d like to know more about self-publishing your own book. Therefore, I’d like to think that you are my target audience.
In the past, I’ve written the stories I’ve wanted to write. I’ve written them because I wanted to indulge myself in my own world. They haven’t been read by anyone because the target audience for my stories was me.
Before you even start writing your story, ask yourself the question:
Who Am I Writing For?
You should know your target audience in advance. You need write for them. Writing the book and then figuring out who you want to read it is like baking a cake and then trying to find someone who’ll eat it. If you’re a cake-maker, you are not going to waste time and ingredients on making cakes without knowing who’s going to eat it. It’s the same with writing a book. You need to know who is going to want to read it, and keep them in mind at all times.
As an English teacher, I often taught transactional writing. This included teaching letter-writing skills.
It would be foolish of me to get my students to write letters to no-one in particular. Each student was therefore given a reason for writing their letter. And more importantly, they were given the name and address of the person they were writing their letter to. Their letters had to have a purpose and that was to reach the intended target. It’s the same with writing a book. Know your audience and give them what they want, whether it’s romantic fiction, horror or comedy. Strangely, the narrower your audience, the more success you’re likely to have. Why? Well because you’re cornering a section of the market that not many people have.
Would you rather be a tiny fish in a huge ocean, or a pretty big fish in a pond? The latter is more likely to give you success.
Which brand of tea or coffee do you normally buy when you go to the supermarket? Is it often the same one?
I’ve been successfully publishing my own magazines since 2007. I have two on the go, both based in North Cardiff. At first, my business partner and I were faced with a lot of negativity when we told people in the community that we were setting one up. As the years have gone by, our readers have seen that our magazines have provided a useful platform for local businesses to promote themselves. Our readers have also loved the fact that the magazines have specifically been based around their community. My target audience for the magazines are the people in the villages that we cover. The theme for each issue is the local village. It’s a narrow target audience, but works because all the readers have something on common – their village.
As a result, our reader and advertisers have become loyal to our magazines. When I’m out delivering magazines, I often get chased up the street by someone telling me how much they love the magazines and how much they look forward to getting them. And that’s not me bragging. That’s me showing you how powerful reader loyalty can be.
Similarly, I run a Facebook and Twitter account for an imaginary Welsh character. He has nearly 5,000 friends. People get in touch every day to say how much they love the page. My audience? Welsh people. The thing that they have in common? Being Welsh.
Someone set up a similar Facebook character and tried to copycat mine. They used the same details, and then started adding my Facebook friends. When I pointed out to my followers that this was a copycat account, he was torn to shreds by my followers. Thousands of people showed their loyalty to me.
This stems from knowing my audience. In the case of my magazines, I know that the majority of readers are over the age of 30. I therefore tailor the majority of my content around nostalgia and history. They lap it up.
In the same way, I know that my fictional Facebook character draws those who are proud to be Welsh and enjoy a bit of humour. Loyalty comes from connecting with these people. Later on, I will show you how to use Facebook and Twitter to great effect.
Creating a Brand
When I head to the supermarket, like many people, I tend to stick to the same brands of food. When I’m wandering the aisles, I’m not really looking at the words. I’m looking out for the colours and shapes that I recognise – the blue of the Heinz beans tins, the green of the Yorkshire teabags box.
Branding is a multi-billion pound industry and in the same way, you can use branding to both attract and retain your audience.
I still use the same logo on my magazines that I used when I set the magazine up in 2007. People don’t even have to read the title when they see the magazine – they recognise the shape and the styling and they’ll happily take it out of my hands or off the shelves with a smile on their face. They don’t ask ‘What’s this?’
I had a local competitor in North Cardiff for several years. He did pretty well for himself but always seemed to be getting itchy feet. Every few months, he’d try changing the styling dramatically. Then every few months, he tried changing the name of the magazine. Even his advertisers didn’t know what it was called any more and eventually, he dropped the magazine altogether. It was a shame as that geographical area is now left without their own magazine.
Creating a brand doesn’t have to cost you money. I’ll show you later how you can set up a website for free, and how you can create a brand.
But Why Is This Important To Publishing a Book?
It’s important to have a target audience so that you know who you’re writing for.
It’s important to have reader loyalty because they will be the people who will pay you to read your books, and recommend you to their friends.
It’s important to have a brand so that your loyal readers will recognise you, and feel comfortable in and around your brand. For new readers, it will help attract their attention.
Don’t be shy about having followers. And if anyone doesn’t like what you write, well, they just happen to be outside of your target audience. Don’t worry too much about them. You’ll be writing to your loyal readers.