Reaching new markets. Everyone in every industry is always trying to "reach new markets" or "expand into new markets" or just plain increase sales to, you know, make more money. But is that all it means to "reach new markets"? Making another buck? I think it means more. I think it means redefining what you're selling. For yourself.
What is a market anyway?
For Indie Authors, our markets are the collection of readers who are likely to be interested in reading our book: those readers who probably will buy our book are our target market.
In traditional, DTB publishing, an Author submits a book to a publisher's slush pile and therefore, the publisher becomes the market. Or if you use an Agent as a middleman, then they become your market. In all cases, the market for an Indie Author is always the person ultimately reading what we're writing. In sales terms, of course, it's the person ultimately paying to read what we're writing.
I've Shown You My Market, Let's See Yours
For publishers like MacMillan Group or Harper Collins, in the traditional DTB world, the market is actually not the consumers who browse in a store and buy books. Rather, DTB publishers sell bulk lots of titles on a monthly basis to "Book Buyers" who then sell to "Distributors" who then place the books in specific outlets of a large chain bookstore (such as, Barnes & Noble) for that specific "market." In that case, the "market" is a demographic. The marketing analysts claim thus and such a type of consumer lives in thus and such an area and therefore, is likely to shop at this specific outlet of Barnes & Noble so we should place these specific titles into that store and not these other three, where the "market" won't be interested.
It's pretty confusing, isn't it?
Indies Have it Easy -- er, Harder?
We're lucky, as Indie Authors, that the online bookselling business is muchly streamlined. Our books go from our computers to web sites like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Smashwords and then consumers come to those sites' store fronts and buy our books. Done. The "marketing" and "targetting" is all left in the hands of the web site store front--or is it?
I think the marketing is left to the consumers. I think the consumers, themselves, come to these online bookstores and must somehow, magically figure out how to sift through the store front's offerings to find a book they want to read enough to buy it. Some of the search algorithms are good. I discussed a few weeks ago how you can make your book more "findable" by choosing the title--or subtitle--carefully enough to make it show up in the search results. But note, the consumer still has to type those terms into the search box.
If I Search for You, Will You Search For Me?
How do you figure out which magic words your "target market" or "target reader" will think of to type into the search box so you can put them into your title? Truth? It's a crap shoot. You can't really guess how every customer will think but you should be able to make an educated guess about your target market. If they really are your targets, that is. After all, you wrote a book that has a specific story to tell, a specific feeling with which it tells it, and a specific theme or meta-arc by which you tell it. Your book is a unique and special snowflake. Like you.
Unfortunately, like you, your book is in a blizzard of unique and special snowflakes. You aren't like everyone else, but to the consumer arriving at the Amazon search box, you look like everyone else. In fact, they can't even see you yet because the snowblind whiteness of the search box is preventing them from connecting to you and your book unless they "magically" type in the special key words.
If your book isn't showing up in search results to be considered by the kinds of customers you earnestly believe would be interested in reading it, then you need to reconsider how you're defining your book. Your current self-imposed definitions are only reaching a limited audience. Your new, undiscovered customers, your new market, is out there waiting to be found. Search for them.
Tag, Your It!
This was the one topic I left off my SEO for books discussion a few weeks ago and I left it off deliberately. It's kind of a big topic. I wanted to lead into the discussion of tags for your books with this whole mindset of who is actually coming up with the tags. It's not Smashwords or Amazon or Barnes & Noble. In the DTB world, it's not even MacMillan Group, though they think they own all the words in the world. Nope. It's the consumers. You have to think like your customers, not like yourself.
Do some experiments on Amazon. Sit down at the search box and type in words you think define your book. Type in one--and only ONE--word at a time. See what comes up on the search results instead of your book. Unless your book comes up as the first item on the list. If you tryout a single-word search six different times and still keep getting your own title, hey, you are one lucky Indie Author. Make sure those six single-word searches are tags on your book and you're good to go. Sit back and watch the sales roll in!
Most of us, however, will type a single word, randomly clutched out of thin air, and find...nothing. Not a clue. So use the tools Amazon has given you. The "Customers who bought this also bought..." or "You might also be interested in..." These suggestive selling links that Amazon proposes are not always relevant or complementary but if they're wrong half the time, they're right the other half. Check the tags on the pages of those complementary items. What are reviews on those items saying? Are customers liking one thing in particular about that book? Is it something your book also has? Could you also use a tag to attract attention to that one thing?
By looking at other products that customers who visited your page--but didn't buy your book--did go on to buy, you'll get a clearer understanding of who your target market is, what they're interested in buying, what words they choose when left to their own devices to type into the search box from their own home.
In the olden days, before the internet even existed, Madison Avenue execs called this kind of activity "understanding your market." Nowadays, given we can slap our books up onto a web site and start selling them five minutes later, we call it "reaching new markets." It's not that the market is new, it's that we have yet to discover it. Most of us have gone out and launched our books without doing this market research first. Even if you are part of that small minority that did conduct some market research prior to launching your book, this kind of "investigation into the competition" or "searching for your customers" can help you become more visible to new markets. So I guess there is actually a new market out there, waiting to be discovered.
Related but Separate
I wanted to be sure to include a tip about a site Kat Jordan blogged about earlier this week. She found the IndieReader.com site when she got a tweet (they're on Twitter as @IndieReader) and turns out, I've been following half a dozen people who already followed them and following me back. I probably saw their tweets, too. I just missed it in the deluge so big thanks to Kat for making a whole post (a big enough deal for her that I noticed it) calling it to my attention.
IndieReader.com is a site that specifically features Indie Authors versus DTB or traditional publisher lists of titles. They provide Indie Authors with a platform and they provide readers of Indie titles with some kind of better way to seek out new voices than typing random words into the Amazon search box and hoping for the best. To learn more about how you can get promoted at IndieReader.com, click here.
Click here to read a nice article on how Indie Author, Heather Killough-Walden, got her self-pubbed books onto both the NYT Best Seller List and the USA Today Best Seller List. No small feat--but she makes it sound easy. Given I'm a series writer who loves to create rich characters, and who's already doing much of what she says (though I disabled my Feedblitz Newsletter), her words bode well for my future in the Romantic Suspense marketplace ;-) Follow @IndieReader on Twitter to get more tips.
This week we shall return to Freebie Friday and have another installment of SciFi Saturday. If you're an Indie Author and want to be featured this Friday, August 26th, look for a new submissions thread notice later today. I'll post it to all the usual places (Smashwords Facebook, Kindle Indie Authors on Facebook, my Twitterstream). You'll have until Thursday, August 25, at 1700 hrs to enter your book for the feature. Cya then!