This information is purely anecdotal, so take everything said here with a grain of salt.
There are a lot of different types of readers in the world that we are trying to appeal to as authors. I thought I’d take a few minutes and give my thoughts on strategies for getting more of them to read your books. As I only have one published book, these strategies are purely speculation at the moment, but things I plan to try in the future.
People who hate reading
Some people think that books are dull and despise reading. There can be a number of reasons for this, but the main one I’ve heard is that they were forced to read in school and hated every second of it.
Obviously this is a tough group to convert. Pretty much the only way they’re going to start reading is through word of mouth. Someone is going to have to tell them that they love a book and persuade them to read it. They’re then going to have to adore that book to read more than a few pages.
However, there is a way around this. All of the people who hate reading have other ways they entertain themselves – Television, movies, games and hobbies. If someone writes a book connected to any of these that gets enough traction, they may well read that book.
Top hobbies that you could incorporate into your book:
– Football (Soccer)
The hobbies above may sound stale, but that’s a challenge not really an obstacle. Come up with some way to make them exciting and you may have an audience of millions.
Amazon Worlds is another way to attract the attention of this group. So far there aren’t many TV shows available on Amazon Worlds, but you have to imagine it will increase. Someone who never reads may read a book connected to their favourite TV show.
People who don’t read often
The second category of people are those who read a book or two a year. They may only read Harry Potter or the latest Dan Brown. The question is why they read so few books. The number one answer I’ve heard is, “I’m too busy to read”. They aren’t too busy to watch TV or movies, listen to music, or go for a walk.
Unless you’re JK Rowling or Dan Brown, the ideal strategy for this group of people is podcasts and audiobooks. Everyone needs to mow the lawn, walk the dog or wash the dishes. Those are all potentially tedious jobs that can only be served by audio entertainment.
Consider recording audiobook versions of your books. It may be moderately expensive to get a quality microphone, and it’s certainly time consuming, but that’s a whole category of readers who will learn your name through your podcast, buy your audiobook and maybe even migrate to your written books.
People who read other genres
This third category is a difficult one to capture. These are people that have tried a lot of books and settled on a genre(s) that they like the best. Frankly, they may never be able to appreciate science-fiction if they like period romance.
However, there is a strategy I think will work both for this category of people and the next category: author leapfrog.
Author leapfrog involves collaborating with another author on a joint work that spans genres. In the example above, you could set a period romance on another planet, allowing for some sci-fi elements. In collaborating with another author, ideally on a short serial, you can bring a section of both audiences to the table and potentially someone may start reading more of your own work or that genre.
People who read your genre, but not your books
The fourth category is where most people are currently spending all of their time. It’s obvious why – these are people who already enjoy reading your kinds of books, but just haven’t discovered you yet.
Frankly, I think it’s the dumbest group to target at the moment if it’s your only strategy. In my genre, science-fiction and fantasy, there are 116,713 books on Amazon as of my writing. The odds are only marginally better than the lottery.
Some people have had success by pumping out a lot of books (Like Sean Platt, David Wright and Johnny B Truant). That’s a strategy that obviously works, as you are increasing your percentages.
At the moment, with one book published, I have 0.00000856% of the visibility if every book was equally visible. But books aren’t equally visible. Books like mine that are selling less than a book a day have even less visibility than that.
You could concentrate on writing the best quality books you can and let the publicity take care of itself, but I think that’s not the best strategy either.
Here’s where author leapfrog comes in again. To give a silly example, let’s say I wrote in a style similar to George RR Martin. We’re actually polar opposites, but for the sake of a hypothetical. And George RR Martin has a massive audience but writes slowly. Well, potentially if you can write more quickly than Mr Martin, you could collaborate with him on a book.
George RR Martin could come up with the characters, plot outline, etc, and you could write the first draft. Mr Martin could then rewrite, which is far easier, IMO. Then you both polish the book and publish it as a collaborative work.
Bingo, you’ve just gotten about a billion times the exposure for your own books.
Why would George RR Martin want to collaborate with an author with no experience and no readers? He probably wouldn’t, but someone with a mid-level position might. All authors have a million ideas for books buzzing around their heads and not enough time to write them all. For the established author, this is an opportunity to “produce”. To see a world they’ve envisioned for years on the page.
The no-name author sacrifices their writing time for exposure. The known author sacrifices their exposure for creation.
It’s clearly not an approach for everyone, but it’s something that would work.
People who don’t read your language
Here’s a category I think people genuinely aren’t serving. I live in Norway, and the Kindle store we use is the US Amazon site. Its books are usually in US English. Total Norwegian ebooks on the site: 21. Twenty-one books available on Kindle in Norwegian.
Here are some more:
Arabic – 5
Chinese – 212
Dutch – 96
Russian – 106
Danish – 16
And so on. Other than Spanish, French, German and Portuguese, the shelves are empty. The question is why? I think the answer is pretty simple. The markets are too small for traditional publishers, and the rate of uptake of Kindles is too low.
Well, then, why do we care?
Anyone that is starting writing today has come into a full market. I work in an office of just over forty people. Two of us are trying to self-publish. I believe it will calm down in the coming years, when people get their one book out of their system and go back to their day jobs, but in the meantime, the market is full.
So here’s a market that hasn’t come into its own yet and we have a chance to get in at the ground level. So how do we do that?
If you already speak another language fluently (And I mean like a native), then get to it. In most languages, you’ll crack the top 100 just by showing up.
I speak Norwegian, but I couldn’t write a novel in Norwegian. I’d put my fluency at around 97%, which is great for daily life, but useless for writing. So what can I do?
Well, pretty much everyone knows someone from another country. They might not be a close friend, but you know them at least. Propose the following: If they translate your book, you’ll split all royalties from sales of the translated version 50/50.
The issue, of course, is quality control. You’re not going to be able to check their work. They might be fluent in their own language, but they may write in a clunky manner that makes your book unreadable.
Here’s where the experimentation comes in. I believe that some books will translate as long as the writing isn’t illegible. I think that if your story and characters are strong, you may well have a nearly indestructible book.
Also, the translator’s rewards are directly linked to your own. If the book doesn’t sell, they get nothing.
Frankly, if the translated version is terrible, you can also put it down to a poor translation and limit the amount of damage it will do to your personal reputation.
You could get it translated professionally, but that seems to run at about $8K, so that’s not an option for any but the most successful of us.
This is 50% of a potentially empty market up for grabs and the possibility of getting in early instead of late. Personally, I think this is a gold mine waiting to be worked.
Writing is challenging but fun, marketing is also challenging, and you’ll need to make it fun to get the most out of it. The ideas I’ve come up with above could succeed or fail, at the moment I’ve no way of knowing, but until I try, I won’t find out.
You didn’t find out you could write until you showed your work to someone else. You won’t find out if you can be a success until you come up with a strategy and try it.
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