When a reader is standing in the aisles of the local bookstore or library or browsing around their favorite online bookseller, they will quite often start by looking at their favorite categories. If they’re in the bookstore, their eyes will start scanning for their favorite authors. Online shoppers quite often type in the name of their favorite authors or favorite books to find out what else is available.
Many readers report that after they finish the book they will go looking for a similar book. And every day on social media you can see the appeals for suggestions. “I just finished such and such book, and I’m running out of things to read…Who can give me a recommendation?"
While impulse purchasing remains a key part of in‐store shopping for books, browsing/searching more generally continued to be the leading means of discovery in Adult Non‐Fiction, and was second only to previous readership of author/series as a source of awareness in Adult Fiction. - Nielsen Bookscan's recent report on book purchasing behavior
The same is true in many different industries; movie fans, music fans, and even those who like to eat out all find themselves asking, “Will I like it? Can you give me an idea of what it’s similar to so I can decide if it’s my taste?"
If you are writing a book for a particular set of readers, doesn’t it make sense to know everything you can about your readers tastes? If you were writing a book in a particular genre, doesn’t it make sense to become completely equipped with all of the rules and practices of best-selling books in that genre? If you are an author who is deciding to break open the rules and bust out of the practices of an established genre, shouldn’t you know exactly who has done that before? And what the results were?
And when it comes time to market and sell your book; how are you going to determine where to start? How do you decide where to spend your money and where to spend your time? Where are you going to find your readers? Where are those readers right now?
At every stage of the publishing process whether you are still writing your book, or if it has been out for a few years, it is important to stay on top of the other books in your genre and the other books that are selling to your readers.
In this new, wonderful age of the internet, it has never been easier to track down and identify your readers and to see what is going on in your industry.
There are thousands of people out there right this moment who would want your book if they knew about it. How do you go about finding them and telling them about your book?
It all starts with this solid market research plan.
Step One: Find Authors and Books Similar to Yours That Are Selling Well Today
That may sound simple, but let’s break that out.
First, I’m suggesting that you find the authors in your arena, not in your genre. The problem many authors face when they start to find comparable titles and authors is that they get too narrow in their focus. No one has written a book just like yours. But hundreds of authors have written books purchased by your potential readers.
The analogy I use is from the world of sports. Sport arenas will often hold more than one team or even sport. Many arenas host soccer and lacrosse and football. If you go looking for comparable authors and comparable books and only focus on one genre (football) you will miss lots of potential readers.
The other key component to this step is the word "today." Too many authors look at the books on their own bookshelf to come up with a list of comparable authors. That is a fine start, but that does not tell you everything selling today. Most personal bookshelves are filled with books that you purchased years ago. You have to get out of your house and off of your own e-reader if you truly want to discover what is selling today.
And if you did this exercise six months ago? You need to do it again. Identifying and keeping abreast of the books in your arena and the authors that are selling well is a constant activity. Just don’t do it once and then rest on your list.
Start a spreadsheet or open up a document on your computer and go find all of the authors that are selling well today in your arena. Here is a list of the sites I use to find the best-selling books in my arena.
But don’t just depend on the internet! Get in your car and go to your local library and bookstore. What sells well on Amazon is a completely different list than what sells well in the bookstore market. If bookstores and libraries are important to you, you can’t just depend upon internet research.
Step Two: Get to Know Your Fellow Authors and Their Fan Base
Stop thinking of all the authors out there as your competition. Your fellow authors are not your competition; they are your community. Making this shift in thinking and embracing your fellow authors as your community will go a long way in helping you reach and appeal to a much larger readership.
Join their newsletters, follow them on social media, Google them and search for their names on Goodreads. Join in discussions with their fans. Make sure that you’re familiar with their books.
Successful authors know that they need to truly immerse themselves in their industry. Successful authors learn everything they can about every element of their genres and their arenas.
Step Three: Use Bestselling Author Names and Best-Selling Titles as Keywords in Your Online Advertising
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter…these and other online venues all offer opportunities for inexpensive advertising. Having a long and robust list of keywords is very important. And the best way to start with keywords is to start with a list of bestselling books and authors. But that’s not enough. You need to go much further. I will often take a bestselling book or author and type their name into these two online tools I have found:
These are my favorite sites for developing a list of keywords that reaches into the thousands.
If right now you are freaking out about needing thousands of keywords, it’s OK. You don’t need to find or use them all today. But advertising, marketing, and promotion is a lifelong and ever-changing pursuit. Amazon ads are based on keywords and they ask for 1000 keywords to start. Run the first 1000 keywords in an ad and after a few days it’s easy to spot which keywords are not giving you the attention you deserve. With this huge list of authors and titles, you have lots of words to swap some additional author names.
Also, finding those mid list titles that may not show up on the bestseller list but are still selling like crazy is a terrific way to find new readers.
How simple would it be to advertise on Amazon to those who bought a particular author? Wouldn’t it save you tons of money to advertise your book only to people who claim to be the fans of a particular genre or a particular author? Doesn’t it make sense to advertise to one fan base for a few days and then switch over and advertise to a different fan base?
Step Four: Use Your List of Authors and Bestselling Titles to Direct Your Promotional and Media Activities
Promoting your book doesn’t have to be pushy or expensive. You can simply Google the bloggers and reviewers who reviewed certain bestselling and midlist books that you know your readers like. Then reach out to those bloggers and reviewers and offer them a guest post or a review copy of your book.
Sending out just a few of these emails a day will eventually yield great results. But you will eventually run out of people to contact and so you should constantly be looking for new books and new authors to add to your list.
How long do you do this for? You should be offering your book for consideration to bloggers and influencers every day for the next year or two or until your next book is published and you turn your attention to that one.