Who Is My Reader?

One of the first pieces of advice I recall hearing when I started my indie publishing journey in 2013, was; ‘know your audience.’ It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Know your audience, know who your reader is. Once you know who they are you can figure out how to find them, where they hang out on the internet, what social media they are likely to be on, what tags you can use to get their attention, who to market your books at and so on.

I remember struggling with this at the time though. And I’m still struggling now. Back then, I had written The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Parts One and Two, but while it was with beta readers, I very quickly churned out The Mess Of Me. The two were written side by side for a while until eventually The Mess Of me won the race and was released first.

The Mess Of Me has a 16-year-old protagonist and is essentially a book about growing up and the many teenage issues that go with it. At the time though, I didn’t think of it as Young Adult or as being aimed at teenagers.  I just listened to the voices in my head, as I always do, and they were young.  I soon figured out that not categorising and marketing The Mess Of me as YA was foolish and ridiculous. I had to get my head around something then. Was I a YA author? Did I just write YA?

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I didn’t have a problem with this as I have never grown out of loving YA books, and although I read a lot of genres, I do frequently return to YA and always feel like I am coming home. The problem was the next book. Though also having a teenage protagonist, and dealing with teenage issues, it was far harder to classify. Partly because the teenage narrator grows up and becomes an adult, and partly because there are two narrators for Parts One and Two, and the second narrator is an adult. In my head, this book was never aimed at anyone. I just had it in my head and wrote it.

I’ve got to be honest, this has mostly been my approach since too. This Is Nowhere features a grown man, but every other chapter dives back into the past to when the character is a young boy and teenager. I always felt like this one was probably better suited to adults though, so I categorised it accordingly.

The Tree Of Rebels was the first and only book I wrote with a deliberate audience in mind, and I think I mentioned on here several times while writing it, that this made it the hardest book to write. It sort of altered how I felt about the book. It was like I was trying to write to please someone the whole time.

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Since then, I returned to just writing what I wanted to write and not imagining the reader first. This is fine when writing, but presents all sorts of problems when the time comes to publish the book. What categories and keywords do I choose? How do I market it? What genre is it? How do I find the people who will like this book?

Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is a classic example of why I am still in such a muddle and still struggling to find my readers. It has a young narrator, but also an adult one. The adult themes, for me, make it more suitable for adults than teens, but Elliot’s day to day life and outlook are something that will more than likely resonate with young people. I still find it hard to describe the genre of this book. Definitely coming-of-age but also contemporary women’s fiction? Maybe even UpLit?

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With Parts One and Two of the new, revised The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series almost ready to be released, and Parts Three and Four being polished up in the background, my mind has once again returned to my elusive reader. 2019 will continue to be busy as I plan to release YA novel, A Song For Bill Robinson and possibly it’s almost finished sequel, Emily’s Baby. My list of novels is growing longer, but I still don’t know who my audience is. It’s tricky when you cross over so many genres. Most of my books cross into two or more, with psychological thriller, suspense, crime, coming-of-age, mystery and dystopian all regularly showing up.

So, who is my reader? What sort of person reads my books and likes them? I only have a small audience, so it’s hard to speculate. But I suppose really, my reader must be someone quite similar to me. I imagine them as slightly scruffy, or at least not terribly groomed and over bothered with appearances. They probably make an effort when they can, and they probably berate themselves fairly often about sorting out some kind of ‘look’, but it never really feels urgent to do so. They are probably young at heart. Stuck in the past, tinged with nostalgia, reluctant to admit and give in to adulthood. I think they are a music fan. They probably like all sorts. They’re not narrow-minded about it at all. They’ll listen to anything, but they have their favourite era of course, and their favourite songs. They see life in songs. Soundtracks are everywhere.

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What else? I imagine them as liking animals and nature. Not in a really obsessed, or professional way, just in that seeing a bird or a deer unexpectedly will really make them smile and have a better day. I think they enjoy being outside, all weathers too. Being outside makes them feel more alive.

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I think they are introverted but friendly and warm. A bit cynical and suspicious at times. Prone to the odd dark mood. Likely to panic about once a month about how the world is utterly doomed. But they always brighten up and soldier on. Despite being naturally shy, they are really interested in people, genuinely intrigued by them. They love a spot of people watching and love a character-driven book they can really get their teeth into. They are looking for stories about humans they can relate to and empathise with, and they are looking for characters to fall in love with, characters they wish were real.

They want to disappear inside a book and come out feeling different. They don’t want anything too formulaic or predictable. I think they are a bit of an eccentric at heart. They probably talk to themselves.

This is how I imagine my readers to be and I shall continue to do my best to try to find them. What about you? If you are a writer, do you know who your audience is? If you don’t know, does it make it harder to sell your books? If you’re sure of your audience, tell me about them. What are these people like? If you’re a reader, do you imagine yourself as part of a genre tribe, full of similar and like-minded people all connected by an appreciation of mysteries, or romance, or horror?

Please feel free to comment and share!

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Ssh…I’m Hiding

Lately, I’ve felt like I’m in hiding. Running away. I keep attempting to stand still and face my demons but it doesn’t last for long. Every now and then I give myself a good shake and even come up with a plan…but they tend to be short-lived and easily shirked. So, what is it I’m running from? What terrible thing have I been hiding from lately? Burying my head in the sand of my writing in the hope it will just go away and leave me alone?

The answer is book promotion.

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The reasons are these;

  1. I’ve got too much to write. I’ve written about this lately in The Return of the Voices (and the nervous stomach) I won’t bore you with how many projects I am working on or have in progress at the moment, but I will say they are all moving on. They are all coming together. But I’ve never given myself a workload quite like this one…I just don’t have time to fit book promotion into my daily life. Or so I keep telling myself anyway. I just want to get these books done.
  2. Touched on above, there is just not enough time. There are the books I am trying to get ready for release, and then there is my writing business, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group which is quite rightly taking up more and more of my time. I’ve got two big projects I am trying to get funding for, plus the regular writing groups and workshops to prepare for, plus just the day to day running of a company, which is all very new to me! Then there’s the four kids and house and garden and pets…Book promotion just doesn’t get a look in!
  3. I’m bored of it. I do go through phases where social media and book promotion bore me intensely. I do love my blog and my Facebook author page, but that’s where the love ends. I tend to post more pictures of dogs and kids on my Instagram, often completely forgetting that it’s a business account to be used for selling books! I go onto Amazon and check for reviews and know I should send out some Tweets and so on…but it’s boring. I’m bored of it.
  4. I can’t afford it. Obviously, social media is free to an extent, and blogs and websites but pretty much everything else costs. Even your Facebook author page can be a cost now, requiring you to pay to boost posts to reach people who have already liked your page. And all of the worthwhile book promotion sites cost big money. I just don’t have it.
  5. It doesn’t work. As you can tell, I’m feeling a bit cynical about it all at the moment! I’ll probably feel differently in a few weeks time. I think I’m one of those indie authors who is still fruitlessly searching for the holy grail of effective book promotion. I think I’ve tried everything they suggest. Starting a blog, posting regularly (okay I flagged a bit recently but I seem to be picking up again now) running a Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, setting up email newsletters, Street Teams, discounting books, holding giveaways and events and competitions. And I’ve tried paid promotions many times and not had any success. I truly believe the answer is not simple and the one thing you think will work, does not exist. It’s a marathon, a platform you build over years of hard work. If I thought posting daily tweets and quotes from my reviews got me sales, I’d do it more often! But I’m pretty sure nothing much has worked so far…
  6. I’m jaded with it all… Yep, I’m tired of the whole thing. Hence, my efforts to find a publisher for my last novel The Tree Of Novels and next release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. Self-publishing can be a lot of fun, but it’s hard work with not a lot to show for it. And I’m well aware that authors signed to publishers also need to good at marketing themselves and their books and also have to endure the litany of promo related stuff I mentioned above…but oh how nice it would be to have someone do it all for me! So I could just write!!
  7. I’m out of ideas.  This is a big part of the problem, and I’ve been here before. Therefore I do know that I will eventually come out the other side of this standoff with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for promoting my books. I’m just feeling so lethargic about it at the moment, I can’t muster the energy. I’ve sort of given up on sales and reviews and just thrown myself into the actual writing. I’m addicted to the writing, you see. It’s the one thing I want to do passionately every day. The one thing I would choose above almost anything else in this world. I feel annoyed when I have to do other things! I turn on my laptop in the evening and I don’t want to think about promoting my books, I just want to start writing…
  8. The writing wins...Yep, at the moment anyway, the writing just wins every time. the odd tweet, the odd share of a review, the odd book selfie even, but that’s it. I want to be writing, I need to be writing, I can’t rest until this current workload is shifted.

So, that’s where my head is currently at when it comes to the marketing and promotion of my books! I am ashamed to admit that I have been utterly crap at promoting my books for a fair few months now. There are so many things I could do to remedy this, and I will. Starting maybe with a piece of paper stuck to my wall beside my laptop…A piece of paper with weekly goals and daily goals. A piece of paper with a blank space there for any bright ideas I pick up while online.

What do you think, fellow readers and writers? Any hot tips? As a writer, how do you go about promoting your books? What works and what doesn’t? Do you go through slumps where you would much rather hide from promotion and just get on with the writing? Or do you enjoy marketing your books and finding your audience?

What about you readers? What sort of book promotion works for you? What has drawn you to look up certain authors or pick up a certain book!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so do please feel free to comment and share…

 

Interview With Emily Williams, Author of Rafferty Lincoln Loves…

Last month I picked Emily Williams‘ wonderful young adult book, Rafferty Lincoln Loves… as my Indie Book of The Month. Emily kindly agreed to an interview, so here she is answering questions about the inspiration behind the book, how it was researched and what to expect next from her!

1. Can you tell us where the idea for Rafferty Lincoln Loves…came from?

The idea for the novel came from wanting to write a novel about horses but one that appealed to an older audience. The main plotline involved the missing racehorse Profits Red Ridge, however, the character of Rafferty took over. I let the story lead me along as I was writing but had the overarching plotline drawn out beforehand. The character subplots led in all sorts of exciting directions!

The themes developed as I was writing. I knew high-school-years were always going to be difficult to write about and Rafferty Lincoln Loves… delves into some sensitive topics. I wanted to capture high school from the perspective of one student, Rafferty, but then him discovering what it would be like to experience high school from other circles.

2- Did you enjoy reading books about horses when you were a teenager?

I loved them! Although, I found it difficult to find many aimed at the older teen and so I read books for younger children. I wanted to fill that gap in the market by writing my own horsey novel aimed at older teens.

3-Did you have to do much research for this book and if so how did you do it?

There were parts of the novel that needed research and other parts that I used my own knowledge.

I had some input from a police officer friend and from a friend working in social services. I used quite a lot of my own horsey knowledge but had limited knowledge of racing, so these parts were researched. School life in the novel was based on my own experiences coupled with more modern day experiences with the invention of social media etc and how that affects children. I asked teenagers for their opinions on these aspects!

4- What do you hope young readers get from this book?

I hope they get a more modern day feel to the traditional horsey novel; more current and relevant to their lives. I hope the ending of the novel leaves them empowered about issues at school and how to resolve them and not let them fester.

5- Can you tell us what you are working on next?

I started a psychological thriller last year. It follows a high school girl revising for her exams and watching the house opposite whilst she studies, as new neighbours move in. It’s more an adult book than young adult despite the age of the characters. There are more mature and dark themes running through the novel. I am still trying to add my lighter element of humour too to break it up.

I am really enjoying writing the novel, but put it aside for a couple of months whilst I concentrated on the publication of Rafferty Lincoln Loves… I hope it’ll be released next year, along with another I have developing in the pipeline!

6- Were there any particular challenges in writing a YA book?

I hadn’t written a Young Adult novel before and was worried I’d find it very challenging. However, once the character of Rafferty was established, he took over and the book pretty much wrote itself. There were some tricky themes covered and I worried about covering these sensitively but with the frank openness of a teenager. I hope I managed that! I loved writing a novel involving horses and was very excited about the whole novel from start to finish.

7- What has been your approach to marketing Rafferty Lincoln Loves…?

Marketing is always tricky. I planned the marketing for the novel well in advance and gave out advance review copies early to get reader opinions. The novel has appeared in a couple of magazines and local papers. I hope to spread the message about the novel far and wide to support the charity.

All proceeds from the novel are being donated to, The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre. The charities ambassador, Frankie Dettori MBE, has supported the book by writing the foreword and the charity themselves have been supportive in sharing the novel

8- What is your favourite YA book and why?

There are several that I love but my favourite is, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It captures adolescence in a lighthearted manner but with gritty underlying themes.

9- Did you always know the ending for the book or did it change as you wrote it?

I had the ending in mind, however, one of the characters really came alive as I was writing so he had a larger part in the ending than I planned. It came together even better than I hoped it would and more emotional.

10-How did you write this book? What was the process like?

I start with a plot and then find suitable characters. The plot is always easier than finding unique characters that fit the story. The characters do lead the plot totally astray from what I originally planned but I’m okay with that. I sometimes gently bring them back to the main plot but let them have their own time. Often other themes I hadn’t anticipated arrive and make the novel better, deeper and more interesting. Themes of high school bullying and rumour spreading surfaces in Rafferty Lincoln Loves… which I hadn’t originally planned for.

I love the writing process and once I’m fully into a story, I whizz along really enjoying the writing. The early stages I find difficult like I am with the novel I am currently writing, but with Rafferty Lincoln Loves… I was submerged in the storyline very quickly.

Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview, Emily! Good luck with Rafferty Lincoln Loves… and I’m very much looking forward to your next novel!

My 2016 Writing Goals Vs The Reality

Towards the end of 2015 I listed my writing goals for 2016 on this blog. I didn’t really expect to achieve them all, but at the same time, they did feel achievable! I also listed them as a way to kick myself up the backside and keep track of what I wanted to get done this year. So as we draw to the end of 2016, (oh my God how fast did this year go??) how many did I manage?

  1. Finish the first draft of Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature (nearly there!!)

Yay! I did this one! This book nearly ready for release, but I’ve been waiting for some final feedback from a trusted beta reader and working on the first draft of A Song For Bill Robinson. Once this is done, I will be rushing back to dear Elliot to give his story a final going over or two and then deciding on a release date! (Plus I need to think about front covers and so on!)

2.Whilst letting that first draft breathe, do the final rewrite/edit of The Tree Of Rebels and submit to agents and publishers. I want to try the traditional route with this book, as I think it is a worth a go every now and then!

Well, as you may know, TheTree Of Rebels is still not ready despite being now two years in the making. A while ago I decided it needed another rewrite and possibly some further storylines introduced. But it has to wait until Elliot Pie is released before I get back to it, so this one is still not done. It is much improved though and I’m glad I’ve been patient with it.

3.Whilst waiting for responses, dive into second draft of Elliot Pie, which also means developing a Pinterest storyboard for it.

Yep, as mentioned above, second, third, fourth and so on drafts have happened for Elliot Pie, and I have started a Pinterest board for it too. Cool, can tick that one off!

4.If no success with trad publishing, then release The Tree of Rebels with my indie publisher,with my detailed promo plan in place!!

Well that indie publisher went out of business in February 2016 and I then published with Amazon for a while and am now with Pronoun. That threw a spanner into the works for a few months and set everything back a bit, so the detailed promo plan for The Tree Of Rebels will have to wait a bit longer to be set into motion!

5.Have a real life/in the flesh book launch in my local library (eek scary!)

Well, obviously as neither novel was ready for 2016 this goal was not achievable. However, I have recently made contact with my local library in a bid to foster links with them for this sort of thing. I’m holding a workshop there in March and will be talking to them about lots of other ideas too, so this goal is definitely one for 2017. I hope!

6.Have an online launch/promo etc (see point 4)

Again, neither novel was launched so couldn’t do an online launch either, but very much looking forward to this in 2017!

7.Finish putting together another short story collection, which will be partly shorts related to my novels, other shorts, and partly previous blog posts and musings

Aha! One I did achieve! I released Bird People in May 2016 and I’m really pleased with how it turned out

8.Plan a local author event! This will be under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group banner, and will involve getting other local authors together for a meet/greet/signing and workshop extravaganza, all designed to put readers in touch with writers,, and spread the word locally about our books.

Yay, well sort of. I have a workshop booked for March which will be the first adult one I’ve put on, by myself, under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business. I did also take part in a Writers Day Event in October with Dorset Writers Network which was a brilliant opportunity for spreading the word and making connections. My workshop is about building an author platform and part of it will be unveiling my idea for a pop-up book shop to put on at any future events, the library and so on.

9.Enter competitions and submit to awards!!

I have entered two or three competitions this year I think? Always worth a go. Not submitted to any awards, though, which is worth looking into I think for 2017

10.Plot/plan the sequel to The Tree Of Rebels and add teaser chapters onto end of first book

Done. Most of the sequel is written or planned, but I did go off the idea and it fizzled out. When I do finally go over The Tree of Rebels again I will be deciding if I want to do the sequel or not, or just leave thinsg open incase I do another day.

11.Start the sequel to The Mess Of Me (if I finish Elliot Pie, or when I am having a breather between drafts)

Didn’t get time for this, as a lot of time was spent republishing books this year, and rewriting Elliot Pie and Tree Of Rebels, then a few months ago an old story started to plague me and turned into my current work-in-progress A Song For Bill Robinson. The sequel to The Mess Of Me is planned and half-written and will happen, one day, though!

12.Start writing the screenplay to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, which involves writing in extra scenes between the two books, so as to make a TV series. Well, why not dream big??

I started this! I also wrote a later episode which I intended to enter in a competition but I missed the deadline! Fully intend to keep working on this in 2017 as it was a whole lot of fun!

Results; seven out of twelve, not too bad!! I think writing this list at the start of 2016 was hugely helpful to me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to tick them all off, but they were all things I desperately wanted to achieve, so it made sense to me to list them like this so I’d have something to spur me on. I am going to write a new list for 2017 writing goals which will be next week’s blog post!

How about you? Do you write lists or make plans? What do you hope to achieve in 2017? Did 2016 go as planned or did you have things go wrong or veer in other directions, like I did? Please feel free to comment and share!