Monday, January 27, 2014

On Finding Your Fans

The question is: where are the fans? The truth of the matter is that in every collection of individuals, there is one or two people who are your devoted fans. In every 400 people you might find one fan, one person that likes your work and would like to read more. 200 people just are not interested in what you write. Your genre is just not what they are looking for. 299 people like your genre but aren't involved with your characters or the cover of your book, or the way it reads off the synopsis on the back. Your genre could be splintered and your book too abstract, not fitting in any of the groups.

What is lost to me is where do you find the pools of people who read to drill down into and find your one or two fans? Do you find them on Facebook? On Twitter? On Goodreads? On Amazon's pages or forums? Where could they be? That's what I am wondering. I am now searching for another means to find these vast wells of readers and to connect with them. I'm looking over analytics and sales reports and things are beginning to change my impression of what is important and what is not.

In a 2013 survey via Survey Monkey ( nearly 80 percent of book buyers purchased their books from Amazon. Far distant from them were 23 percent purchasing their books from Barnes and Noble and at 13 percent came iBookstore/Apple.With my e-book sales stats, I find that Amazon Kindle downloads are also far in the lead. Ibookstore and Barnes and Noble are in second place followed by Kobo close behind. A lot of people are keying into my books through Amazon, but there is still a number who are distributed all over the online retailer sphere. I have much of my attention on Amazon and I do what I can to push those tools available there, but I don't do it much on the other retailer sites. I need to rethink this and work on those. I need to beef up their pull by putting more information on them about the book and me. I need to build up the contact information there and personalize it more so that my fans can feel that I care and make that move to purchase the book. This could problematic and why the other retailers are dragging behind Amazon.

I am very susceptible to surveys, they help me make certain decisions as to what to do. I was looking into purchasing a large number of my books to take to my local bookstores and sell them on consignment. I thought that I may be missing out on a number of fans this way. Every author wants to see their book on a bookshelf in a bookstore, but in the same survey nearly 58 percent of readers have not visited a brick and mortar bookstore in the last year or have done so twice in the last year. So it seems clear to me that I'm not missing out on reaching fans in this direction. I think I've saved myself the heartache of having boxes of my books in my small apartment, gathering dust because the local bookstores could not move them.

The good news for indie-publishers is that those surveyed stated that sixty-four percent pay “no attention”, or 'it doesn't matter” to them as to who the book publisher is. I have to admit, this is somewhat uplifting to me because I have many author friends who have gone out of their way to court small publishers to publish their work, and they walk around like peacocks when they do. The amazing thing is that they give so much of their royalties over to these publishers. They seem to have no clue about percentages of profits and how much they could make on their own, and they have to do the same marketing as I do. The small publishers don't do any for them. There is no real benefit if some sixty-four percent of the readers don't care that they went through the hassle and the price gouging of a small publisher.

I thought that publishing an author newsletter would be a good idea, but I have only a handful of people in my address database, and when I say a handful, I mean four or five, to send newsletters to. The survey brought out that only thirty-six percent of readers use author newsletters to get information on their favorite author, and this does not include discoverability. But it was something that I tried. I also looked into buying mailing lists, and lord did I get an eye-full of information on why one should NOT buy mailing lists. I am somewhat confused as to the reluctance that most have against this, but I understand their arguments and have cooled to the idea. There is much that is negative about buying mailing lists, the main reason is that it is not tailored to your book. These are largely just addresses that are culled from anywhere and given to you. They may not be readers, and may not be readers of your genre. The last thing that they want to receive is a stupid email from a writer pushing his lame book in their direction. They'd rather watch a television show. Also many of these email addresses are not kept current and many of them have expired, such as changed, closed, moved, whatever. And you pay by the number of email addresses that they give you. So you can pay for a hundred addresses and not get anything relevant that will turn into finding fans.

But by my current calculations, if I only get 1 out of 400 attempts, if I buy 400 email addresses, I can at least expect one person to turn into a fan. But the question is: do I want to pay hundreds of dollars for 1 fan with at best a $2.99 turn around in sales. There has to be a more economical way of reaching the masses, a low cost way of sending a simple message to hundreds of people at a reasonable cost. I thought that Facebook would be that path, but that can become very expensive through an incremental bloodletting.

I did a Facebook campaign, I started an author website and the good news is that sixty-two percent of those surveyed stated that they use Facebook to find information about their favorite authors, and sixty-three percent used the author's website. But this doesn't say anything about discoverability, which is just how a reader 'finds' an author. Once a reader is interested in you, they'll go to Facebook or your website to learn more about you, but the truth is, this doesn't seem to be the way to find your fans.

To drill the numbers down further, you have only twenty-seven percent of people finding information about their authors through Goodreads, and nineteen percent through Twitter. The numbers are even more discouraging when the number drops to eighteen percent for Retail Sites.

For discoverability numbers, they're scattershot. Readers looking for their primary sources of information, Facebook is at eighteen percent, Retail Sites at seventeen percent, Goodreads at thirteen percent, author websites at ten. So Facebook still seems to be the best way to introduce people to your book, followed by Goodreads and then your website. Since a Facebook campaign can be expensive if not done properly, a Goodreads campaign followed by constantly beefing up your website might be the way to go. This is the course that I'm taking in the 2014 year.

I'm searching for this new way to reach the masses. Another way. Maybe another blog tour, or a campaign somewhere, something. I'm like a shark in the water, moving about, never stopping, never sleeping, eyes open, senses aware, searching for the splashing in the water, the expanding blood slick on its surface meaning wounded prey. I'm searching for the next avenue to fans.

I'll find it.