People, I am soooo chuffed about today’s post. We have two guests here to talk about a topic that can’t be discussed enough, in my opinion: how to reach readers. I have only recently met Katrina, but Fiona and I met eons ago at Critique Circle. She was one of my first ever critiquers, and her work. is. amazing! She always has great advice to share, and today’s sampling is no exception…
I must say, I (actually, we because my good friend Katrina is also here) am absolutely thrilled to be invited over for a guest post today on Writers Helping Writers, and I’m looking forward to talking to you all in the comments section! I wanted to talk about a topic concerning each and every writer, no matter their genre: reaching readers. This is something I think every writer worries about in today’s oversaturated market. With so many books, video games, movies, and technological advances out there now, every writer has to fight for their corner of the market.
It occurred to me lately when talking to a fellow writer that authors often focus on promoting their books, their stories, and themselves. But is that what a reader truly wants? Of course, yes, you want to build your brand, get known, and sell your books, but that isn’t truly what will connect you to readers. If you want to connect with readers (and thus the market) then you need to dive into the reading community and discover what it is they love/hate/don’t care about in the book world.
Recently, Katrina and I decided to set up a debate website – a place where readers can come and debate about literary topics from all genres, including other book related topics. Why did we do this? Because if you don’t invite the reader in and give them a chance to air their views about topics they care about and you don’t listen to what they have to say, how are you supposed to reach your target audience when you write your books? How are you supposed to know the market? And I know the word market strikes terror into all writers, but it’s nothing more than readers and what they like to read, and thus, buy. Not as scary as it sounds.
So what is the key to getting that agent, landing that book deal, or hitting the bestsellers list? Write a good book people want to read. That’s what they tell you. Sounds mysterious, elusive, and out of reach. Of course, there are those who just intuitively know how to do it (and to those people I take my hat off), but for the rest of us mere mortals, there are concrete steps we can take to break this down so we can achieve the same ourselves. Now, assuming you have honed the technical side of your craft (since you’re here at Writers Helping Writers, I’m guessing you have already!), let’s look at what you can do to make sure your work hits the mark:
- Find a way to get in touch with readers who read the type of books you read. Don’t just hit up the writing websites. Go and find fan sites (a treasure trove of information) and search out online clubs.
- Look on Goodreads and Amazon, etc., and read the reviews. Actually READ the reviews. Then read the book. And see how the reviews stack up against the books. We’re always told to read widely in our given genre by agents and editors. But we’re not told about this gem: if we read books, then carefully read their reviews, that information can teach us a lot about what the reader wants. Trust me, it does.
- Search out other interests within your target audience. Amazon is amazing for this. Pick a book you think is in the same vein as yours. Then scroll down to see what books the customers who bought this book have also bought. Learn what ticks people’s like list and you’ll start to see how your book fits in, too (or doesn’t—and this can help just as much as knowing if it does fit in, because rewriting is always a wonderful thing).
- Pool resources. We all have writer friends and critique partners. But when it comes to research we tend to close ourselves off a little. Talk with each other, and half the workload.
- Book club. I know, I know. Old fashioned. But so valuable.
- Ask. Yes. That simple. Ask readers. Whether you are commenting on a blog, on twitter, on Facebook, wherever, it doesn’t matter; the concept is the same. Ask people what they like to read. When someone says they loved or loathed a book, ask them why.
There are a lot of different avenues for meeting and talking with readers, but sadly, as writers, we tend to block ourselves off to the writers-only community. And yes, writers are readers too and you should never deny yourself access to the writers’ world. But if you don’t reach out to the thousands of other readers out there, then you’re missing a huge opportunity to build your knowledge of the market.
At the end of the day, writing is designed to touch a reader’s heart or life in some profound way. Taking the time to learn what they care about (or don’t) will pay dividends when it comes time to write or revise your work.
Fiona McLaren is agented for her YA novels by Jamie Bodnary Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency, and works full time as a freelance writer, ghost writing books and writing articles, short stories, short scripts, and much more. She is the co-founder of the DEBATE IT! website, where readers discuss literary topics close to their hearts. She would love it if you came to debate with everyone over there! She can also be found blogging at The YA Bookcase and YATopia. You can also find her on Twitter.
Katrina is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency for her adult sci-fi novel. By day, she’s a mild mannered accountant, but, by night, Katrina is an active writer, critique partner, and intern. As a co-founder of the DEBATE IT! website, Katrina works with Fiona to encourage healthy debate and conversation between readers of varying genres and styles.