One key factor to any marketing strategy’s success is knowing who your audience is, and yet, this tends to be the main ingredient many of my author clients miss from their marketing process.
In my other life, I run the digital marketing department of a creative firm, and I have a number of Facebook Ads author clients. The main difference between my business clients and my author clients? My business clients tend to know exactly who their customers are, thanks to face-to-face interactions.
My author clients sometimes have an idea of who reads their books, but more often than not, they either
- don’t have a clue,
- think they have a clue but are actually way off base, or
- they’ve pigeonholed their core audience and are missing other potential groups of readers.
The most successful of my clients know their readers.
- They know if their readers are into book clubs or online gaming.
- They know if they are coffee or tea drinkers.
- They know if their readers work nine to five, if they stay at home, or if they’re retired.
- They know if their readers are weekend buyers, weekday buyers, or paycheck buyers, and if they read most during the week, at night, or on weekends.
And because they know these things, they are able to get very specific with their advertising, communication, and social media engagement—both from a targeting perspective and a messaging perspective, which drives costs down, expands reach, makes the ad budget stretch further, drives more organic sales, builds a more authentic relationship, and leads to a bigger bottom line.
So how do you go from being an author who guesses to an author who knows?
And then, how do you define your reader with real data when you only have a book or two out?
Let’s find out…
The Important Bits
The first thing we need is to understand the information we want to discover about our readers. If they love pretzels with salt versus unsalted pretzels, that doesn’t really help us out much (unless we write cozy pretzel mysteries). However, understanding that our readers are visually driven and love crafting can lead us to spend more time on Pinterest and Instagram.
What we need is information we can relate to our books that also furthers our relationship with our reader.
I think that’s really important, so I’ll say it again.
Focus on discovering the information you can relate to your books that also furthers your relationship with your readers.
First, let’s make sure we understand the places we digitally connect with our readers.
Digital Reader Connection Points
Here is a quick list of the typical reader connection points we have available at our fingertips:
- Author Newsletter
- Author Website
- Author Pages on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc)
- Reader Communities such as Goodreads and Facebook Groups
- YouTube Channel
However this list can stretch on as much as you are willing to experiment. Reddit, TikTok, Slack, Zoom, and other sites and platforms have all recently seen an increase in author/reader engagement.
Okay, we got that down! Now, let’s see what we need to learn from these connection points in order to build a true understanding of our readers.
The below data list can help you identify which portion of these particular individuals are most interested in what you have to offer.
- Age ranges
- Most active days and times online
- Common interests
- Device type (Mobile vs Tablet vs Computer)
- Device platform (Android vs Apple)
- Preferred image types (soft vs shocking, bold vs abstract)
- Primary communication method (text, photos, videos)
What we want to keep in mind through this is that our reader is not just a 35+ female who commutes to her nine-to-five and therefore only has time to read on weekends. Our reader is a busy woman who is employed full time. She may have a family, she may take care of her elderly parents, she may run a dog rescue on the side.
My point is, it would be a very big mistake to only think about our readers as a set of data points. These pieces of information are meant to give us a peek into who our reader is, and allow us to meet her where is most comfortable and convenient for her.
By narrowing down that sweet spot for our readers, we are also able to employ the 80/20 rule (the Pareto Principle) and save ourselves valuable time, money, and effort. Eighty percent of our return tends to come from twenty percent of our effort.
The wonderful thing about these tools is that most of them have no barrier to entry—meaning, you don’t need a huge back list or a big budget to make them work.
Perhaps the best starting point for figuring out who reads our books and interacts with our content (blog posts, social posts, etc) is to enable analytics on our author website.
Analytics allows us to see a detailed profile of the visitors of our website. Most analytics platforms will show us our most popular content and pages, how long visitors stay on our site, and how many visitors we have over a given period of time.
Drill down further, and we can typically find the age ranges, gender, most active days and times on our site, and the device type and platform used.
If we have a good bounce rate (under 55%), we can trust that the data we’re showing for our most engaged demographic is valid. If we have a high bounce rate (over 55%), something’s off with the content on our site or with how people are finding our site, because a high bounce rate indicates that the viewer is not finding the information they expected to find.
The most well-known analytics platform is Google Analytics, and you or your web designer can set up access with a few steps.
Analytics are just one piece of our reader puzzle. If you have an active website that you update regularly, website analytics can be a valuable discovery tool.
Facebook Pixel and Google Tag
Another great tool that is also free to use is called pixels, or tags. It’s a little bit of code you embed on your site that collects user data (nothing personal or specific to the individual) so you can get a snapshot of the type of person who is interacting with your site.
My personal favorite is Google’s tag, as it allows you to not only collect data, but it also shows you what other things the majority of users who visit your site are interested in.
For example, Google may clue you in that many of the visitors to your site are also really interested in DIY projects and country music. Can you use that information to better relate to your readers? Uh, why yes. Yes you can. To great effect. (Caveat: you must have enough visitors to generate this information, generally 1,000+ over a time period that you set. I like setting it up for anyone who has visited my site for the past 365 days.)
Facebook’s pixel also has its own analytics, though not near as robust as Google’s. If you already have a Facebook pixel set up (maybe you did it forever ago), the analytics for the pixel reside in a new place (thanks, new Facebook). After enough visitors come to your Facebook page and website, you’ll be able to see your most engaging posts, basic demographics, and most active times.
Again, this is something you may need a web designer’s help with as it does involve installing some code on your site, but once you get that done, you are free to use the information to build a colorful reader profile.
I’ve saved these final two discovery tools for last, because they are paid tools. If you don’t have the budget for the paid email plan or pay-per-click advertising, bookmark this post and come back when you can implement them.
Many email platforms have audience data that they will provide to you on their upgraded plans. Sure, it’s your email list, but the benefit of this data is that the platform can tell you which demographic is the most engaged with your email content.
So even if you know that your key 35+ working mom reader reads your books and content only on weekends, you may not know that your 65+ retired ladies are the ones who actually click on your newsletter content, respond to your emails, and share your emails and book news, hence giving you more options to connect with your readers in new ways.
One of the best ways to build a reader profile is to do so through audience testing in paid advertising. My favorites are Facebook and Google. As Google tends to be less cost-effective for lower priced items, I’ll just say that by using the specific user data you’ve collected, you can run some very effective advertising.
We’ve already covered a bit of what Facebook analytics can do for understanding your reader. Audience testing takes analytics even further.
Say you’ve discovered that your most engaged demographic is our 35+ working moms who love coffee, country music, and DIY projects. When you set up your Facebook audience for your ads, you’ll use those data points to create a very specific audience.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Once you’ve created that very specific audience, your ad creative makes the connection to that audience – perhaps appealing to the independent resourcefulness of DIYers or using imagery that connects with coffee lovers and country music fans. Perhaps you’ve discovered that your audience is most active from 6am to 8am, from 11am to 1pm, and from 5pm to 8pm on weeknights (which makes sense if they take public transportation into work). You can then schedule your ads to run during the hours in which your audience is most engaged, spread your budget out, reduce your overall ad cost, and on the whole, run a very successful ad campaign.
Whew. That was a lot. Thanks for sticking with me. It may seem daunting, but once you do the work to build your reader profile using actual data from your author assets, it will benefit your career for years to come.