Remember when you were in primary school, stuck with all these other people you weren’t terribly fond of due to being the same age, and rumours started flying? Remember the interesting hoops people jumped through in order to learn what other people were saying about them behind their back?
Yeah, remember this time, before your self-doubt starts eating you alive, remember that as an author, it’s not about you, it’s only about your books! Seriously.
This isn’t about reviews, per se, it’s about something much more basic than that: who are fans of your writing? What else do they like? What is the best way to attract more people like them?
It’d be completely lovely if we could wave a magic wand and get, along with out sales numbers, a report saying “This book/series is popular with Women in 25-50 age range, this demographic, who are also fans of the blah-blah, yadda-yadda, and ba-dum-tss genres. They will cheerfully pay up to $8.99 for your books, and can be most easily reached via X channel.”
Back here in the really real world, *sigh*… Okay, so how do we find out who’s reading our books?
1.) Read the reviews, skipping anything under 3 stars. Or have someone else read the reviews. Probably someone else. Because you’re not looking for what they think of your book, so much as you’re looking for:
A.) What books/shows/movies do they compare your book to? What genre / subgenre are they?
B.) When you click on the reviewer name, it brings up a profile of what else they’ve reviewed lately. Skip the people who haven’t reviewed other books. You’re looking for: what other books did they like enough to review, and what genre / subgenre are they?
2.) On your Amazon Author Page, if you’ve sold enough books, you’ll get a “readers also bought books by these authors”.
A.) Are they in a distinct social network with you? (People who buy my books also buy other Mad Genius Club member’s books. This is awesome, glad you like us – thanks for giving us a read! This also means I may not be your usual fare.)
B.) If not, what genres / subgenres do they write in?
3.) On each of your book’s page, check the also-bought page (or also-viewed). (You used to be able to do this with YASIV, but it’s broken now, so we’re back to doing it the hard way.)
A.) Is the author in a social network with you?
B.) If not, start noting down the genre/subgenre, title and author of each book.
4.) Now, on to Goodreads! Again, looking for what your reviewers like to read, and here you can also see if your books have been put in any lists by readers.
If you’re noting that I’m asking about genre/subgenre a lot, that’s because that’s the best way I’ve found to categorize your readers, and to figure out what they’re looking for in your books – or what appeals to them.
For example, I have a distinct chunk of readers who overlap with scifi romance. Even though mine are much more thriller with a romance subplot, and if you ever catch me posting books with nekkid alien male torso covers, send a kidnapping extraction team. Still, this lets me know that at least that chunk of my audience is totally fine with one protagonist looking at the other and going “She’s the one. She just doesn’t know it yet. At least I have the tactical advantage of surprise…”
I may be yelling at the male character about his decision, but they’re not. Fine. They’re happy!
I also have a much larger chunk of readers who mainly read LitRPG. In fact, once of the reviews that mightily confused me on Shattered Under Midnight referred to it as “a good dungeon crawl.” Once I realized this was a meant as a genre term, not referencing actual dungeon, I was much less confused. These folks like the pacing and the tactically correct small group action just fine, even if they don’t care for the romance.
Knowing this, my first step is to wonder if I can keyword in those genres. …Probably not, since it’s not actually in them. While I have a romance subplot, I don’t have any smut, and a quick look at a the genre’s full array of top 100 bestsellers with all the nekkid alien male torsos and promises of hot smutty sex in detail therein is enough to leave me going “Self, back away slowly. Don’t make any sudden moves; they might notice you, and then the one stars will come out…”
They read me. But they also complain my “steam factor” is “too low.” I think I don’t want to play in their nuclear steam reactor… I mean, their genre.
Similarly, LitRPG reads me, but I don’t have all the reader cookies and tropes they like.Certainly I’m not running a virtual world, and my characters aren’t gamers. So, keywording into the genre would be miscategorization, and I’m not going to do that.
However, I know they read me. So if and when I run ads, I know where I can advertise, and what I’ll have to slant the ad copy toward to hook them in. Highly useful, that.
Also, I can look at those genres and see what they normally pay for ebooks, and the lengths they read, and know what I can get away with as “what the market will bear.”
And… at least I know they like the books? I mean, I’m not going all “You like me! You really, really like me!” here, but hey, they read the books, and sometimes they even work their way through everything I have, even though I can’t do series or sequels to save my life? There’s something a little heartwarming about that.
Because in the end, the scars of school might still be there, and I still have a hard time separating people liking or hating my books from a judgement on me. Hope you are all better at that than me!