Day 68: Genres, Pricing, Target Readers (and Other Promotional Jibber-Jabber)

Taking aim doesn't always mean you'll hit the target, but it certainly gives you a better chance.
Taking aim doesn’t always mean you’ll hit the target, but it certainly gives you a better chance.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned deadlines (30 May launch), the genre the novel is in (Science Fantasy), my specific target readership (a woman in the 18-25 age bracket who enjoys light sci-fi and/or fantasy), the intended price of sale ($2.99) and some other ideas I’ve had that I might’ve already mentioned in passing. This post outlines the reasons behind my decisions.

Why 30 May as a Launch Date?

I needed an official release date to use when promoting or discussing Femme. 30 May was close enough to plan for but also gives me a cushion of time to plan a marketing strategy. I’ve read many articles about indie-publishers being too quick to get their book to market without planning and miss out on opportunities to build their readership. As I’m normally a ‘jump in head-first’ kind of person, this was the kind of mistake I was likely to make. I know I will probably find more things to do for the next book that I haven’t done for this one, but I’ll try and catch as much as I can. I still intend on releasing a quality product and driving a quality campaign – something that’s not intense or pushy, but measured and targeting the right people. The more of the right audience I find now, the better the launch Femme will have.

Speaking of launches, I won’t have a costly physical one. I considered going to the local library and launching the book there, but I shall wait until I have some printed copies before I do that stuff. Launches work better for physical products and I think it will have a two-fold effect for me if I launch a printed edition with a digital edition already in place. Those who think $9-$10 (haven’t firmed up the printed copy price yet) is too expensive will be able to get a cheaper version on-line. Technically I will have two launches: the one without fanfare for the digital edition and then a little party for the physical edition. The decision on the launch was a business-oriented one; I want to see a return on investment. I am not looking to make money on the launch, but if I’m going to spend money, I at least want it to generate interest and hopefully bring some readers to me. I’ll also try and get an article in the local newspaper either before or after launch, as a human interest story.

Why Science Fantasy?

This is actually too broad a genre and I’m trying to narrow it down more so readers can hone in on what they like best and find me. My tagline for Femme is: “A science fantasy with a touch of romance. A utopian world with a touch of slavery.” The best category for Femme is actually ‘metaphysical fantasy’ but I will classify it on Amazon under “Fantasy > New Adult/College Age” instead. Why? Because ‘metaphysical fantasy’ is a very new category that not everyone knows about (or the definition of), including readers who would enjoy reading this classification. I have seen different genres of Fantasy come and go but New Adult has stuck for some time now and that’s the age group of my characters. Since it fits well enough and I have a choice, I will angle for a category that everyone can identify.

Why define a target reader so specifically?

This is possibly the first rule in advertising/marketing/selling. Who is going to buy your product? Of course my novel has appeal beyond this narrow scope, but there must be a starting point and it makes sense to begin with the group most likely to purchase the product. I’d rather give my attention to readers most likely to enjoy the story than put a lot of energy into a broader audience with more hit and miss results. I can always branch out, but it also helps me to define my product. If you don’t know who your reader is, who are you really writing for?

Why $2.99?

I’d initially wanted to release Femme for free (and I will, but only on my website and only for the first week, for friends/family and early supporters (like you!) to access), but I’ve since discovered that this attracts a different kind of reader and a different kind of attitude. Go figure. There are many people who download free books just because they’re free whether they are the genre they enjoy or not. A lot will be genuine; I personally only download free books that I am interested in the story of and intend to ‘pay’ for with reviews (once I finally get around to reading them). Imagine a reader who downloads my book just because it’s free but is mostly interested in action/adventure or thrillers. There’s not much action in my novel, I’m afraid. Imagine the review I’d earn from that reader; they’d be disappointed. I can’t control their opinion, but I can control who downloads my book or not, because only people who are interested in the story will spend the money.

I know I’m turning people away by putting a price tag on it, and I thought 99c would be enough to dissuade the freebie hunters, but apparently not. 99c is only considered a good price when it’s on special for that. There is a stigma that attaches to books that are sold very cheaply. Surprisingly, it’s not a good strategy for a debut author. Now, if I’m going to be selling this book for more than 99c, the next best price is $2.99 to sell it cheaply but with a price-tag that most people can justify spending on a book that they find interesting. Another bonus is that $2.99 starts attracting a 70% return from Amazon, as opposed to 30% return. Yes, this was the main decider for me between my three choices: 1.99, 2.99 and 3.99. I thought getting close to $4 was too high for an unknown author, and also for the amount of words I’m selling. Quality words, in my not-so-humble opinion and personally I would prefer 70K words with a better, sharper story than 100K words with boring bits. My target reader agrees with me.

Website and Newsletter

I’m currently in the process of building my own website, so that I have a landing pad for my readers to go. From there I will build a database of people interested in hearing about my work. The reason why I want my own email database is because I can talk directly to my readers without a middleman. WordPress is wonderful but it might disappear tomorrow and I’ll have lost everything. Connections are superficial here also because of privacy laws, which is GREAT, but doesn’t help me connect with people. I’m talking to a faceless tribe of followers. I love you guys, but right now you’re numbered subscribers, and I dislike that anonymous feeling of talking to myself. It makes sense to build on my own land, to form connections directly – people can unsubscribe, yes, but the channel of communication is still direct. They’ll be able to email me and write to a physical address if they want to. Their information is still secure (thanks MailChimp!), but we can still talk to one another.

I can’t launch this website (even though it’s ready) because I need to upload my short story files that I’m giving away for free. Which begs the question…

Why write short stories?

There are multiple reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy writing them (though two of them have grown into novellas, naughty things!). Secondly, I can turn one over in a day (up to 2K words) and polish it within a week. Beats waiting three months for a book, right? So while I’m working on the bigger projects like novellas and novels, my readers will still have reason to stick around and hang with me. I have to give something in return for such loyalty. I wouldn’t keep checking a website that fails to change for weeks, months, years. Yes, I’ll buy books from my favourite authors, but the websites I visit have a couple of things in common – they have something on them that I’m interested in and they’re constantly updated. I want to do that for my readers: give them what they like and I’ll get back the satisfaction that my words are being read. Thirdly, the stories will funnel readers towards the relevant books, so they’ll also be a marketing tool. If the best way to promote your book is to write another book, then the short stories can be the trail of breadcrumbs along the way. It’ll also later help my readers decide which book in my range they want to read first. My plan is to release two books a year so I should have a decent range in 3-5 years.

Thanks for reading, and writers… keep on writing.

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