Authors often do very little research to really understand who their potential audience is – or could be. Asking them: “Who is your audience and who is your competition?” one might receive only vague answers … However, these are essential questions that are not only very important for self-publishers, but also for authors who want to go with a traditional publisher! You need to proof to the agent or the publisher that you have done your homework and that your book idea is a viable one.
How Can You Research Your Competition?
Knowing your audience is essential and it means understanding their age group, interests, educational status and economic class. Monitoring tweets, Google+ and Facebook posts, blogs, and other new media mentions of other writers in your genre is an easy, cost-effective way to learn about the readers of your competitors.
First of all make a long list with possible keywords that readers might use to find a similar book. Check out the complete categories / genres at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google Books, Waterstones etc. and study all the books, that could be akin to your future work. Visit several public libraries to learn about your competition. Borrow or purchase the most interesting ones, not only to read them, but also to study the book layout and design. Read the online reviews of their books carefully!
- Where are these books sold and for which price?
- In which format are they offered: e-book, print, audio-book?
- Who are the customers of these competing books?
- How are these books received and which ones are bestselling?
- Which categories did they choose, and which keywords?
- In which categories / genres are these competitive books listed?
- What cover designs have been chosen for these books?
- How many books of this topic / with the same keywords have been published already?
- Which author represent him/herself and their book the best – via their Amazon and Goodreads author page, and on their website or blog?.
How to Find Your Competitor’s Readers
Whether you want to admit it or not, lots of writing competitors are out there. Devote some time and energy to research your competition and their followers. Find out about their readers, book reviewers and social media followers on their platform, such as their online accounts or their website / blog. Invite these followers and book reviewers to your own sites or to review your titles. The tiny search function on every social media site is your best tool. In order to know their reviewers use online retailer’s sites, such as Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble etc. and certainly Goodreads, where you can see their fans and friends. Follow these people too and invite them to your own platform.
AdWords campaigns might also give you interesting insights into your competition.
Set up Google Alerts, not only for yourself, but also for all of our competitors to know what they are up to. Other resources you can use to dig up information on your competitors: Alexa.com, Compete.com, or KeywordSpy.com.
Always keep in mind: social media is more than posting on your page and gaining followers, it’s about fostering relationships. Interact with your followers. Respond to comments, ask questions, answer questions! Be a true friend, and you will gain followers and future readers.
Don’t Give Up!
Bestseller authors often need years and years to build up their audience, so it is surprising, that authors dream of their first book as a potential bestseller, and don’t realize that it takes a long time and hard work to get an audience, one reader at a time – especially if they did not do the groundwork to build a huge following at social media, in reader forums or in real-life before they start publishing.
Author-Publishing is Like a Completely New Profession
And professions need to be learned! It takes years to become an excellent writer and it also takes years to become an excellent publisher. It involves lots of skills and knowledge business-wise, marketing skills, not to mention, learning constantly new internet techniques and get to know the latest changes in publishing. Many authors have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the time required for effective book promotion and to make meaningful connections with readers. They expect wonders from a single sales campaign.
Get Professional Help
A book marketing professional has to learn years and years. Why, as an author, not take advantage of their knowledge to keep your head free for writing and interacting with your readers? No one would start an accounting business without learning the ropes, and knowing how to create a revenue / expenses sheet or fill out income tax forms. Writing a book does not make for a publisher, no matter how clever businesses want you to imagine. Take the time to build your author platform and establish a brand, it will eventually give you an advantage in the publishing market.
Don’t forget: You are in this for a long time if writing is really what you like best in life. Get it right from the beginning!