15 Nov 2019

A Commentary on Book Reviewers and Target Markets

Hello readers!

I am pleased to announce that I have received my first proof copy of the Fallen Love paperback! Now, I won’t be sharing any photos yet, as some things did go wrong—the colour management software messed up the colours on the cover. I have corrected the problems, and ordered another proof, which will arrive next week. I promise to show you photos then ;)

At the moment, I am planning on releasing the paperback version at approximately the same time as the ebook—on December 15th—though it may be available a few days after that date (Amazon has to check everything and ensure quality). I am working through any kinks before I hit the publish button.

I am also devising a launch-strategy in co-operation with my marketing consultant. At the moment, I think I will be relying heavily on Amazon advertising, which, in 2019, seems to be the best bet for getting book sales. I have excluded BookBub promotions as I will be releasing Fallen Love exclusively to Amazon (and the Vampire Eirik, being a short story, is also unlikely to be selected). Facebook advertising is a possibility, but its extreme complexity—and personal doubts about whether Facebook users will actually buy my books, as opposed to just following my personal “brand”—leaves it second choice.

On Reviews...

In any case, the subject of this blog post is actually something else: book reviews. Some of you may know that, a few weeks ago, I submitted my book to a site called BookSirens. The jury is still out at the moment, but I have a feeling I will withdraw Fallen Love from their platform.

Why? To put it one way, they’ve got the wrong bloody readers. Let’s start with some statistics: the company claims they can show my book to about 1250 readers. As of today, they’ve shown it about 1400 times. I managed 216 clicks out of that (a remarkable CTR) but only 10 readers have actually chosen to review the book. This suggests that I have an excellent cover, but that readers aren’t converting after the initial click.

And this is probably because of genre. To put it bluntly, their reviewers read some weird crap; I’m talking really niche, genre fiction—alien romance, the omega/alpha shifter stuff, etc. It’s the kind of fiction that has a hardcore following of readers, who will gobble up anything in the genre, but don’t much like anything else.

Then there are the reviewers who read the wrong genres, but are mistakenly lumped together with a totally different bunch of readers. No other category better exemplifies this than romance. One of these reviewers enjoys regency romance a lot—a sub-genre that might has the words “romance” in it, but has bugger all to do with Fallen Love. For those of you who don’t know: regency romance is full of tropes about manly earls and plump maids, and they’re usually set in Victorian (or perhaps Georgian) England.

I have nothing against people who read regency romance, of course (whatever floats your boat and all that). But I definitely will criticise regency romance as a social force: these books embody the worst kinds of social values—the words heteronormative and patriarchal only scratch the surface. They’re retrograde and rose-tinted as well; they portray Victorian England as a pleasantly romantic place, but the truth is, the Victorians were dirty, sick, poor—and bigoted.

I didn’t write a futuristic fantasy novel about two gay characters just so I could have it reviewed by people who think the effing Victorians were cool.

What About Targeting?

You may be wondering what this has to do with ads, and the aforementioned strategy. Actually, the relationship is very fundamental. The trick with reviews is the same trick as with ads—you have to identify your target audience, and hone in on it.

For example: the people who have liked my books so far have loved Cassandra Clare’s books as well. This is exactly what I expected. Cassie’s books are similar to my own, not in a superficial way—aside from the genre, they don’t really share all that many archetypes or worldbuilding features—but in more in the kind of stories we write. I’m so confident of this similarity that I’m willing to spend a fair amount of ad money targeting Cassandra Clare’s fans.

Another one of my reviewers read Eragon, which is, again, one of my favourite books. Other authors that I think would make excellent targets are:

  1. Lauren Kate, author of the Fallen & Rapture series.
  2. Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush.
  3. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books.
  4. Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson books.
  5. Karen Marie Moning, author of Darkfever.
  6. Jeaniene Frost, author of the Night Huntress books.
  7. Alexandra Adornetto, author of the Halo books.

Obviously, this list will be whittled down—I’ll run various ads, and choose the ones which perform best. Nevertheless, you can see the connections here: these are all urban fantasy books. Some of these have gay characters—Charlaine Harris is famous for this, and I think Jeaniene wrote some gay characters too. And I should also add that quite a few of these books are multi-million copy bestsellers.

What don’t you see on this list?

  1. Bodice-rippers, regency romance, M/M shifter books, contemporary gay novels. Nope, none of that has anything to do with my book.
  2. Dystopian scifi like the Hunger Games. I like dystopian well enough, but my book is not actually a dystopian novel! I will be explaining this in a later blogpost.

The trick, then, is to target in such a way that’s not too broad, but also not too niche. The problem with niche readers, as I’ve argued, is that they only want to read the same, familiar stories. The problem with broad targeting is that you will be selling to readers who don’t have a huge amount in common with what you write.

Okay, that’s enough from me, folks! Till next time.

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