How to identify the target market for your book

Julie Eason podcast with Jule and Joan

This edited transcript is the second in a four-part series from a podcast interview on Jan. 12, 2015. Julie Eason asks me about how authors can do their own publicity. Prefer audio? You can listen to the podcast on iTunes or on Stitcher Radio. Part 3 will be published here tomorrow.

Joan: When you market your book, it’s not only push marketing. It’s not only about pushing the message out there and finding that target market. It’s positioning yourself, online especially, that makes it easier for your target market to find you when they’re searching for the kind of information that your book includes.

Julie Anne: Exactly. That’s the key to why people feel sleazy or dirty or very uncomfortable with marketing themselves or their book: they feel like it has to be push marketing.

Joan: Exactly, yeah.

Julie Anne: “I have to advertise.” But when you say “position yourself” and you set yourself up so that other people come to you, it’s completely natural and it feels good and it’s helping people the way that you intended to help them with your book.

Market Your Expertise, Not Only Your Book

Joan: That’s correct. The reason I think people feel lazy is because they hate what they see a lot of other authors doing. What do most authors do? You and I have seen it all the time on social media—”buy my book, buy my book, buy my book.” We are so sick to death about hearing “buy my book,” and they don’t want to do that. My advice is don’t market only your book. Market your expertise. That’s a big mistake I see so many authors making. They want to sell the book when they should be selling their expertise, too, within a particular niche or within a particular topic.

Julie Anne: Now, how does that apply if it’s fiction?

Joan: Let’s say you’ve written a Civil War romance novel. You can position yourself as a romance expert as well as a Civil War expert because I’m assuming that before you’ve written your novel you’ve done a lot of research on the Civil War to make sure that the book is historically accurate.

Julie Anne: Exactly. I don’t know about a romance expert, but maybe a romance genre expert. [Laughs]

Joan: Right, right, or whatever. That’s where so many authors drop the ball. They’re concerned only about the book being the end product when they fail to understand that the product is really what’s in their heads. Also, expertise is not only about what you know that’s in your head. It’s about what you do with that knowledge.

Julie Anne: Exactly.

Joan: Do you speak? Do you write? Do you create products? Are you a mentor? Are you a coach? Do you podcast? Do you lead Meetup groups? Are you the moderator for a LinkedIn group? All those are things that experts do.

Create Publicity for Topics Tied to Your Book 

Julie Anne: Even if you’re a comedy writer and you do stand-up comedy, all you do is entertain. Sometimes fiction writers will say, “All I’m doing is entertaining with this book. It’s just supposed to be enjoyable and fun.” That’s OK! Your book is still a product, but it’s not the only product that you’re ever going to produce if you plan to make this a career or if you plan to make money from this book. It’s got to be something bigger than the book.

So when we’re talking publicity, we’re talking bigger—and this is probably going to lead into another strategy, I think—you’re trying to get media attention and you focus only on the one book. Sometimes that cannot hit as well as if it’s something that’s a greater expertise or a greater topic that the book happens to help with.

Joan: Exactly. So many authors are pushing themselves as authors. Authors are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. I mean, the free tools online have made it so easy for everybody and their mother to be an author. There are millions more authors today than there ever were. I recommend you differentiate yourself by first being an expert and you pitch yourself that way: “Oh, by the way, I happen to be an expert who’s just written a book.”

Julie Anne: Absolutely. All right, let’s get into the next strategy. We’ve got target market, make sure you know who you’re talking to, what’s the next thing that authors should be able to use to promote your books?

Joan: Gosh, I’m going to go back to the topic of expertise and to do things that experts do, because I don’t think we’ve spent enough time on that. A lot of people think, “Well, I’m not an expert, I’m not the person who knows the most about my topic in the world.” You don’t have to be. Expertise has many levels of expertise.

The Various Levels of Expertise

Joan: I want to take some time to talk about this because a lot of authors feel sleazy trying to position themselves as experts. Let’s go to the bottom rung of the ladder of expertise.

What is an expert at the bottom rung of the ladder? It’s somebody who can talk extemporaneously about a topic and answer questions about it—let’s say for 30 minutes. Like if you were going to go out to lunch with five people and they were to throw questions at you about your topic, you should be able to answer those questions.

Then the next highest rung of the ladder would be somebody who cannot only answer questions on the topic, but who maybe teaches about the topic. There are various levels all the way up to the top of the ladder and that would be an expert who has a long track record of being at the top of their field.

They’re frequently sought out by the media, they’re sought out to do interviews like I’m doing right now with you, with podcasters, journalists and bloggers. They write for other publications. They have patents and trademarks and copyrights.

Expertise: Not Just What You Know But What You Do

Remember that expertise is not only what’s in your head, it’s about what you do. Here are some simple things that authors can do to start to build that resume of being an expert.

Go on to LinkedIn and join some LinkedIn groups that include your target market. Don’t only join author groups on LinkedIn. So many of these authors concentrate on author groups and they’re all marketing their books to each other. Go find your target market on LinkedIn and join LinkedIn groups where your target market is hanging out and answer their questions within the groups.

Throw out questions of your own. Share tips and valuable information. You can also start your own group on LinkedIn. You might start a Meetup group in your community, especially if you’re marketing locally. Anybody can start a Meetup group.

We’re talking on a podcast right now. Start podcasting. Start blogging. Even if you don’t want to start a blog, you can still pitch guest blog posts to other bloggers and write not about your book but about your area of expertise: “Oh by the way, I’ve written a book and here are five tips that I’ve excerpted from it.”

Julie Anne: Right. If you’re putting your expertise out there, they’re going to naturally be curious about what’s in your book, especially if you’re giving really great value. You’re helping people, answering their questions, and you sound like you know what you’re talking about because you’re setting up that expert status.

Of course they want to find out what’s in your book because it’s going to be even better and more in-depth. That’s how people think to themselves, “Oh, I need to read their book.” Not because you said, “Buy my book,” or “Hey, check out this free book, it’s 99 cents on Amazon,” or something. It’s because you have presented yourself as an expert, just like Joan said.

This is pull marketing, where you’re setting yourself up as an expert and they’re coming to you and they’re going, “Oh we need to read your book, I need to find out more about this topic and since I can’t talk to you in person, I can read your book about it.”

Why You Should Join Many LinkedIn Groups

Joan: That’s right. If you go to LinkedIn, it’s astonishing how many groups are on LinkedIn. I’m going to give your authors a really good tip. LinkedIn lets you join a maximum of 50 groups. I recommend that you join about 47 or 48 groups on LinkedIn and that will give you the option of joining two or three more groups if you come across one later. Why join so many groups? Two reasons.

First, anybody can contact anybody else within their own group and send them a LinkedIn email message without being a first-, second- or third-degree connection.

Julie Anne: Right, exactly.

Joan: Think about that. That’s powerful!

Julie Anne: You’re connecting directly with your readers and you’re connecting directly with the people who you’ve identified as people who should be readers.

Joan: Not only that, but with influencers, too.

Julie Anne: Yeah, influencers. We want to talk about borrowing other people’s audiences. It’s one of the best ways to go out and find your target audience. Find the people who already influence those people and then find a way to get in front of them.

Joan: Right. It also makes it easier for people to find you. If you’re in 50 LinkedIn groups and somebody is searching LinkedIn Groups for someone with your expertise using keywords, your name will come up more frequently if you’re in 50 groups versus if you’re in only 5.

(Note from Joan: You can control exactly how often you receive emails notifications from each group. I recommend that if you’e in a lot of groups, choose only the five or six that are most important to you, and specify how often you want to receive notifications from each one. Turn off notifications from all the others.) 

Julie Anne: Absolutely. All right. So we’re sort of bypassing the media and going directly to the readers.

Tomorrow: How to get book publicity from newspapers, TV

See All Blog Posts in This Series

Part 1: How authors can start do-it-yourself publicity

Part 2: How to identify the target market for your book 

Part 3: How to get book publicity from newspapers, TV

Part 4: More book marketing tips for fiction and nonfiction