Ep 039: “Finding Your Ideal Readers”

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Welcome to the 39th episode of The Author Hangout, a “Hangout on Air” designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“The most successful self-published authors choose the marketing that they feel the most comfortable with.”– Steve Spatz

Finding Your Ideal Readers

In this episode we interviewed Steve Spatz from BookBaby. We discussed marketing, social media, and the steps that you can take to find your ideal reader.

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Free guide for authors: The Ultimate Author Checklist


He’s a successful marketer and the President of BookBaby, a leading eBook distributor that helps writers publish, promote and sell their books worldwide. Prior to taking up his current role he served as the Chief Marketing Officer for BookBaby’s parent company Audio Video Labs, he has written many of the self-published guides offered by BookBaby including the Hybrid Author Game Plan and Making Money with Your eBook. Please welcome an author with a deep understanding of the self-publishing industry, Steven Spatz.

How did you get involved in the book industry?

He had quite a different launch into the industry than most:

“I started my professional life out actually as a sports writer, a journalist, about 4-5 careers ago so I know the effort that it takes to write. Writing has always been one of my loves. As I moved into the business world, marketing involves effective communication to your clients, your prospects, your buyers and so I always kept writing as one of the things I would personally want to do even though we’ve employed many copywriters and things like that. It came full circle when being involved with Audio Video Labs, our sister company CDBaby in Portland. They have our legendary music industry for dealing with independent musicians to help to get their content out in the market place, Apple, iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, the whole thing and BookBaby really started 5 years ago. When Apple came out with the iPad they called us about 6 weeks before the launch and they said, “Can you guys do like eBooks?” we’ve never even heard of eBooks at that time. We got ourselves together, we learned how to do eBooks and we were one of the preferred partners for Apple as they launched the iPad and got involved in iBooks. From there it was just a matter of learning the business and listening very carefully to authors. We thought going in musicians and authors would be very similar. You think of a venn diagram, you know those 2 circles that come together and there’s much more overlap than the non-overlapping, well, every day that goes by those circles pull apart because musicians and authors have very different needs, very different wants and dreams and desires.”

What are some things that authors may not be thinking about when it comes to promoting their books?

He shares some great wisdom about book marketing information in general:

“There’s a lot of material out there on the internet about book marketing and a lot of it has a lot of overlaps and a lot of people say many of the same things. One of the things you should probably guard against is not to overload themselves and not to think, “Okay, I’m going to do 20 things to promote my books.” Rather than to choose to really say, “Okay, I want to do a few things and I want to do it really well.””

He also talks about doing the right type of marketing… for you:

“The most successful self-published authors in BookBaby, they choose the marketing that they feel the most comfortable with. A lot of times authors are not marketers. Although that’s what I am, I kind of understand both the yin and the yang of it but, authors, there’s a wide spectrum from the way that you can promote your book all the way from going out and soliciting reviews, to looking for book signings to looking for opportunities to speak at places. We advise authors to pick the 2 to 3 things that they are most comfortable with that’s natural for them to do. If somebody doesn’t like to speak in public, well they probably don’t want to do book signings or appear on panels or things like that. If another person like to get out and mingle with people maybe that’s the way for them to do it.”

Steve also shared about some of their most popular guides on BookBaby. Be sure to listen to the interview to learn about these free guides, and head over to BookBaby.com to get the free guides.

Can you tell us about a time when you have seen authors really struggle?

He shared a hilarious story about authors, toilet paper, and dog food. You seriously have to listen to it to believe it.

He then talked about how people struggle with marketing in general, and offered a great tip:

“One of the most direct ways is for people to really study up on how to optimize their Amazon listing. If they don’t have time for anything else. If they don’t have time to set up a Twitter account or start a blog or network or comment on blogs, if you have time do one thing, look at the guide we have on our site, which is about Amazon keywords spending 20 minutes to study that and then doing the things which it requires, which will probably take about an hour at most by doing it to the nth degree and really calmly and just passionately researching how many people are searching for all the kinds of words that your book is described and then put that onto your Amazon listing. That, above anything else probably, if you only have a couple of hours to spend on marketing your book and of course, you should spend a lot more than that, but if you only have a couple of hours that would be the one thing I would do.”

He also shared an awesome story about an author with BookBaby who saw great success with optimizing their Amazon keywords.

What one marketing tactic is really working well for authors?

Of course, like many of our guests, Steve talked about the importance of email marketing:

“For every one person that you can have on your own database to get their email address, to get their physical address, that’s worth a hundred followers on Facebook. Or to us it’s worth 500 followers on Twitter because you have reached out to them somehow and they’ve come back to you and said, “Yes, I want your information. I’m going to trust you with my email address or my physical address” if you’re going to mail things out to them. They’re really saying, “I want to know about you.” Again, Facebook is so casual and Twitter is so casual or LinkedIn or any of these things. You can instantly like something or have a linkage you really have no intention but the fact that you’re able…if the author has a website or if you have any kind of presence out there and you’re actively soliciting people to join their mailing list; a) it’s the most valuable thing they can possibly have and b) they shouldn’t feel as if they’re spamming people by simply sending an email that’s saying, “guess what, my book is almost finished” because these people asked you to keep in contact with them.”

He continued by encouraging authors about their mailing lists:

“Your readers, they’re fans, they’re more than just potential customers, they’re on your side. They want to hear from you.”

He finished it up with this gold:

“Go out and compile a list and there’s a gazillion ways to go out there and do it by either having a website and collecting names or joining with other bloggers and have them find you. Before long there are a lot of ways to collect an email database of 500, 1,000, 2,000 names and then the second thing is, you’ve got to use it. If you don’t, if you just let it sit there and you only send them an announcement when your book is done. In the intervening time, your fans might have moved on to other things.”

There are also some great tips that Steve and Shawn talked about for getting readers onto your mailing list.

How can authors develop their ideal reader?

They ended with this topic that is helpful for all authors:

“It’s going to vary between fiction or non-fiction. I’ll go back again to this one example, which was obviously is non-fiction. She, when she started writing, she had the solution and she knew the people who had the problem as it were. The issue is they need to learn how to drive. I don’t know if she wrote exactly to that marketplace, I think she just downloaded all her ideas but the fact that she started the book in the very beginning and knowing maybe not overtly but she must have known that eventually the customer who’s going to buy this is going to be the guy or the girl who needs to learn how to drive or the family member who’s sick and tired of taking them on driver’s lessons, they need to have that book. So, authors, even when they start to write a book, they probably want to know, what potential marketplace, so frankly, investigating what other books and genres there are out there.”

He also talked about why having competition isn’t a bad thing:

“Don’t be afraid that there’s a hundred, if there’s a thousand more books be heartened by that because you’re going to put your own spin on it. Your own personality. Your cover will be different. Your topics will be different. Your writing style, your characters, they’ll all be different. The people that are already heavily invested in either that genre, that time period, or something about that book. I think you can learn a lot by the reviews on Amazon and on GoodReads about the kind of books that are most close to your own book. So that’s a real tangible way to find out who that target customer’s going to be.”

How can people connect with you?

“I have a very easy email address to remember, its [email protected]. That’s the one that comes to me directly. I get dozens of emails from authors every week and I try to answer them all within the day.”

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