John Locke and the Rest of Us: Defining a Target Audience and Getting Them to Come to You, Part I

While we were cruising the fjords of Norway, one of the books I read on my Kindle was John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Since one of my current goals is to get my novel Yseult up as an ebook before Christmas, I figure I can use all the advice I can get. At least I know that Yseult can cut it as a novel — it’s been through the editorial process and has sold over 10,000 copies in German translation. (I don’t have any numbers for the Italian and Dutch.) For Yseult, I don’t have to worry about things like hiring an editor for the monster historical fantasy and wondering if I will ever earn out the expenses.

What I do have to worry about is figuring out how to get Yseult to the audiences who would be interested in reading it. Which is what Locke’s book is all about. The problem is, he’s writing a book for authors writing a series character who can put out short novels similar in tone and plot on a regular basis (that’s where the million comes in — lots of publications selling to a regular fan base). Ok, so that doesn’t apply to Yseult, since it’s a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Isolde, but one that starts with the story of the female character rather than the male. But as most people know, the story ends tragically — no series there. It’s a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words, and I have to admit, I really don’t want to give it away for 99 cents.

So is there anything I can learn from Locke?

He says the first thing a writer has to do to is define her target audience and then write posts that will draw potential readers to her blog — and the links to her ebooks on her sidebar. The mistake of most authors is that they write their blogs for other writers. Fair enough, guilty as charged. I have the sidebar with links to my books, but my posts are mostly about writing.

Then let’s tackle the next step, defining my target audience. As far as Yseult is concerned, I have a bit of an advantage here, since I have lots of reader feedback to help me try to figure it out. I know who my ideal reader is — her name is Valentina Coluccelli, and she wrote a review of Yseult when it came out in Italian. I hate reading reviews, but with this one, every step of the way, I was thinking – omigod, she got it! she knew exactly what I wanted to do, why I fiddled with the sources here and chose that version there! Finally, someone understands me! She even got some of the details that I thought of Easter eggs. 🙂

But how do I extrapolate from my ideal reader Valentina to define my target audience? That’s a tough one, and I fear it means I am destined not to sell a million ebooks in five months, sigh. My audience for Yseult is very specific, and while I have a follow-up novel also set in Sub-Roman Britain, the other novels I want to bring out as ebooks are all over the place as far as genre and target readers are concerned. About the only thing they have in common is that they share a certain feminist sensibility in the subject matter in that they touch on ways women have been disadvantaged over the centuries or (for my SF) try to illuminate “common sense” ways of thinking are biased against women.

And here I am, in the middle of the night, with way more words than I intended and no conclusion. So I think for the first time in my blog career, I’m going to have to make this a two-parter.

Otherwise on the writing front I’ve been fairly successful in repressing my frittering gene and have reached my word count goals. Haven’t started tackling any of the other goals yet, however. But at least I’m thinking about my target audience. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “John Locke and the Rest of Us: Defining a Target Audience and Getting Them to Come to You, Part I”

  1. I read a few reviews of that guy’s book on Amazon and I crinkled my nose as I read. There are plenty of readers out there that don’t want to read books that are so formulaic. I’ve seen his name on the Kindle Bestsellers but never read any, so I can’t say for sure about his books personally. Your book sounds like something I might like, but I’m a book whore. I read just about anything, so I’m no help there!

    For me, I will read a book that’s discounted (or free!) and if I enjoy it a lot, I’ll gobble up everything that writer has written. I will follow them across genres. Maybe if you offered it cheaper until you got a following?

    Good luck anyway! Congratulations on the success you’ve had already.

    p.s. I thought this post was going to be about the philosopher.

    1. That’s a good point about the discounted and free books, Heather. One of my “problems” though is that I write all kinds of different stuff that loosely falls under the genres of science fiction and fantasy. What I would need as a cheap or free book would be something similar to “Yseult” that would get people to buy my Big Fat Fantasy. 🙂 Must ponder…

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