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I’d stay up all night chatting with my ideal reader…

Day 21 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge gives participants the opportunity to identify something every author needs to know: his/her ideal reader. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 21 writing prompt:

Describe the market for your book – to the tiniest detail (e.g., childless divorced women past age 50 who want to remarry). Why that demographic? Describe their psychographics. How do you connect with them to market to them?

I am continually amazed, as a book marketing consultant, how many authors fail to consider – or often even have a clue – who the audience for their books is. They just decide they’re going to write a book – and figure they’ll get to the marketing stuff later. Then the book is done, they’ve got a palette of them sitting in their garages, and they wish they’d given some thought to their audiences earlier.

As I have mentioned at considerable length in many prior posts, knowing your reader is crucial to getting your books in his/her hands. This includes really fine-point details:

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you must know everything you can about your reader. This includes two components: demographics and psychographics. Demographics means measurable things like age, education, and marital/parenting status. Psychographics, on the other hand, are the things that make your reader unique, such as their personality traits, values, and attitudes.

When it comes to reading, here are some interesting statistics to consider:

  • In a 2013 survey of 1,005 people in the U.S. conducted in English and Spanish via landlines and cell phones, some 76 percent of adults ages 18 and older said that they read at least one book in the past year. (I am very skeptical of this statistic.)
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/a-snapshot-of-reading-in-america-in-2013/
  • Women are more likely than men to have read a book in the previous 12 months, and those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to have done so as well.
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/a-snapshot-of-reading-in-america-in-2013/
  • The average college freshman reads at a seventh-grade level.
http://campusreform.org/?ID=6174
  • The average reading level for American adults is about seventh to eighth grade.
http://www.clearlanguagegroup.com/readability/
  • The reading skills of American adults are significantly lower than those of adults in most other developed countries, according to a new international survey.
http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-american-adults-have-low-and-declining-reading-proficiency-20131008-story.html
  • There are almost half-a-million words in the English Language – the largest language on earth, incidentally – but one-third of all our writing is made up of only 22 words. (Scary!)
http://www.readfaster.com/education_stats.asp#
  • According to the Literacy Project Foundation, 50 percent of American adults cannot read a book at the eighth-grade level.
http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/community/statistics/

Some of these stats conflict a bit, and overall the news is not good for reading and literacy in America. However, I’m not here to dwell on these issues today. My point is that my reader is not the average American reader.

Meg Cabot

If you’re thinking this image looks familiar, it’s because I used it for my Sept. 24th post, “If ‘Stan’ were nonfiction, it’d still be a travelogue… just drier.

While I don’t think I deliberately set out to do this, looking back on my novel writing process, it seems inevitable that I would write something I wanted to read. I mean, who doesn’t? Children’s authors, maybe. But don’t you think you’d HAVE to write a book that you, personally, would like? Otherwise, it would feel forced and fraudulent.

To that end, my reader is smart – more than likely college educated. He or she likes to travel, or at least enjoys learning about other cultures, and is probably better traveled than Stan, at least at the start of his trip. He or she will tend to lean politically liberal (a Bernie Sanders fan, to be sure) – or will wind up chucking the book across the room at various points in the reading of it. He/she maymillennials or may not have a religious tradition. More than likely, they are exploring and open to various spiritual teachings. I’m surmising this reader is younger – a Millennial or Gen-Xer. I’m having to keep this in mind as I write – to make an effort to be more socially current than I personally may have an interest in. This is one place where I am not exactly my reader.

My reader wants needs to make a difference. He/she is wired and connected to a handful of the most useful social media platforms – which is, in large part, where I will go to meet him or her. He or she reads the news online. Thinks Trevor Noah is doing a better job than they expected. Still likes and shops at bookstores. Loves indie coffee houses. Shops thrift stores. Recycles. Has done volunteer work and attended several Meetups in the last year. He or she is urban, as opposed to suburban or rural. He or she embraces public transportation, has a bicycle and rides unashamedly and unironically. He or she is fairly health conscious, eats organic at least sometimes, is assuredly opposed to Monsanto, and has called/emailed his or her legislator on at least one issue of importance. Is amused by PeopleOfWalmart.com but prefers DailyCurrant.com.

I think the biggest challenge with meeting my readers in person is that I’ll love them and want to hang out with them and chat into the wee hours (at which time they are most definitely up!), which would leave little time for anything else, seeing as meeting interesting new people is probably my most favorite activity in the entire world. A great problem to have, I suppose – meeting too many new people and having to cut conversations short. Ask me again in a year.

Well, that may not be every detail, but it’s a hell of a start. So tell us a bit about who your ideal reader is and how you plan to connect with him/her. Use the Comments section below…

Please be sure to check in again tomorrow, when I’ll reveal who I’d really, really like to have endorse my book…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to wonderful writing surprises!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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The art of referral networking

A few years ago, I attended a networking lunch where I encountered a woman (I cannot even say I “met” her) who, upon arriving, literally threw her cards down at every place setting. I happened to be seated next to her, so I was one of the few people there she actually spoke to. Her first words to me were, “I’m a real estate agent, so if you know anyone who needs to buy or sell a house, refer them to me.” Seriously. She never said, “Hi, my name is Sally and I’m a real estate agent…” She never said please. She did ask for (demand) the business, but in the most boorish, unimaginative way possible. I don’t think that business card even made it out of the room – I threw it in the trash at the first opportunity.

If anyone were to value learning the proper way to give and receive referrals, you’d think it would be someone in a highly competitive industry like real estate. However, I’ve encountered bad networkers in many industries, so perhaps it’s more a case that Phoenix-area businesspeople in general often receive no instruction in how to best represent themselves.

As promised, today we’re going to talk a little bit about the best way to give and receive referrals. Generally when we think of referrals, we’ve got business on the brain. You and your best friend own a Greek restaurant and co-wrote a cookbook. If I’m thinking a typical referral, my mindset is, “Who can I send to eat at your restaurant or buy your cookbook?” But there is such a thing as a referral that doesn’t actually involve buying or selling anything. How did my client who wrote the World War II romance learn in great detail about 1940s wedding dresses? The Google can be helpful for research – but do not discount the solid benefits of talking to a living, breathing expert! Personal referrals can be invaluable when introducing yourself to a stranger.

Here are some important considerations when it comes to making the most of referral networking:

KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO MEET. Regardless of the kind of referral – expert, book buyer, reviewer, or prospective client – as we explored in the last post, the first step is knowing who you want to meet. That requires that YOU know this essential information, but also that you convey it properly to the people who would make referrals to you.

LET OTHERS KNOW WHAT YOU’RE UP TO. A significant aspect of successful referral networking simply involves letting the people in your circles know how they can help you. Unless you tell them, people won’t necessarily know that you are looking to build your platform as an author and/or speaker, that you’re looking to build your business, or that you are undertaking a new research project.

In the early days of my business, my work was primarily editing and my business was aptly named Words Made Easy. It’s a clever, catchy name (except for the “ee” that occurred in the Web address) and worked well for me for a while. Until a few things happened: (1) I began to realize my author clients had spent a lot of time and money to create great books but didn’t have a clue how to market them; (2) I began to branch out into marketing, consulting, and speaking; (3) I began to think of myself as so much more than exclusively an editor; (4) someone first said to me, “I didn’t know you taught blogging and wrote media releases.” Time for a name change to Write | Market Design and, more importantly, time for me to do a better job at letting others know what I do.

TEACH OTHERS HOW TO REFER YOU. Just as I was surprised to hear people say they “didn’t know I did that” about my business, you might be surprised to learn how few people know or understand precisely what you write and/or who you want to meet. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to teach them. For instance, I know a man who wrote a book about job search that has been off the market for almost a dozen years because it doesn’t have any references to the Internet. His primary business now is getting vets back to work, but he has lots of skill at job search across the board. Do you think he’d turn down a non-veteran client? Of course not! But if people only think of him as working with vets, they may not think to refer empty-nesters, new college grads, or other job seekers to him.

TAKE SOMEONE TO COFFEE. The best way to teach others how to refer you is not in a quick moment amidst the hullaballoo of a networking event, but in a quiet meeting where you each have time to speak and share in a focused way. You won’t do this with every person you meet at every networking event, but for those with whom you sense some simpatico and synergy, it’s a really good idea. Natural pairings might include a book editor and a graphic designer; a jewelry designer and an image consultant; a personal trainer and a chiropractor; a plumber and an electrician.

TEACH THEM WHAT TO LISTEN FOR. In this face-to-face meeting with a prospective referral partner, besides explaining who, specifically, you would like to meet, you have the opportunity to prime them for keywords or phrases that indicate such a person. For instance, a life coach might want you to listen for people discussing divorce, career change, or sending their last kid off to college. Think about it a bit. What keywords would be indicators of the kinds of people you’d want to meet?

REMIND THEM TO CONNECT WITH YOU. As such an automatic aspect of our day-to-day interactions anymore, it’s rather surprising that we still need to remind our referrers (and those they are referring) to check us out on our social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Here’s a good place to remind you, however: Don’t post anything in these places that you wouldn’t want prospective clients/readers to see! I’ve made the decision to be open about my politics on my social networks because it’s very important to me. But I know the risk inherent with doing so. Someone in sales might be more inclined to keep their politics to themselves. I get that. Think before you post so that nothing will come back later to bite you.

MAKE THE INTRODUCTIONS EASY. Use your common sense when referring someone to a businessperson you know. Generally speaking, the person looking to build the business is going to take more initiative than the person looking for the service (unless, of course, you’re locked outside your house at midnight with the alarm blaring). Perhaps the very best way to make an introduction is in person, but that’s not always practical. So, rather than hurriedly handing someone a name and phone number, what’s the next best way to do it? Make a mutual referral. This involves having contact info for both parties. You can then write an introductory email to both individuals, or call each of them and provide details about the other person.

This is just a tiny overview of the practice of referral networking. Done properly, it can be a HUGE boost to your business or the growth of your author’s platform. There are entire programs developed around the practice, so if you want to learn more, I encourage you to do your research and take that next step.

Next, we’ll explore practical ways to make yourself memorable.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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Since I can’t meet everyone, who DO I want to meet?

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve attended even a handful of networking meetings, you’ve heard (or perhaps uttered) the two most dangerous words one can use in a networking environment: Anybody who. Yet we come across it all the time: A good lead for me is anybody who _______FILL IN THE BLANK_______.

LIFE COACH: Anybody who wants to improve their life.

ATTORNEY: Anybody who wants to file a lawsuit.

REAL ESTATE AGENT: Anybody who is looking to buy or sell a home.

AUTHOR: Anybody who reads XYZ genre.

The problem is that we’re NEVER looking for anybody who anything. At least we shouldn’t be. Why not? Well, if I were a life coach who gave my client homework, but he refused to do it, I’d probably get a little frustrated because my dear client would be working against his own interests. Likewise for a legal client who ignored advice, a real estate client who had unmanageable expectations, or readers who kept insisting a certain author write something else.

One of the organizations to which I owe a debt of gratitude for my professional success is a group called Shared Vision Network. Even the name offers an indication of how this group was different. Life moves on, though, and the group has disbanded, but boy did I learn a lot from my participation in it. One thing we all became very proficient at was identifying our ideal clients. It even got to be a bit of an inside joke. You could always tell the new person in the room during the 30-second  intros, because almost inevitably they’d say “I’m looking to meet anyone who…” Immediately, the rest of us would shake our heads and kindly teach the newbie why we want to be more specific in our thoughts and intentions.

We need to dump the “anybody who” outlook and drill down to discover who we really want as clients/customers/readers. Then we must teach the others in our leads/networking groups exactly how to refer business to us. Be more specific about whom you’d like to meet by mentioning things like:

  • Age
  • Geographic location
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Parenting status
  • Pet owner status
  • Hobbies
  • Education level

As we’ve mentioned in past posts, when it comes to building your platform — which leads to selling books
it’s essential that you identify the things that make someone an ideal reader for your particular brand of writing. Will you meet this precise person at every networking event? Unlikely. However, you can plant the seeds in the minds of others who might know this person.

In our next post, we’ll discuss precise strategies for giving and receiving referrals that work.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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