Every Author’s Two Audiences

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Several times recently I found myself having the same conversation with various Books & Such clients, and I realized what often seems obvious to me  isn’t obvious to everyone: Every author has two audiences.

An Author’s First Audience

The first audience really is obvious–your readers. Many authors forget to consider who their audience is when they write their manuscripts; it can be especially problematic for novelists. As I conversed with a novelist, I asked him who his audience was. He found the question baffling. “People who like my books,” he finally answered.

“Yes, but what sort of books do those readers like?” I pressed.

He didn’t know.

I suggested he give more thought to the idea that his readers do fall into a specific category.

Figuring Out Your Audience

Sometimes it helps to think about other authors these readers are likely to enjoy.

Ask yourself: What genre do they write in? What are the similarities between their writing and yours? When you think about their audience, whom do you picture?

A look at Amazon’s “Frequently bought together” offerings on one of that author’s book pages offers clues. (Or one of your title’s pages, if you’re already published.) Also, “Customers who bought this item also bought” helps.

An Author’s Second Audience

The second audience is your publisher. Yup, your publisher.

Authors often don’t know when they should communicate with their publisher. They don’t want to be pests, but this reluctance to communicate can cause serious repercussions.

A few years ago I started to represent a multi-published author. When I met with her current publisher to find out how the publisher saw the relationship, I was dismayed that the author (whom I’ll call Teresa) was viewed as reluctant to promote her books.

When I told Teresa that was the perception, she presented me with an impressive litany of regular promotional activities she had engaged in for her most recent title.

“Did you communicate any of that to your publisher?” I asked.

“No, I just thought they’d see on my website and social media what I was doing.”

Why You Need to Keep the Communication Channel Open

Think about that assumption. How many titles does your publisher produce each year? How many authors do the staff work with each year?  How much time do they have to track what each author is doing to promote his or her projects? (Especially since an author will continue to promote titles years after they’ve been released.)

Note: You should be sure that you’re connected to your publisher on all the social media sites you’re active on, whether that’s following their account or befriending them. That way the marketing department is much more likely to see your posts. And the publicist might well share your posts. Since most publishers have significant social media connections, they can help to broadcast your message.

I suggested that Teresa keep a log of everything she did to promote her writing and then to send that log once a month to the marketing and editorial personnel she regularly worked with. That small communication changed the publisher’s view of Teresa.

Soon I was hearing, “We can’t imagine anyone working harder than Teresa to promote her books.” What had changed? Teresa started to think of her publisher as an audience she needed to stay in touch with.

What she did wasn’t intrusive or even frequent. But it was informative. It told her “audience” what it needed to hear: That she was hard at work fulfilling her job as an author.

What You Should Communicate

Other items publishing personnel want to hear include: letters, emails, etc., you receive from readers, showing that individuals appreciate what you’ve written and are being moved by it–sometimes in life-changing ways; ideas of ways you could promote your title that the publisher might coordinate its marketing/publicity efforts with (be realistic; talk to your agent; send a list, not a scattering of ideas every week); pics of book signings and speaking engagements, especially if a nice crowd shows up. And especially if the signing is at, say, a Barnes & Noble. The B&N sales rep might well show that photo to the B&N buyer to underscore that the author is supporting B&N in his/her own way.

The main points to keep in mind when communicating with your publisher are:

  • Make the communication regular but not frequent (monthly is about right)
  • Send one email rather than a smattering of thoughts each time something occurs to you
  • When in doubt, talk to your agent
  • Make sure the communication is respectful and enthusiastic rather than whining or demanding

What would you add to the idea of each author having two audiences?

How did you figure out who your readers were?

What have you done in communicating with your publisher that has worked for you?

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