Write to Market

I belong to a wonderfully supportive writer’s group where, over the years, we have struck a balance between supporting each other and offering constructive criticism to help each other improve our craft and our manuscripts. It is a multi-genre group, primarily fiction, but with poets and non-fiction.

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This week, John Putnam, one of our most successful authors, who has written several historical Western novels about the Gold Rush, explained how having taken our prior comments into account, is keeping a specific action scene. He had given it some thought and decided that it aligns with his target audience. None of us generally read Western novels and I admire how he has stuck to his guns (probably Colt 45’s or a trusty Winchester!) and, while considering our advice, has stayed focused on what his readers want and expect.

At the same meeting, a wonderful colleague mentioned how she thought some of my female characters in Kingfisher: Slave to Honor were too dark for her taste. It is a fair point and I am wondering about balancing her feedback with the fact that this manuscript is meant for a Grimdark / adult Medieval Fantasy audience (think Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, George R.R. Martin). 

The concept of Write-to-Market is to know who your target audience – your readers – are and what they expect. Your mother might not like it even though she still claims you’re the greatest author ever, but then she does not buy other novels in your genre.

I listen to many podcasts, read marketing books and articles, hopefully by successful authors as I try to fathom my way through the ever-changing tools available to market the Wycaan Master series. A commonality among these authors is the need to write for those who read your books. It sounds simple, but I’ve lost count of writers who have assured me that everyone would love their novel – and I ran a writer’s marketing group for years for the California Writers Club and spoken to various forums on the topic.

It is incumbent to understand who are reading your genre, where they hang out, and what they want. How do we find that out? Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Goodreads – the Facebook of bibliophiles has groups dedicated to genres. Hang out there and don’t just sell your books, ask good questions to mine for data you really want.
  2. Follow Successful Authors – choose 3-5 authors who are several rungs ahead of you and follow them. Check out their website, subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on twitter and, read their books (buy them – they rely on royalties just like you).
  3. Kindle Boards – I feel a bit hypocritical here because I only go there when I want an answer to something. But I am always so impressed by the enthusiasm and honesty of those who hang out there.
  4. Survey – solicit your contact list for advice. I did this years ago when The First Decree was published and learned a lot about who was reading my novel and how popular the Young Adult epic fantasy is with adults.

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I hope this blog post has inspired you to focus on your target audience and take the time to research before you invest time and money in certain marketing tactics. It has helped me. I am planning a survey of Grimdark / adult Medieval Fantasy readers. If you’re a member of the tribe, I hope you’ll participate.

Good Writing,

Alon / elfwriter 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books.

More on the author can be found at his website and you can sign up for his quarterly eNewsletter here.

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The Great Author Gold Rush

Last week, Amazon announced the dates for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2014 (ABNA). This was the signal, across the country, that sent thousands of writers, novelists, and dreamers, scurrying into our offices, corners, coffee shops, and wherever else people of our ilk perch to write their novels.

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Ten thousand will be allowed to enter a novel, an excerpt and a pitch, click on submit, and then lean back to spend three months dreaming of future fame and glory. It is the writer’s lottery ticket and the adrenaline is flowing.

Part of the magic around this competition is that it is the ultimate democratizing of publishing. All who enter receive equal access to the judges, the fans, and the agents who hover on the periphery. No more ambushing agents in expensive Writer Conference bathrooms (yes it happens), no more trips to the post office with unsolicited manuscripts, no more trying to convince a friend who knows someone who knows…

Click on the button and let cyber-nature take its course. If your manuscript is intriguing, your pitch compelling, and your craft sound, you stand as good a chance as the other 9,999 entries. Personally, I prepared my acceptance speech, good for ABNA, Nobel, the Oscars or Oprah!

imagesAnd then there is ABNA Anonymous (not its real name – see Createspace website), a glorious plethora of online forums wherein the hopeful gather to ask questions, hypothesize, vent frustrations, and enjoy a communal glass of wine without needing to drive home.

I have entered two novels that both reached the Quarter Finals, the last 250 contestants.  Whilst the semi finals proved elusive, Unwanted Heroes was picked up by Three Clover Press, and At The Walls Of Galbrieth went on to win the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA.

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A good friend, Francine Howard, also reached the Quarter Finals with Pages of a Tennessee Journal and went on to become an Amazon Encore author, signed up by Amazon’s own publishing house. The link also has a lovely interview with Francine further down the page.

So here’s to another successful year for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and all those who bravely enter. Reaching the final destination would be nice, but the journey is a great ride. Enjoy it!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a pitch to polish!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+