Reader Expectations: To Meet Them You Must First Understand Them
One of the keys to selling your book is knowing your audience and what they are expecting. Not only will a failure to meet these expectations properly lead to less sales, they can also lead to poor reviews. That’s why we’ve asked USA Today Bestselling author Morgan Jones to walk us through how to make sure authors understand what the expectations of their readers are, and how to meet them.
Have you ever sat down at your favorite coffee shop and opened up your laptop ready to dig into your next great novel, when you take a sip of the elixir of life only to discover that they got your order wrong? Are you the type of person to return to the counter and demand it be corrected, or are you the one that just sits in silence because you don’t want to deal with people?
Personally, I don’t want to deal with people. And really this analogy doesn’t apply to me at all because I’m allergic to coffee, gasp, I know! But it’s true. And you know what else is true? There are literally two types of people sitting in that shop. Two types of reviews that you leave. Either I hate you for getting my coffee wrong, or I just don’t care enough to bother.
So what does this have to do with readers? A whole hell of a lot.
When you present a reader with a certain type of book due to your packaging, your cover and your blurb, and then deliver something completely different within the pages you are disrupting the reader experience. Rarely is this done in a positive way.
Maybe you marketed your book as epic fantasy but there’s a romance inside of it. And maybe you have found a very particular audience that really likes romance in this fantasy. But, you could have just written the epic fantasy and ignored the romance and you would have reached significantly more readers. Because you packaged it as just epic fantasy sans the romance. Also you’re setting yourself up for the potential of a slew of one-star reviews from nerds who are sitting on their Star Wars themed bedspreads reading your book. They didn’t want that kissing scene, they wanted sword fighting and war, blood and gore, and a touch of magic. They wanted Gandalf and you gave them 50 Shades of Grey. I’m particularly annoyed by this type of packaging because I am one of those nerds. The main genre that I write in is romance, but the main genre I read? You guessed it. Epic fantasy. And I don’t really care if the prince gets the princess at the end, I care that he cut off the other warlord’s head and raised it high above his people announcing his success.
So what does this all lead to? You have to know your audience. But how do you do that?
Read it. If you are not reading in the genre that you want to be successful in you are doing a huge disservice to your writing and to your readers. You should know exactly what is popular and why in a certain genre that you choose to write in. It might not be something that even interests you, but you should be aware of it.
Research. But you’re like I’ve already been reading it. But what are you reading? Are you reading the top five books in your genre every couple of weeks? Or are you reading something that stands out to you, but has a ranking of 100k?
Guess what? That book didn’t meet reader expectations. It’s why they’re as low as they are. Unless it has been out for more than six months, you’ve chosen the wrong book to read. And if it has been out that long and it’s sitting at that ranking, the trend has possibly moved on. So even if that book has one-thousand 5 Star reviews, readers have moved past it. And so should you. This is coming from a girl who has several books in the top five hundred right now and several books that are 50k plus. I’ve learned my lesson friends, take it from me.
Ask them. Do you hang out in reader’s groups? And do you actually talk to people instead of just shouting your book title at them? Because you should.
I lurk in no less than twenty different groups. I have never once outed myself as my pen name, and I don’t talk about my books whatsoever. Am I probably missing the boat a little bit on social media? Sure. But I’ve had ten books hit the Top 100 in the Kindle Store in the past year with little to no interaction on social media. Why? Because I know what the readers are looking for. I pay attention. I take notes. My office looks like a commercial for Post-its, but that’s what I have to do to understand their needs.
Use what you have learned young grasshopper. This is where the real work comes in. And I know right now you’re looking at me like you’ve already done a ton of work, but when you outline your next book you need to put everything you’ve learned into it.
Note: I am not opposed to people writing what they want to write. But I believe in writing what people want to read. If you can fit what you enjoy writing into one of those categories, then you should do it. I write as a business. This is my full-time job and has been for several years. I would like it to continue for several more and writing an epic fantasy, while I totally applaud those who do, is not something that I can do at a speed that makes me money. However, I love to write romance. I love to research it and talk to readers about it and make my own Mr. Alpha Dreamboat between the pages. You can write something that is out of your reader wheelhouse. But you have to be prepared to do the work.
At the end of the day if you want to make business level money as a writer, you have to treat it like a business. No small business ignores its Yelp reviews, or doesn’t research a location of a brick-and-mortar, or doesn’t test their target audience.
So sit down, grab some Post-it notes, and do your research. And then do the best thing for your current catalog that you can do: write the next book.
This information is part of a much larger plan that I have for my clients joining My Romance Master Class, because reader expectations are the base of my business and something I feel extremely strongly about.
In short, don’t ignore your readers wants and needs. They pay your bills.