As I type this, Caught is still a long ways away (a month actually). I recently read (and reviewed) How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn. One of her chapters spoke about categories and their importance, and that made me want to share with you some things I did differently this time around.
What I did wrong: I’m in love with my genre, and I (obviously) know The Journals of Bob Drifter better than anyone. I understand the magic system and the other three books (two written) that are related to it, but none of that matters. I didn’t see it, because I was trying to fit Bob and my work to where I want to be one day. I threw it in the Urban Fantasy category. It simply doesn’t belong there.
What I fixed: Well, the trick here (thanks to Joanna’s book) that worked was to think about Caught in terms of books that are related. What books does Caught feel like? What authors produce work that is similar to what this book does?
The first book that came to mind was The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. That book’s primary category is Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Down that rabbit hole of categories is a sub category called Supernatural > Vampires. A few clicks down Amazon’s categories, and there for the taking was my category (there’re some spoilers in that area, but it’s there). Bob is a Supernatural thriller as well.
(NOTE: The real trick is getting the book to register on those deeper categories. For instance, The Strain is also in General Fiction > Horror. Caught is in a few other categories as well, which increases visibility. That’s great, but I still focus on the category I know is best.)
But I didn’t just DIVE after the Supernatural category. I did some more searching around. I came up with a list of books and authors that all line up with Caught. I feel the readers who enjoy these books or authors will like Caught.
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
The Shining by Stephen King
Not all the stuff I looked up fell in this category, but many of them did.
I can shove my book into the Fantasy category if I want. But Caught isn’t Fantasy. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, I know Bob has a magic system. Eventually, you’ll see more of that magic (and even a monster), but even when I publish 1,200, a clever reader would have to look closely to see the connection between that book and Bob.
The lesson. Put your ego in a trunk, and throw it off the deck of a ship. I’m an author. I worked long and hard, sacrificed, and spent thousands of dollars on editors, but the PUBLISHING of that work, the MARKETING of it is about the CUSTOMER. Readers have the right to know that the book they purchase isn’t one they
“might” like, but one you know they’ll love. Man was it hard to look myself in the mirror and tell myself that. ESPECIALLY while I’m getting ready to revise Sojourn in Despair. But that’s the right call.
Put your work in front of the small, specific audience you know will like your book. Some writers avoid this out of pride (abashedly raises hand). Other avoid it because they’re afraid. They want their book in front of millions of eyes.
People, I see dog poop on the road every day. Seeing it doesn’t make me want to pick it up.
Your book (my book) isn’t dog poop, but it might as well be if you throw it on the busiest street (metaphorically) you can find. Because those people (metaphorically) are going somewhere. They’re looking for something specific. Put your book where YOUR readers are going.
If your sales are low. Ask yourself if you’re putting the book in front of the right readers. Try changing the category. I promise, you’re not going to sell fewer books.
For example, my category for Caught has 1,120 books. I’d rather go up against 1,000 books than the 293,452 in the broader category. J.R. (I believe he passed it along to me, but he’s the guy who told it to me) said be the big fish in the little pond. It took me a minute to find my pond. This is what worked for me.
When I shift Bob over to the right category, I’ll let you know how it affected sales and reviews.
Thanks for reading,