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Grimdark or Noblebright

My book of the moment is Amazon Ads Unleashed – a very useful guide to advertising your book on Amazon. Couple of warnings before you rush out and buy it. First, it’s written for more advanced users. If you just want a basic tour of Amazon ads, this isn’t the book for you. If a basic guide is what you’re after, you should head over to our Self-Pub course, which is free to JW members.

The second warning is that Amazon advertising in general works only for indie authors. If you’re traditionally published, your per-book royalties will be so small that it’ll be hard to make ads work for you. Not just that, but there are other problems with the way trad publishers price and market their books which mean conversion rates are likely to be poor.

So in a way, what I’m about to say won’t be of direct relevance to many of you … except that the heart of it is relevant to absolutely all of you.

Here’s what Robert Ryan, author of that Amazon Ads book, has to say about his own genre:

In my case, I might run an epic fantasy category ad. This targets all books listed in this category. That’s a lot. A whopping lot…

But I write traditional-style epic fantasy. The category, though, is a mixed bag of other things. First there’s grimdark versus noblebright – the more traditional flavour of epic fantasy. People tend to read one or the other. Much less often they read both. So, in a category ad, my noblebright books are being shown indiscriminately to grimdark readers. And those folks are numerous…

But things get worse. Extremely popular just at the moment is reverse-harem fantasy. It should have its own category, but it gets lumped in epic fantasy… And if reverse harem isn’t enough, litrpg fiction (literary role playing fiction) is thrown in with epic fantasy too.

My noblebright book ad could be shown on all these books in a category ad. It potentially gets a massive impression volume, but perhaps only twenty percent of the impressions are on similar noblebright books. And that’s where the readers I want to reach are mostly hanging out.

The point Ryan is making here is that seeking a wide audience for your books will always mean that you are chasing one that converts badly.

Those reverse harem readers just won’t buy your Tolkein-style fantasy. It’s just not what they want.

And, OK, that sounds like it’s just a lesson in how to use Amazon ads. But it’s not. It’s a lesson in book marketing, period.

You can’t make money by advertising your books widely on Amazon. Or via Facebook. Or via Bookbub.

If you seek to build your mailing list via large, indiscriminate giveaways, you will end up with a mailing list full of junk.

If you seek to boost your Facebook likes by posting funny cat videos (assuming you are not an author of funny cat books), you will end up with a Facebook profile that is absolutely useless for any marketing purpose.

If you go on a blog tour of 35 different blogs, where 34 of them are not perfectly attuned to the kind of book you write, you will be wasting your effort at least 97.1% of the time.

And so on.

Any kind of book marketing is about finding your most passionate audience and finding ways to make that audience adhere to you. (Of which, by far the most effective tool, is simply: write good books. If you can do that, the rest of your marketing challenge becomes a lot, lot simpler.)

In a funny way, what we think of as advertising – the Superbowl ad, or huge outdoor posters advertising beers or cars – is the exact reverse of what you should be thinking about. Those ads are aimed at everybody, and they work because Mercedes (let’s say) wants to target everyone. Either people are potential Mercedes buyers (so great; they get some effective advertising.) Or they are not potential Mercedes buyers, in which case they are being taught what the meaning of the brand is … which means that everyone knows … which means that Mercedes buyers know everyone around them will understand the brand meaning of the car they drive. That actively deepens the commitment of those Mercedes buyers, because there would be nothing stupider than paying top dollar for a car if people didn’t know it was a top dollar car.

Your book just isn’t like that. Your market is a niche in a niche in a niche and you just don’t need to establish some universal brand value. You need to find and talk to your readers. That’s it.

And it’s so easy to be tempted by the numbers. “If I wrote on this blog, I could get in front of X,000 readers.” “If I ran this ad, I could accumulate X,000 impressions.” And so on.

That way of thinking is always wrong.

Passion and specificity matters in book marketing perhaps almost more than in any other market you are able to think of. How come? Because books are utterly individual. Your market isn’t the market for fiction. Or the market for adult fiction. Or the market for fantasy. Or the market for epic fantasy. If you start to think of yourself as in the market for noblebright epic fantasy, you are getting closer. But is your book about warriors? Or a coming of age story? Or medieval tinted? Or what? Truth is, you are probably in a niche of a niche of a niche.

And that’s good – because that’s where passion, and readers, and success lies.

That’s it from me. We’ve got a brilliant self-pub day in London tomorrow. Hope to see loads of you there. If you haven’t yet bought tickets (shame on you!), you can turn up at the door and we’ll see if we like the cut of your jib. Details here.

Till soon.

What do you think? How do you market your work? What works, what doesn't? And are you more grimdark or noblebright?

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Comments (2)
  • What is a reverse harem?

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    • Ha! Look it up. It's what you think it is. And put it this way: I think these books are read by women more than men! They'd freak me out ...

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