Exercise: Be My Neighbor

If you want to cultivate your audience directly, get to know your bookshelf neighborhood. Take time to track the similarities and differences that link you as part of the same subgenre community.

  • Make a list of five authors who your readers would recommend to each other because they abut your territory in the genre.
  • Analyze their websites, promotional materials, and book jackets with an eye open for recurring themes, tropes, and keywords.
  • For each of them, summarize the similarities and differences between your work and theirs.
  • Specify what subsection of potential readers would be most eager to seek out your work and respond positively to it. What would appeal to them? What would repel them? What would flag your work as a dream they want to have?

Ultimately you want to stake out a claim for your unique niche on that stretch of the genre shelf so that prospective fans can find you easily and so word of mouth pushes your efforts alongside your genre neighbors.

At the same time, you have work to do. You can’t expect your genre affiliation to keep your books afloat. Don’t rely on neighboring successes to carry you, unless you’re willing to let nearby failures ruin you. Every day you should do one thing to build your market. That can be as simple as updating your website or posting on social media, or as elaborate as contacting twenty-five libraries with a one-sheet and swag for your latest series.

© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved

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