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Marketing 101: Aspiring Authors! Avoid Scammy Marketing Tactics. Define Your Readers

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by Cynthia T. Luna in Book marketing

This blog post is part of a series for aspiring authors who are in the process of writing a book, know they will have a book in the near-ish future, and are wondering how they can get their author platform started. While you may simply begin here to develop a strategic approach, you might find it helpful to read my earlier blog posts about taking stock of your digital assets or establishing your goals first.

Without further ado, let’s move onward with setting strategic goals for building an author platform before your novel is out!

If You Know Whom You’re Selling To, Marketing Does Not Have To Be Scammy

I think it’s worth taking a moment at this point to touch upon an issue that anybody who has created a product for sale butts up against: the concern that they are the annoying, scammy, sleaze ball sales guy who speaks of nothing other than the “product of the century”—or worse, the lack of concern!

Marketing does not have to be slimy. Appeal to your audience. via @CynthiaTLuna |

We all know the feeling of being that customer locked in the crosshairs of a desperate sales guy. Usually, when marketing messages revolve around me, my product/ my book/ my method, you’ll notice that your sales pitch falls flat.

You’ve become that guy who hasn’t yet realised his date has walked out the back door, never to return.

It doesn’t have to be that way, if you approach marketing with an understanding of the relationship you want to develop with your audience(s), you are shifting away from a one-way (beg-and-be-ignored) communications model, to a  two-way model. You are now able to communicate from a place of passionate enthusiasm with others who are also passionate and enthusiastic too. Your stand is the one at the market that’s responding to shoppers’ curiosity, questions, needs and wants. No need for scammy bait and switch tactics, you’re making yourself available for a dialogue. You’re throwing a party that even you want to party in too.

Who Are Your Readers? Define Your Audience

No marketing strategy can be developed without this step. It is absolutely imperative that you narrow down your audience, know your readers.

“But my masterpiece will benefit everyone! This work is for the general public!”

When was the last time you defined yourself as “general public”? Unless you consider yourself absolutely unoriginal and completely bland, my guess is that you have never referred to yourself in this way. Members of the general public don’t refer to themselves in this way, either—so, if you’re gearing up to offer them anything, your product, your service, your masterpiece, you’re best off communicating with the market most likely to purchase from you.

Marketing 101: When did you last refer to yourself as the general public? via @CynthiaTLuna |

Beginning with Heart

My process always begin with me, the creator of my work.

You are the Creator of your work—whether it’s fiction or non-fiction—you are the heartbeat, the life-giver of your work. So, we’re going to develop a Character File on You, because, ultimately, you created your book for you. So, the first exercise in this section is:

Character File: You, the Creator.

The first step is to describe yourself without mentioning your name. You’re a writer, so describing yourself shouldn’t be hard. But you’re best off starting with the basics. In marketing lingo, this is usually described as “demographic information”. Most of this information is usually available in a national census or some other public information source. Because we’re talking about you here, you should know this information.

  • Name of Subject: (leave this blank to start)
  • Gender:
  • Age:
  • Main language (language your book is written in)
  • Education (highest degree). And educational reference to your work.
  • Nationality/ Cultural identity/ Religion. This is especially important if this is relevant to your book or the market it is being presented to.
  • [Fill in the Blank]. Depending on the nature of the book you’re writing or the product you’re creating, you may want to have a qualifier that helps define you a little more closely. Suggestions for this might be something like, “Pay Range”, “Home Owner”, “Three-time Spelling Bee finalist”, “President of the Lady Loopers, Knitting and Crochet Membership Association”, “New Yorker/City Dweller”, “Trekkie”, “Foodie” or “YouTube vlogger” or any other category that is particularly interesting to you. You might be presenting a certain expertise in that area, which is also represented in your book. This may or may not be applicable in fiction, but JK Rowling (when she was an aspiring author) could have written something like “single mother who reads to her children” here, or a sci-fi/fantasy writer could put “former rocket scientist” or “sandwich artist” in this category.

Okay, now that you have that sorted, you can release your inner creative with what is commonly referred to as “psychographic information”. You probably have noticed that we already started doing this above.

Create a character file on yourself: The creator of your work.

What makes you tick? 

Have you ever watched the television series, “Criminal Minds”? The show is about a team of FBI agents who work for the “Behavioral Analysis Unit”. Every time they take on a case, they have to create a criminal profile of the unknown subject (“unsub” for short). Basically, I am asking you to be the behavioral analyst for yourself. Your job is to turn the Creator into a character that exhibits habits that make her believable, predictable and likeable.

Start by writing a small paragraph on the Creator. You might find it easiest to de-tach yourself from your idea of yourself and write your file notes in third person (i.e., “The Creator wakes up daily before the crack of dawn” or “The unsub never skips a meal”).

Here are some ideas to get your thoughts flowing to develop a paragraph about the Creator. Some things you might consider:

  • Does the creator wake up at the same time every
  • Cake or eggs for breakfast?
  • Does the creator have a day job she loves, hates, both? Why?
  • How does she like to consume her information? On paper, in an e-reader?
  • What kind of fiction/ non-fiction (depending on your work) does the Creator consistently turn to?
  • What other writers/ authors/ bloggers does she turn to again and again? (Name two to five)
  • What social media does the creator “play” in when she’s not working? Does she follow some folks on a regular basis? Why? (Name two to five)

Now, for the pièce de résistance, give this “Creator” a fictional name. Ideally, this is a code name that will help you remember some of the standout characteristics for this character. When you’re developing your messaging, you’ll be using this as an authenticity-check to ask yourself, “Does this sentence really sound like [code name here]?”

For example, maybe you are writing a book about the numerous benefits of eating eggs. As a result, you look and feel better than ever, and you want to share this news with everyone. Fortunately, you already know better than to tout your method to the “general public”.

You’ve developed a code name for the Creator, and it’s Crafty Carol Benedict. Before you write your next blog post, you might ask yourself, “How would Crafty Carol Benedict write a blog post to busy moms about the health benefits of eggs instead of cake for breakfast?”

Your Voice Comes Straight from the Heart

As a writer, you have most probably heard about “finding your voice” and having that come across in your writing. I think this means, “writing from the heart”.

By developing a Creator profile, you have established the innermost circle of your audience targets. In fact, this audience is in essence the core (cœur) of your audiences, and the next concentric circles expand on this core.

Your Inspiration Expands from the Core

As you continue to think about your code name. Think authors who have inspired Crafty Carol Benedict, these are authors to whom you, the writer, refer again and again. Crafty Carol would also refer her readers to these authors, because of the knowledge and inspiration she gained from them. This concentric circle would be “Similar Authors”.

In the world of business marketing, these people would generally be called competitors—though, in the world of books, entertainment, education and knowledge, I see these people more as a source of inspiration, rather than competition.

Identify at least three authors who inspired your work. Now, picture your book standing next to theirs on the bookstore shelves. Find out the main categories (bookshelves) on which these authors’ works are found.

Under each Inspiring Author’s name, jot down notes with some of the below questions in mind. Of course, use these questions only as a means towards guiding your note-taking, and not as a must-respond for each:

  • What’s the title of their book that’s most similar to yours? Why?
  • What problem of yours did they address?
  • Is the Creator (i.e., Crafty Carol Benedict) their primary audience? — As a side note, answering “no” to this question can be a very powerful indication as to the need your book is filling. For example you might say that the Inspiring Author’s work was a protein diet book, written by a male triathlete for other young, athletic males. Crafty Carol speaks to and for moms who are looking for health solutions for parents and kids (growing bodies).
  • Are you their primary audience? Continuing with the example above, you might have expertise in food and nutrition, but you didn’t write your book for fellow nutritionists, so “you” as the expert are not your primary audience for this book.
  • How did you discover your Inspiring Author?
  • What is a primary frustration for the Inspiring Author’s audience?
  • What does your book offer that theirs don’t?

Your Inspiring Authors occupy the space immediately surrounding the Creator’s (your) inner-most circle. A lot of what they do will inform your marketing decisions—but not everything. You will quickly see what will work for you, and what won’t, because in this next, last step, you’ll be identifying your primary reader’s persona.

Your readers are looking for you

Your readers (or “customers” in marketing speak) occupy the circle surrounding your competitors. By this stage, we have drawn a three-ringed dartboard with the “Creator” character in the center, Inspiring Authors in the middle circle, and “readers” in the outermost circle.

Now, I’m not a very good darts player, but I’m good enough that most of the time, I’ll at least hit the board—even if I don’t come close to the bull’s eye. That’s sort of the principle here.

What if we put a powerful magnet behind the bull’s eye on the dart board? The iron-tipped darts would be almost magically drawn to the bull’s eye! So far, in defining your target audience you have already identified the bull’s eye, we’ve also widened the board by identifying the Inspiring Authors. And because of these two rings, we have a pretty good idea of the kinds of readers would be drawn by both rings.

Understanding your reader

Now, you’re going to define your readers. You’ll note that the process for defining this target is upside down.

We’ll tap into the creative writer in you, and delve right into the psychographics of your primary reader.

Start with a one-sentence response to the following question:

  • What does a typical day look like for your reader?

Don’t read more into this question than you need to. Basically, why does he get out of bed every morning and what’s the first thing he does? Some readers drive to work every day, while others take public transportation. Some are female and some are male. Some have kids. Some stay at home and don’t wake up at the same time ever. Some go to college or high school. This one sentence snapshot applies whether you’re working on fiction or non-fiction.

  • Now, think about this reader’s primary frustration or problem, and what your book does to address it. (You can write one, two or three sentences. But keep it simple.)

For those fiction writers among you, rolling your eyes, this question applies to you too.

Write a letter form the heart. Gather emotional intelligence on your reader.

REader Character file: Gathering emotional intelligence on your readers

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes, and imagine them at the moment that their frustration presented itself. Where are they? Are they sitting at their desks? Back at home? Do they need to learn something quickly?

Or maybe they’re already home—and the children have heard all the story books that are on the shelf. Your readers need another age-appropriate book to read to their children by writers they can trust. Something that’s not too scary, too distressing, or keeps their imagination going.

In fact, for fiction and non-fiction writers, this should be a piece of cake!

  • Now, compose your final sentence, based on this model: “If only [reader] knew, he wouldn’t have to worry about [frustration] anymore.”

Towards the bottom of the page, you’ll see that you can also complete their vital stats there. Your imagination—the images that flitted through your mind, will clue you in on these elements.

  • Gender
  • Age range
  • Language
  • Religion. Again, complete what applies to your book.
  • Hometown/Region. (If applicable.)
  • Education
  • Civil Status (Parents?)
  • Career track
  • Anything else that seems pertinent to your reader.

Now, go up to the top of the page and provide a code name for this Primary Reader (P.C. Polly, Daddy Worrywart, or Kash-strapped Kelly)—again, whatever it is that reminds you of their first frustration and reminds you of who your target audience is.

You may have thought of two types of readers for your books. If so, go ahead and develop another Character File on that reader type, but I strongly recommend, you limit your main readers to the two. Also, make sure you clearly identify which one of the two audiences is your primary audience.

The Aspiring Author's Guide: Marketing Strategy, by Cynthia T. Luna - BLOG COVER

Dear Aspiring Author, Defining your audience is the third step to developing your marketing strategy… And You’ve Just Taken It!

Congratulations! You’ve just done something a lot of people neglect, and wish (later on down the marketing road) they had done earlier. You took stock of your situationset your goals in reading the previous blog posts, and now you’ve defined your voice and your audience! All these steps give you clarity Both of these steps are necessary, because they not only give you clarity on how you will take the next step in promoting your book when it’s out.

You’re just beginning your book marketing journey — while you’re writing your novel or non-fiction book. You don’t have loads of time. So, you want to be smart while you start building an author platform, because every minute of your spare time counts!

You might be wondering why all this is helpful.

Setting a marketing strategy helps you set your priorities, so you’re free to move on. No more tinkering, reacting and spending ages barking up the wrong tree. Now you know whom you will be developing messages for and whose voice will be delivering that message.

Also, if you plan to outsource any of your marketing, promotional or design work, you’ll save yourself and your consultants a world of grief by preparing this for those people you talk to. If you’ve already defined the characteristics of your dartboard, then you can present these file notes to your book cover designer, website designer—or, in another example, you can see if it’s worth the time and expense to interview with Lance Armstrong on a radio show, or if it makes more sense for Crafty Carol to contribute a column for Martha Stewart Magazine.

Now you know who is looking for the itch you’re out to scratch, where they’re most likely to look, and you’re even keyed into what influences their decision to pick your itch-scratcher over that of another.

I am cataloguing and sharing my process for setting a Marketing Strategy with you in (almost) real time

The Aspiring Author's Guide: Marketing Strategy, by Cynthia T. Luna - BLOG COVERAt the time of writing this blog post, I do not have a published work for sale on the market. In fact, I am currently editing my first draft of a novel that I know I want to launch as an eBook in the Spring of 2016. Besides getting to the finish line with my novel, my goal is to start with laying the groundwork on my marketing plan and even implementing those parts of the marketing plan that I know I can.

Feel free to join me on my book-writing and marketing journey. If you have any thoughts, tips or comments in general, please let me know via comment, Twitter @cynthiatluna or email at cynthia[at]livingincyn[dot]com!

Bloggers Commenting BackIf you are already a published author, any comments you have to impart on your experience(s) will be gobbled up and appreciated by the rest of us. Please comment, and certainly let me know if you think a “karmic exchange” from aspiring author to another aspiring author, or aspiring author to accomplished author might be worthwhile! 🙂


  1. Lia says:

    An excellent article – well structured and expressed. I’m figuring out my creator name right this minute 🙂 .

    1. Very cool! For me, the Creator name changes depending on the book. For this chick lit book I’m working on, the Creator name is “Rachel Buffay” — but for my non-fiction, woman who’s finding herself through creative expression, it’s C. Jane Freer. Let me know how the process goes for you!

      1. Lia says:

        Well, I’ve been Lia Wayward as a general name for the last eight months or so. I’m happy to stick with that. For my forthcoming book, “But I’m Not Depressed”, it’s going to be either Alex Artemis or Alex Athena. The androgynous name is a reminder that not all my audience for that book are female, though they skew that way. (People with health conditions wrongly diagnosed as mental). I’m not sure which bossy/practical Greek goddess to choose, but definitely one of them. It’s not going to be a chicken soup for the soul book, but a strategic guide to getting your autonomy back when the mental health system has undermined it. I am wary of saying I’m different when there’s such a huge market of providers in this field, all claiming the same thing. But I believe I am.

        Hope that’s somewhat interesting 🙂

        1. 🙂 That is interesting! For my part, I like Alex Artemis–I think because it has the word “art” in it. 🙂 I love how your name is androgynous–even if many of your readers are female, those among them who don’t relate their self-help needs with their gender will appreciate a voice that doesn’t speak in gender stereotypes. So, once you’ve slipped on your Alex Artemis “costume” and used that voice, your message will be different and it will resonate with others who connect to that same vibe. Keep in touch! I’m curious to learn how your work unfolds.

          1. Lia says:

            You’ve understood my motives perfectly – I’m impressed! Advice written in a “sisterly” or “mumsy” tone doesn’t connect with me, and that seems to be the predominant voice in health-related self-help online. The mainstream female market likes it, but it feels fluffy and wishy-washy to me. In a similar way I don’t want to be told I’m special, or that things happen for a reason, or anything at all about spirituality. I’ve read too many self-help books that are 90% positive spinwaffle and the rest is selling me some course or other. Just give me the goods – or rather the ideas.

            So yes, I’m writing the book I want to read, in the voice I want to hear. I think I’d better fill you in – feel free to skim the next bit if you’re not actually interested. Writing this summary has been useful for me anyway. 🙂

            The projected reader is “Mel Interrupted”, mainly-but-not-always female, and a composite of myself and stories I’ve been told by others. Mel’s a competent individual – or was – but has recently started suffering from unexplained symptoms. Mel visits the doctor and is diagnosed with anxiety, depression or similar. The only treatment offered is mental health treatment. So Mel goes reluctantly to a therapist and gets told that the symptoms stem from “negative thought habits” and “poor coping strategies” which need fixing. It doesn’t matter whether there’s acquiescence or arguments at this point; a maelstrom of crap has already happened. Symptoms continue and our long-suffering Mel is labelled an unresponsive patient, if not actively resistant to therapy. Then s/he stumbles upon my book and learns:

            1. That there are several “silent” physical conditions which can manifest with mental symptoms

            2. Why misdirected therapy is emotional poison and why there’s so much of it around

            3. Psychological tactics for evaluating doctors, dealing with bad ones and finding better ones

            4. How to self-diagnose and medicate without falling prey to a barrage of quacks

            5. A model pathway for changing your career to accommodate your symptoms

            6. The mindset of independent self-direction which is key to handling absolutely all of this

            It’s a weird fish of a book, to be honest, but I think there’s a market for it. 😀

          2. I don’t think it’s weird at all. It sounds like you have a pragmatic process, and there IS a market for that information. 🙂 Next month, I’ll be publishing the “message” part of this marketing process. But I’ll give you a heads-up on what it includes:
            Basically, have “Alex Artemis” write “Mel Interrupted” a personal letter. Something that touches on Mel’s biggest frustration about the books on your topic available on the market. I like to start with the “Don’t you hate it when” prompt, and let the words flow from there. It’s great to see your feedback in real-time Lia. Looking forward to seeing your stuff!

          3. Lia says:

            Oh, there is so much stuff I hate out there. It’s tricky finding the balance between a healthy, critical tone and a bitchy, cynical one. And it doesn’t help when the positive-thinking people take issue with anything even slightly negative. Rather like therapists (which isn’t a coincidence).

            The letter is a good idea. I’ll definitely do it! It’s wonderful to speak to somebody interested 🙂

          4. Fun! Have Alex try to stick to the absolute BIGGEST issue (therefore, just one issue) facing Mel right now. If the other issues in some way flow from that point, even better. It’s easier to market your ideas when you are focused on one thing, rather than to dilute your message with a laundry list of frustrations. Sounds like “voice” is a big issue for your topic, and I think it will resonate with a lot of people. (“Don’t you hate it when self-help books sound phony?” or “Don’t you hate it when so-called experts hold back on their knowledge to sucker you into some costly webinar?”) How did you find this blog post, by the way. Just curious.

        2. Sacha Black says:

          Alex Artemis is a wicked name.

          1. Lia says:

            Thank you! It’s great to know I’m on the right lines 🙂

  2. Lia says:

    Yes, I certainly don’t want the book to be a moan-fest. Other self-help books aren’t the main focus of my annoyance anyway; they might get one paragraph of it. The main issue… well, there are two big (and related) emotional issues, and plenty of practical problems. Feeling patronised by doctors (“they treat me like an idiot and don’t listen to my actual experiences”). And feeling frustrated in general (“my life and work are on hold because of my health, and I can’t see a way out”). I think the second is wider-reaching but the first feels more personal. Perhaps I’m simply going by the fact that it’s been my biggest button since I was a kid; if you want to annoy me, patronise me. Easy as that.

    The emotional content (including my own story) will be the part that connects with readers on an instinctive level. I’ll then delve into the practical stuff once I have their attention. The message of the book is about personal autonomy and following your own judgement. It’s broadly positive – just not fluffy-bunny positive.

    As for where I found your blog, I’m in Yaro Starak’s Laptop Lifestyle group. I posted a little in January, but haven’t been that active since (work piling up). 🙂

    1. Cool! Nice to meet you away from LL! Your book sounds like it will connect with a lot of folks. (Who likes to be talked down to?) I think you might be able to tie your two big issues together, because you’re looking for a reader who is serious about finding a solution–so much so, that Mel has endured being patronised by experts who don’t actually listen.

      1. Lia says:

        That’s exactly it 🙂 . Experts who don’t listen, and therapists who think their job is to “cure” you of the belief that your body and brain just don’t work. I’m sure it’s a pretty common annoyance.

        I’m signing off now to focus on work (multitasking is not a skill of mine). But I’ll be around and watching your posts!

  3. Shailaja says:

    This is really excellent advice for an aspiring author, Cyn! Already doing most of the above except creating a character profile of myself! How interesting. Bookmarking to refer to once again, when my manuscript is complete 🙂

    1. Thanks! So glad you enjoyed and that you found synergies with your own process. Next month I’ll be posting the last “step” in the strategy part of the process, and hopefully I’ll have fully edited my own manuscript to round the corner on self-publishing the book… I love your blog, The Moving Quill, by the way. On another note, I interview aspiring authors on their process and projects. Would you be interested in answering some questions? You can read a couple here: and send me an email at if you’re interested. Happy writing!

  4. Sacha Black says:

    Cracking post, looks like you made quite a few edits too…? You still working on it?

    Hey I don’t know why in my other comment it linked to a post? How did it do that? I didn’t mean to do that.

    1. I added the “CommentLuv” plug-in to my site and one of it’s cool features is that it auto-magically promotes the last blog post associated with your entered website. I think it’s great that it did that… 🙂 This year’s #BloggersBash is going to be rockstar, so I’m hopeful that it’ll get the credit it’s due! 🙂

      As for the post–yes, I’ve been editing the whole book, taking your feedback and comments into consideration. Slow and steady… (I’ve been working on it, putting it aside, looking at it again, putting it aside again… A slow process, but I think it’s resulting in a better product.)

  5. April Munday says:

    Thank you for sharing this. There’s such a lot here that’s useful. I’m going to have to read it a few more times before I start to do something with it.

    1. You are welcome! And I’m so pleased that this blog post is resonating with readers to the site. I enjoyed your site too. What a treasure trove of information!

      1. April Munday says:

        Thank you for the compliment about the blog. It’s great fun to write it and to interact with people who comment.

        I want to thank you again for your posts on marketing. I worked through most of them this weekend and I have loads of ideas about what to do. I’ve finally decided to take the plunge on an email list. I have no idea why I’ve been scared about it, but I have. It was worth taking the weekend off from writing to work out what my goals are. They’re not, apparently, what I thought they were.

        I’m waiting eagerly to read what comes next.

        1. Thanks so much for your feedback! I’m so glad you mentioned how going through the steps has revealed some surprises for you, because it happens to me every time! I always think I know what my goals and strategies are before starting, but once I start going through these exercises, a whole bandwidth of possibilities open up.

          The next post will come out on Monday, April 4 and handles messaging. As a writer, I think you’ll find it pretty fun!

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