Finding your Audience

Lucienne Boyce explores how authors can find an audience, and build a readership for their book.

Eventually you’ll need to build an audience for your book, whether you’re with
a publisher or doing it yourself. You are going to have to engage with your readers...

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner neatly sums up the situation for all authors, whether mainstream or self-published. The question is: how do you go about finding your audience?

You can wait to be invited to a literature festival or bookshop, but it’s likely you’ll be waiting a long time. It’s up to you to approach organisers. SilverWood author Lucienne Boyce has put together a few tips that might help.


Who should I approach?

What organisations might be interested? Literary festivals and bookshops of course, but don’t forget libraries, book groups and interest groups. If you’ve written a book on needlework, are there any sewing groups that might be interested in hearing from you?

Festival listings can be found in a variety of places, including:
  • The Writers & Artists Yearbook.
  • The British Council Festivals Directory which you can search by category (eg poetry, fiction, non-fiction).
  • Literary Festivals UK who have just introduced a listing service for authors. Lucienne Boyce says, "I can’t say how effective it is as I’m still in the process of signing up, but it’s inexpensive (from £9.75 to £47.85)".
  • Bookshops - look out for specialists eg in fantasy or poetry.

Do your research
  • Study the organisation’s website. What sort of event are they looking for? What writers have appeared in the past? Is there a theme? Are there specific opportunities (eg for local authors) that you should pursue? What sort of audiences do they attract?
  • Attend as many events as possible, especially in your area of interest.
  • If any networking opportunities (meeting Festival organisers, book shop staff etc) come up, take them - eg conferences or book fairs.
Prepare a submission pack

  • A covering email outlining details of your book; what kind of event you can offer (reading, solo talk, panel, workshop); possible topics.
  • A brief 'brochure’ with basic details about your books and outlining past and planned events. Include endorsements from organisers and attendees and contact details, especially your website.
  • A Bookseller Information Sheet/picture of your book cover.

Submit

  • Contact the appropriate person by name where at all possible (though some Festivals and bookshops will ask you to email their info@ address).
  • If you are applying to a Festival, contact them at least 6 months in advance.

Wait for the result

  • "Yes please, what date suits you?" Obviously this is what you’re hoping for and if you get this, say thank you very nicely!
  • Some organisers will tell you that if you haven’t heard by a particular date they aren’t interested. Some may need chasing - but the usual etiquette applies. Don’t email after two days demanding an answer.
  • Be prepared for an organiser to slot you into their event as and when suits their timetable or interests, and even to negotiate the subject of your talk with you.
  • Some organisers, especially at busy Festivals, won’t respond at all. Don’t despair. They may keep your details on file, and you can always try again next year, when perhaps your work will fit their themes better.

Make arrangements for selling your books
  • If it’s a bookshop or Festival with its own bookshop, make sure they can stock your book.
  • As a precaution, always take a few with you in case something goes wrong (eg your books don’t arrive in time).
  • If it’s a smaller event, arrange to sell direct and decide whether or not to offer a discount. Try and make this clear in advance as an added attraction, as well as acceptable payment methods - cash or cheque?
To charge or not to charge

You may be offered a fee - but be warned! Many organisations will pay no fee or a very low one. There is an argument that writers should not undersell themselves or their profession and should insist on eg Society of Author rates. On the other hand, if it’s an event that you feel would be beneficial - it will give you lots of media exposure or an entrée into a network you wish to be part of - you may feel it is worth doing for little or nothing. You may even choose to do it simply because you think you will enjoy it.

You may or may not be offered expenses.

How much you are prepared to accept is up to you, but once you get a reputation for being a professional, reliable, well-prepared speaker who is happy to engage with your audience, you will probably find you are able to command bigger fees - and you’ll start getting invitations too - which takes some of the work out of it!


Want to know more...?

Author Lucienne Boyce: Lucienne's eighteenth-century thriller To The Fair Land was published by SilverWood Books in 2012, and her non-fiction The Bristol Suffragettes (which includes a walk around suffragette sites in the city) in 2013. Bloodie Bones followed in 2015.

Meet Lucienne at SilverWood's Writing & Self-Publishing Open Day on 25 January:
www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/news/2013/nov/15/writing-publishing-open-day

Rachelle Gardner: Are You a Lone Ranger Writer? 21 November 2013
www.rachellegardner.com/2013/11/lone-ranger-writer/

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