Authors, want Success? Do These 3 Things First

So you have decided you want to write fiction and have people give you money for what you produce. Excellent ! I made the same decision.

However, now that I am three years into the whole writing/blogging/promoting aspect of producing fiction, I look back and regret not taking the time to carry out these three foundation tasks first:

  • Define your genre
  • Define your readers
  • Find your readers

In my opinion, you should accomplish these tasks first, or at least very, very early in your quest for commercial success.

Define your genre

So what is your fiction genre? Fantasy? Science Fiction? Hard-boiled crime? Romantic Comedy? Some combination of these or other genres not mentioned? Perhaps you think the answer is obvious, but sometimes it is not.

For example, my Western Watch novel takes place in an alternate world. So, science fiction, right? Not really, there’s no advanced technology, space flight or inter-dimensional portals.

Ah, then perhaps fantasy?

Maybe, but there are no elves, dwarfs, dragons, trolls and no magic of any kind; Western Watch is exactly 18th century earth in terms of technology, flora, fauna, and climate.

I later came to the conclusion that I was writing a fantasy with strong Western and Action/Adventure elements.

Determining your genre early is hugely important.

Each has certain obligatory scenes and a set of conventions/expectations on the part of readers; the obligatory scenes must be present and the expectations met in order to give the reader a satisfying experience.

But how you figure out your genre and once you do, how do you determine the obligatory scenes, conventions, and expectations?

A good place to start is Wikipedia’s large genre list; there are a lot, and I’d recommend reading the entire list, even if you think you know your genre already.

You can supplement this with Genres in Fiction.

I also strongly recommend picking up a copy of Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid, and excellent resource to help you determine your genre and it related conventions. The last part is critical. You must some idea of your genre’s expectations and conventions so that you can weave them into your story.

Pop over to Shawn Coyne’s website while you are at it, He provides a number of resources to help you.

Define your readers

After defining your genre you must define your readers: the people who will buy and read both your first book and those that come after.

This is a tough one because it can be time consuming. It’s not like building a website or blog, setting up an Twitter account or taking and posting Instagram pictures, each of which is a set task with a clearly defined “finish condition”  Defining your reader is a messy business with no clearly defined end point.

It involves research, particularly if you are writing fiction in a narrower sub-genre, such as steampunk vampire stories.

Defining your readers is crucial because doing so lays the foundation for your blogging and your marketing efforts.

There many web articles to help you with this critical task, and frankly, I wish I had availed myself of them earlier in my writing journey.

The idea is to construct a “picture” of your typical reader in terms of demographics, likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. You’ll never be able to nail down all of those precisely because people vary so much in their characteristics, but even a broad description will help your direct your marketing efforts more effectively.

My review series Let’s Discover Your Author Brand covers this topic and there are many web articles dealing with it as well.

Here’s a nice overview: How to Define and Find Ideal Readers for Your Fiction Books.

Find your readers

Once you figure out who you want to read your books, you need to find out where to reach them. A large component of reaching them involves using some of the various social media tools available to you.

Different audiences generally hang out in different places on the web. Older women who read romance novels, for example, tend to use Facebook while younger folk use Instagram. These are generalities, of course, but knowing where to find your audience will help select your marketing tools and deploy them effectively.

Of course, your readers don’t just hang out social media. They also frequent blogs, forums, and websites such as Goodreads.

Once you have an idea of where to find your readers you can allocate your time to the most effective social media (and other) tools to reach them.

Here are three links to get you started:

As I said at the beginning, I wish I had done a bit more leg work before writing, but it’s never to too late to correct past mistakes, and I will post about some of my efforts to do so later.

What do you think? Did you do any or all of the foregoing when you started writing? How did it work out?

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