PUBLISHED JANUARY 2017
by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins, Founder, August Rose Press
Ebonye Gussine Wilkins
Indie publishing is a pretty complex collaboration between many highly skilled professionals all working together to produce a beautiful, impactful written work. With all the editors, layout designers, cover professionals, marketing and public relations experts, printers and distributors, and legal advisors, publishing is a logistical behemoth. Getting everything just right for release requires budget savvy, time management prowess, and a high level of patience. Maintaining contact with all of the people in charge of these moving parts means that, inevitably, you will nourish a lot of relationships, increase your professional flexibility, and boost your endurance for unexpected delays and mishaps. It’s a tough business, but you’ve built yours by leveraging your publishing partners in a collaborative way to orchestrate your books. But there is a partnership that is just as important that we don’t always think about in the same way. That partner is your reader.
A reader as a partner? Crazier things have been said (and written, and I’m sure you’ve come across it at some point in your publishing cycle). But think about it: Everything you’ve been working on is for their benefit, and their patronage of your business enables you to keep making more books. You’re giving them what you have to offer; in exchange, they are reading your books and, in a perfect world, telling everyone else about them. Just like you know what to hand off to your editor or your printing press, you need to know what your reader needs in order to make the partnership a mutually beneficial transaction. Otherwise, they are just a customer. Customers are good, but you’re not just selling a book; you’re producing information and handing it over carefully so that someone else can benefit from it. It is a relationship that must be nurtured in order for it to be fruitful. How your readers use and pass on your book can directly influence how you proceed in the future.
How do you figure out what to give your reader?
You’ve likely already figured out who your target audience is. But the question is: How much do you know about your target audience? You know the demographics, but what about the psychographics? Where do they hang out online? What do they like to buy? Where do they do most of their reading? When do they usually read? Do they like books that are lower-priced so they can consume more of them, or do they love to pore over fine details of exquisitely crafted books? (Here is a hint: Your marketing partners can help you learn those details). Once you know those details, meet them where they are. Sure, an individual looking for a book on grief will go to a bookstore, but perhaps a hospital gift shop might be a place where they stumble upon it more naturally. By anticipating your partner’s needs, you can better serve them (plus, they’ll be able to tell a beautiful story about where they first stumbled upon your book and fell madly in love!).
How do you figure out when to give your book to your reader?
Nothing stings quite like a missed opportunity. When will your reading partner need your book the most? If you’ve done your psychographics, then you know what your reader needs. Now it’s your window to make sure that they have it when they are looking for it. Is your reader a single parent looking for ways to encourage their second-generation child to learn about their Latino heritage? A few months before Hispanic/Latino heritage month might be a good place to start. (Here is another hint: Your public relations person is full of information just like this.) This partnership is an opportunity to show your readers that your books are relevant to their everyday lives—even if they don’t yet realize that is the exact book that they are looking for. Being indie is all about bringing books that people need to the people who are looking for them. Your reader likely couldn’t find it through traditional means. Make them notice you. (Once they do, they’ll recognize you like an old friend and sit down to have a cup of coffee or tea with one of your books.) A good partner has good timing.
How do you help your reading partner give you what you need?
It’s a two-way street. They need to tell you what a great job you’ve done with the book. They want to know more about the author. They are looking forward to knowing about the other books that you’ve published because you’ve offered them a piece of yourself. The key to any partnership working well is communication. Make it easy for them to talk with you. (One last hint: Your web master and social media strategist are proficient at this.) You’ve already figured out what your reading partner likes and dislikes, so you can easily figure out if they’d prefer a free hotline to leave feedback, if a review on a book website is better, or if a simple contact form can help them reach you. Since you’re indie, they know you are different. They know you don’t just want their money. They desire a long-term partnership with you, and unlike the huge companies, you can invest more in customer service. You will both remember each other fondly in the years to come, and reminisce over the first book that ignited your love and commitment to each other.
Your partnership with your reader can be perfect bound in every way.
Ebonye Gussine Wilkins is a social justice writer, editor, author, and founder of August Rose Press.