Author Media presents Novel Marketing, the longest-running book marketing podcast in the world. This is the show for writers who want to build their platform, sell more books, and change the world with writing worth talking about.
I’m your host, Thomas Umstattd Jr., and today we are going to talk about demographics & psychographics and how most authors use these poorly and how they can give you an edge.
Trigger warning! I will be acknowledging the existence of politics in this episode. I don’t plan to make any political statements or taking any sides but I will be addressing the topic.
Where Authors Use Demographics
- Book Proposals
- Reader Personas
- Website Visitor Personas
- Facebook Targeting
What are demographics?
Why are demographics useless?
- To be fair, demographics used to work back when there were only three TV channels.
- The problem is, demographics assume everyone is the same.
- Imagine a 31 year old white middle class woman in 1959. If you know her demographics you know a lot about her. You can be statistically confident that she is married, she’s a mom, she has approximately two children, and she goes to church on Sundays with her husband.
- Now imagine a 31 year old white middle class white woman in 2019. Same demographic information and yet we know far less about her. She could be an executive at a tech firm, a full time student, or a stay at home mom. We have no idea if she goes to church on Sunday and no idea if she is divorced, single or married. We have no idea if she has children.
- Most books don’t have a narrow demographic appeal. When they do, it is not unique to the book but rather than to the genre.
- So while white middle class boomer women may be the biggest consumers of romance novels, how is that useful for making decisions with your romance novel.
- Demographics also don’t capture the number one thing defining people these days: politics.
- Most American fall into one of three camps:
- “Please don’t talk to me about politics.”
- America is fragmenting, people are moving away from those unlike them, not just on social media but in real life. There is a slow migration of left leaning Americans away from Middle America and into states like California, New York, and Virginia and a slow moving migration of right leaning people out of those states and into Middle America.
- I hear the same thing is happening in the UK over Brexit. Leavers are unfriending Remainers on Facebook and vice versa.
- For many authors as many as 80% of thier readers fall into thier same bucket politically.
- With some exceptions, demographics don’t tell you much about the political leanings of the audience you are targeting. And yet knowing that information has a big impact on your book. The left and right are starting to use different language even.
What are psychographics?
A psychographic is the:
- Attitude (I always buy the cheapest option. I’m willing to spend extra for quality.)
- Desires (I want to be seen as a virtuous member of the community. vs I’m going to live my life and I don’t care what other people think. )
- Fears (I’m afraid of guns. vs I’m afraid of being an unarmed victim with no way to defend myself.)
- Personality (Spending time with people charges me up! Vs. Spending time in groups drains me.)
- Pains (It hurts to see everything changing so much around me. I feel like I don’t recognize my country anymore Vs. It pains me how backward everything is. We could be living in the future right now! )
- Values (I value autonomy. I don’t want others telling me who I should be or what to do vs I value family. I am willing to make sacrifices to have a healthy happy family. )
- Opinions (Dog person or a cat person?)
- Passions (NFL fan? Hunting fan? Environmentalist? Sportsball?)
Psychographics are much more useful in making decisions, once you figure out what they are. They force you to understand your readers is a more fundamental way. While demographics are superficial, psychographics touch the core of who we are.
While demographics ask the question “who” to get the answer of who. Psychographics ask the question “why” to get to who. Readers who share nothing in common demographically may like the same book because of psychographic reasons.
So I am going to talk about the psychographics of some specific books.
Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia – These are urban fantasy books that I would summarize as “Libertarians with shotguns vs evil vampires.” I would venture to guess 80% of the people who read these books own a firearm. These books play to the fantasy of using your gun to defend your family from the evil in the world. This is a book he could sell at a gun show.
The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis – This is an amish book. The amish genre is driven by evangelical women, but not all evangelical women read amish. The demographics don’t really help here. When you look into the psychographics, you get a different picture. Amish books are a balm for readers suffering from future shock. The trauma of experiencing your culture change so quickly. Want a break from the rapid pace of change? Read an amish book. It is a vacation into a world where nothing ever changes. This is a book she could sell at a homeschool convention to homeschool moms.
Psyocraphics are Not A Limit
You can target multiple psychographic groups by creating different characters that appeal to different groups. Marvel does this very well with thier superheroes. Each hero appeals to a different group of fans while simultaneously trying not to alienate the other fans. Captain America appeals to some while Iron Man appeals to to others.
How to Figure Out the Psychographics of Your Readers
- Read thier reviews. What do they mention? This is only somewhat helpful.
- Look at the other books they read. This creates a fingerprint for readers that tells you more about them than thier demographics.
- If you are unpublished, get to know yourself. Most authors write for themselves, especially for the first books. You represent your target market.
- Gold standard: talking to them in real life.
How to Use Psychographics to Sell More Books
- Use psychographics to design addictive and viral books. Once you understand the why behind why your readers read your books you can double down on that to make books they will love
- Key for targeting your ads on Facebook. Nothing is more powerful for psychographic targeting than Facebook.
- Put psychographic info into your proposal. This will impress both agents and publishers. They all know what psychographics are but assume most authors don’t know how to use them.
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I recently had surgery and was feeling too weak to do much. But my wife and I recently had a chance to go on a date so we visited a cidery near our house. While we were there, a live band, Much 2 Much started performing. They were amazing. My wife and I sat transfixed much longer than we intended to stay. Unfortunately, the time they were slotted to perform was during a UT football game. These are a huge deal in Austin so the venue was mostly empty. This was the day of the debut of thier first album and almost no one was there. But that was not thier attitude. They were happy to be living thier dream of doing live music for an audience in Austin, the live music capitol of the world.
This reminded me of my daughter Mercy, who never gets unhappy when she falls down while toddling. She is just happy to be walking! When you have been on your belly or back your whole life, standing upright is amazing! Even if you can’t do well or all of the time.
My encouragement for you is to keep this attitude with your writing. You are a writer! You are living your dream! While it is easy to be so focused on the next milestone that you never end up enjoying where you are right now. Don’t get destination fever where you are so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey.
Do you have a question you would like us to answer on the show? Call our listener help line! 512-827-8377. You can also send us a high quality recording on NovelMarketing.com/contact.
You have been listening to Thomas Umstattd Jr. on the Novel Marketing podcast, giving you innovative ideas on how to promote yourself and your writing, offline, online, and everywhere in-between. Thanks for listening.