How to Sell Dark Fiction to the Right Audience – By J.J. Reichenbach
J.J. Reichenbach returns for a second guest post. She offered 4 best tips to write Dark Fiction and now discussed how to sell it the right way. J.J. Reichenberg is a professional editor by day and a horror writer by night. She has two BA degrees from the University of Calgary, one in sociology and one in psychology, and works as Vice-President of a local Albertan charity organization in her spare time.
J.J. lives in Okotoks, just outside of Calgary, with two affectionate hellhounds and bookcases full of nightmares. She is an avid traveler and likes to spend half of the year in Thailand as often as possible, where she writes and edits on the beach. She specializes in gothic and supernatural horror, thrillers, suspense, science fiction, and detective fiction.
J.J. has just completed a follow-up to her debut novel “NIX” (April 2014), titled “Notorious Nix” (July 2016), which will be part of the “Nix Series.”
As a horror author, the kind of stuff I write about often leads me to warn potential readers at book signings that, “No, seriously, this is not for kids.”
You’d be shocked at how often this warning fails to deter them. Then, the conversation eventually devolves into me trying to explain, “I don’t care if you let your 8-year-old watch Walking Dead or Human Centipede, this book is not for kids!”
Never in a million years did I anticipate having to persuade people not to buy my books. But this is, as it turns out, an aspect to consider when writing extremely dark fiction.
Seriously, people, it’s not for children!
You need to know your audience in order to sell this kind of book. I’ve come to believe that you need to only sell this kind of book to that audience. To some, this may seem counterintuitive because the ultimate goal is just to sell a lot of books, right? But, what I’ve come to realize is that I don’t actually want to sell books to people who aren’t going to enjoy them. It should be a win-win exchange, otherwise, I would be taking advantage of their trust in me. They’d feel ripped off instead of thrilled and delighted—and my goal is always to do my best to leave a reader thrilled and delighted.
Question 1: Do You Like Horror?
For example, when I’m doing a book signing, the first thing I ask the poor, innocent passersby in the bookstore is “Do you like horror?”
At this point, I get one of three responses. The first is a resounding “Hell yes!” The second is the more frequent, fish-hook-in-the-upper-lip disdain as though I’d just offered them a partially decomposed raccoon corpse. And, the third is generally, “I don’t, but I know someone who does.”
The first group, our “Hell yes!” horror-lovers group, now those are my people! At that point, I have their attention and can give them my pitch to determine if my kind of horror meshes with their kind of horror—and if it does, we’re in business!
This conversation usually goes something like this (ideally):
“Do you like horror?”
“Hell yes! What’s your book about?”
“It’s about demonic possession from the demon’s point of view – so horror-comedy. If you have a twisted sense of humor like I do. Do you like American Horror Story or Stephen King novels?”
“Then you’ll probably love these!”
I keep the pitch as short and succinct as possible. As anyone who has read Plato’s The Trial and Death of Socrates knows, it is far too easy to walk yourself into a sale. And then, walk yourself right back out of one by droning on too long.
Then, I mention a well-known TV show or author that has similar a content and horror style. If the machete fits, they walk away with a book that matches their interests.
The people who shy away from dead things are not my people as a horror author, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, because I want to know that information right up front. I don’t want to force my books on those people because I can be reasonably confident that they are not going to enjoy it. It is not my intention to sell anyone something that they aren’t going to love. I say, “No worries, have a nice day,” and we both move on.
Those, who don’t love horror but know someone who does, are still potential sales. But, there have to be caveats. Especially in my case, as my books are graphic and contain naughty-bad language and sexual situations that would make a trucker blush. So, I’m not comfortable knowing that my book may end up in the hands of children.
Mind you, I can’t completely control this. But, I do think it’s worth asking these people about their horror-lover friend—including age and what kind of horror they like. And, these are often the ones who will go away with a business card or bookmark to give to their friend, though just as often they’ll grab a book.
In an average bookstore, you mostly get readers who aren’t into horror, a small few who are, and a good helping of those who aren’t, but know someone who is. You can increase your odds by going to places that your horror-lovers are more likely to be—like horror conventions, and the like. If you know who they are, you’ll be better able to find them and go to them.
Finding the right reader for your specific book is important. The wrong reader won’t be satisfied, which can also lead to negative reviews. But, the right reader is the reader you carefully target based on your shared interests and love of the genre. That’s a reader that you can fully satisfy with your book—and maybe they’ll even become one of your readers for life. So, instead of throwing your book at anyone with a willingness to buy it, take the time to search out the right reader and find your tribe.
To keep up with future releases from J.J. Reichenbach, follow the author on Twitter @jjreichenbach
GoodReads Author Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8152689.J_J_Reichenbach
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