Market Segmentation – One Writer’s View

Have you ever thought of applying market segmentation to your novels? When I worked at IBM, we thought about markets for PCs in the days when personal computers were new (yes, I lived in a time when we didn’t have PCs), and when I was in consulting, we considered the characteristics of various industries and their propensity to purchase consulting services. As you can easily imagine, companies in packaged goods think of segments when designing campaigns, when packaging products for different markets, when deciding which countries might be most suitable for something new and so on.

Why not books?

Pie ChartWhen launching Lies Told in Silence last summer, I decided to consider different reader segments to see if that might help my marketing efforts. The novel is set in northern France during WWI and is part family saga and part love story. Each segment I came up with has an identifying label and list of characteristics. While I developed 10 segments in total, the following five seemed most relevant to Lies Told in Silence as well as my first novel Unravelled.

Historical Fiction Enthusiasts

  • Read more than 50% HF; few read exclusively HF
  • Enjoy multiple time periods
  • Good story dominates
  • Primarily female
  • College/University educated
  • Began reading HF early in life
  • High % read more than 30 books/year
  • Often select based on time period and genre
  • Find recommendations in many places

Connecting to the Past

  • People whose parents or grandparents were affected by WWI and/or WWII
  • Middle-aged, boomers; retired or approaching retirement
  • Men and women
  • Want to understand their ancestors’ experiences (wars, Great Depression, women’s emancipation)
  • Some will have created blogs with photos, diaries etc.

Historical Romance Fans

  • Mainly female
  • Wide age range
  • Varied education levels
  • Read more than HF
  • High volume readers
  • Romance is primary reason behind book choice

Gals who want novels that make them think

  • Female readers
  • Expect more from their novels than an easy read
  • Enjoy strong women as protagonist
  • Expect high quality prose
  • Wide age range
  • Want a ‘meaty’ read

War’s the Focus

  • Mainly male
  • Accuracy is critical
  • Romance is incidental
  • WWI and WWII fans
  • Seek adventure and drama

For each of these segments I looked at marketing tactics and mechanisms for reaching readers. For example, I might be able to reach Historical Fiction Enthusiasts through historical fiction blogs, while a suitable mechanism for those labelled Connecting to the Past might be through an association dedicated to retired people.

A question for you – have you considered market segments for your novels? Leave a comment on what tactics might work for your latest novel.

FOR MORE ON WRITING & READING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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16 Responses

  1. Ah yes, I recognize the IBM segment planning methodology from my own years at IBM. I think that this is an excellent analysis to assist both fiction writers and biographers to understand the mindset of their potential publishers and connect it to the passion that drove the author to put pen to paper. Thank you, former PC company colleague!

      1. Thanks for asking. For the last 4 years (the last 18 months very intensely) I have been researching the life of an early 20thC woman journalist. Quite fun, uses all my ‘Ms. Marple’ skills that I honed in the preparation of weekly pipeline cadence reports. Difficult to see the application? Well, numbers tell the history if you learn to listen to them, so it was an easy transition to asking why and where in biographical research

  2. Did you also apply this strategy with Unravelled, or was it something you came up with for Lies? If so, did you notice that that new marketing strategy made a difference? I’m curious to hear more about how this actually played out.

    1. I tried a bunch of things related to market segments for both books, Ruth. The difficulty is linking results (purchases and other items) to specific actions. Still working on this aspect. What about you?

  3. Both of my novels were written to a certain sector of the market. This may or may not be a good thing because the minute you talk about “market segmentation” in the book industry, agents’ and editors’ eyes glaze over. They want books with mass appeal, that anyone would pick off the shelf. This is not a problem in the Romance category since it is the woolly-mammoth of book categories, but for books in other categories, the writer will have to work especially hard to sell the book. Does this mean there is no place in the market for quirky, original books? No, not at all. It simply means the author will have to do his leg work finding readers versus the other way around. In this case, success will be a function of long-term effort versus short-term appeal. Pack light and bring extra canisters of oxygen.

    1. I agree on the long term effort required. When I was writing this post, I thought about your targeting of climbing clubs – which I thought was brilliant. Did you get any results/feedback on effectiveness of that tactic?

      1. Yes, I got some positive reviews on climbing/outdoor blogs, free promo on exploration sites, and an invitation to speak at a climbing/adventure club. But I understand that success is a long-term effort, so I try to stay focused on writing my next book rather than marketing. Mailchimp is a great tool for honing your advertising efforts; I’m constantly building and pruning my list. This is a great article about understanding your target audience and remember that “The person (the book) may resonate with is usually only five degrees to the left or the right of your demographic.”

  4. What an interesting approach. It makes so much sense. I haven’t used this idea in my writing up to now, but will apply it starting today!

  5. My book Imaginary Brightness will be available May 31 and to market it I have contacted several bloggers that blog on various topics: book reviews (the obvious) but also about researching and writing historical fiction, and screenwriting believe it or not. One reason for tracking down a screenwriter blog is that my story is what some might consider fan fiction for the tv series Hell on Wheels, although I didn’t write it for that reason and had no knowledge of the tv series until I was well into writing the book and someone informed me on my website. Another potential market for me is the regional historical societies as my story has a regional flair. While searching for potential blog sites to guest-write stumbled across a great regional podcast show that has interviewed the author Christina Baker Kline (The Orphan Train) and Erik Larson, so I am in good company as I interview today!

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