Audience Profiling

I'm wondering who here (if anyone) has had any success with targeted marketing towards demographics based on audience profiling.

Like, if you know your serial will be of interest to 40 year old long distance truckers from the Midwest, so you find the places they are online, and market there.

I'm also interested (if any does this) in how you profiled your audience.

I did some polling for the stuff I wrote a few years back, and I think the results came out something like a 50/50 gender split, with the predominant age demographic being 20-30.

I also seem to do much better with people who don't read online serials than those who do, although whether that's a comment on my audience, or general web serial trends, I don't know.

Certainly, I've always struggled with marketing (especially now the bottom has dropped out of webcomic advertising) because I have to convince people who wouldn't normally bother with online fiction to give my stuff a chance.

From what I've read, there's not much point targeting serial readers other than just the basics (here, twf, maybe rrl, wattpad, tuesday serial).

Most people don't know what a serial is, so if you're marketing towards people who do, you're already massively limiting your pool of potential readers.

(I'm extrapolating from webcomic marketing because almost no real data exists on webserial marketing).

Absolutely. That's why I always tell people not to focus on attracting readers from other serials, but to focus on the potential audience outside of them. No one is going to achieve Worm-levels of success just by emulating Worm (and the fact that people always bring up Worm rather than, say, John Dies at the End or the Martian, also speaks volumes for the niche nature of the "webserial audience" as well).

You just have to look at RRL and Wattpad, really. Both have very specific demographics with very specific interests, and, from what I've observed, at least, it's difficult for anything outside of those to get much of a foothold.

Encouraging people to read something posted online, for free, is tough, however. Self-publishing to Kindle carries stigma enough. The problem is that, unlike say art or music, the majority of people can string a sentence together, so writing has a very low bar to entry and people need gatekeepers - like publishers - to assure them that something is worth their time - and there aren't really any gatekeepers when it comes to web serials.

I used to agree with the gatekeeper theory, but honestly these days I'm seeing a much higher quality of writing in indie fiction. And it's not that indie fiction is better than trad was twenty years ago (it's on about a par), it's that trad has went seriously downhill lately. I reckon they had cutbacks and let some proofreaders go or something.

On top of that, they seem less gatekeepers and more arbiters - indie fiction is more likely to be edgy, diverse and (to me), interesting.

But I'm an outlier. The masses do seem to prefer to be told what to read.

"No one is going to achieve Worm-levels of success just by emulating Worm," ha, yes, I don't think the no-marketing approach will work. I wonder how The Martian was marketed when it was a serial?

Gatekeepers have nowt to do with quality. It's about having someone (be it a publisher or person) who the audience trusts saying "you should read this because I think it's awesome". Or rubbish. That happens too.

A modern day example would be the various YouTube celebrities shilling stuff on their vlogs. Finding one who would deal with web fiction, however, is another issue. Kindle stuff, sure, but stories posted to WordPress blogs not so much.

Also, there's a lot of online fiction out there that never crosses paths with the proverbial solar systems of WFG, RRL et al. Just the other day my editor friend was telling me of someone she knew who was prepping to serialise his work through an app. These are people who have never heard of places like Reddit or TV Tropes, let alone sites like this.

It's just about getting the word out - preferably from the mouth of somebody the potential audience trusts XD

No, I disagree there, sorry.

Let's take the example of your YouTube celebrity going on about Kindle books. Okay, she has no control over the quality of said book, but she is probably going to comment on it. "This is an enjoyable story if you can manage to ignore the typos, a minimum of three to every page," is going to ensure I don't buy that book. "This book has flat characters and a stock plot, but the cover art sure is pretty, and it's been perfectly proofread" will again be something I don't read.

As to the trad publishers, who have often be espoused as gatekeepers, they are in charge of the quality of their books, and I'm going to expect a higher quality from them. They're not reviewers, they're publishers.


But yeah, webserials will take off if the write influencer likes them. Now, how can I get Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day to love my serial? :P

I'm looking on Youtube right now. It really doesn't help that so many Youtubers are confused by the difference between Webserial and Webseries, ha.

There's a lot of stuff about Worm on Youtube.

When I say "quality", I don't mean it in terms of grammar and spelling (I take that as a given), but the actual narrative.

Obviously, that is rather more subjective. I mean, the Hunger Games is easily the worst thing I have ever read. It still got published, however, and still found a massive audience.

And yes, the right person can make all the difference. The webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court got a *massive* boost in popularity - to the point where it's now one of the biggest webcomics out there - thanks to a single recommend from Neil Gaiman...

Ah, okay. In that case I take your Hunger Games, and raise you one DaVinci Code. That was truly awful, but nowhere near as bad as 50 Shades awful.

So, to be successful, we should write mass market crap.

That's one way, certainly. You could say it's the root of all (and reason we have) genres. You write what the audience wants, and "quality" is judged on ticked boxes, meeting expectations.

You could then say that "literature", being so often the antithesis of "genre", is where an author writes what they want, rather than what the audience wants. An obvious example would be 1984, which, though obviously science fiction, is almost always considered otherwise. It doesn't conform to the genre expectations (certainly of its time, anyway).

Obviously, it's not that simple (or else people wouldn't still be arguing about the terms), but it's one way to look at it, and can help you define/market your work.

Saying that, writing for a mass market doesn't mean it has to be shite (just that it's easier to get away with it), and there's plenty of "literature" out there that's Twilight levels of awful...

The thing is that everyone who doesn't want those boxes ticked in their genre stopped reading said genre long ago. For instance, I keep hearing from bloggers who stopped reading Urban Fantasy because they were tired of all the insta-love and sex scenes. The same is true for other genres. If you don't write for the mass market, you need to find the audience who stopped reading mass market books - and those people are hard to reach.

For me, the problem with targeted marketing is the rate of return.

If I market my web serial, and let's say it is 100 chapters, I make about $.1 off of each dedicated reader. I sell my book on my site too, so let's say that 5% percent of new readers buy it. I value emails at $.20 a pop, so if I retain 10 percent of emails, I can calculate how much each reader is worth... .1+.1+.02 = 22 cents.

That means whatever marketing I do needs to cost less than 22 cents per enhanced reader. I think that would be hard to do. Maybe it will build popularity but idk about spinning a profit.

That's a different way to think about this than I do. I don't do a lot of advertising, but when I do, I don't worry too much about the cost. That doesn't mean I spend a lot though. Actually, for me my assumptions lead in the opposite direction.

My attitude is that if I'm getting readers out of it and I can afford the cost, I'll try it. I'll take a higher cost method that brings readers over a lower cost per reader that doesn't bring them in very quickly.

That said, my experience is that word of mouth does more than advertising. Thus I encourage people to tell others about my work as opposed to advertising directly.

I'm still trying to find my target audience, but I'm beginning to figure out who isn't, so I suppose that's progress. One valuable observation I've learned is that most web-serials seem to be either superhero or horror. And my stuff doesn't really fall into those. I though my stuff could be considered superhero, since my main characters are modeled to be superheroes, but they don't quite fit the genre definition. Most superhero webserials I've seen, actually tend to be urban fantasy with superpowers as the fantasy element. In essence it's real people living in a superhero world. Where as my stuff is actually the opposite: Superhero like people(through the power of technology), living in the real work.

All that to say, I think my stuff may be better off as an ebook series found in the cyberpunk section of Amazon, than a web serial. That was always my end game, but thanks to @leo, I'm now in the process of actually making that happen, because I finally found a strategy that might have half a chance of working.

I'm eager to see if it actually pans out.