When I write, I wander off into my own little imaginary world and have no thought at all about who my readers are, or will be.
Perhaps I should do because my eclectic writing style is only fit for those who have a reading eye for the perverse and who are a little left of centre.
But in truth, I don’t know who my readers are because I have absolutely no way of finding out about my target audience.
I have access to traffic reports from Facebook and Google Analytics, which give me a very rough idea of the demographics of visitors to my blogs and Facebook Pages. But apart from noticing that I am not at all popular with young adult 13-17-year-olds, it doesn’t tell me much.
Here are two examples of the types of reports that I can access from my Facebook Pages, and blogs via Google.
However, this data is not at all relevant with regard to my books, as the people who visit my blogs and Facebook Pages could come for a variety of reasons, other than from a genuine interest in buying and/or reading my books.
Perhaps they stumbled upon my sites through Google or Facebook Search or came via backlinks from other sites, or out of happy, random clicking on Twitter.
Did they return, or only visit once? The reports give me a few clues, but nothing more than a generalised overview.
What I really would like to know is this.
What are the demographics of the people who buy my books?
Are they predominantly men or women and what age group are they? What other books did they buy? Were they a new or returning buyer of my books? Of the titles that I have published, do certain titles sell better to certain demographics?
With this type of data, I could target my book marketing more narrowly, save time, and probably sell more books. I could possibly then write with a certain readership demographic in mind.
Sadly, though, this information is closely guarded by all of the major (and even minor) self-publishing platforms and online retailers.
The only information given to self-published authors is raw unit sales numbers and perhaps if you are lucky, generalised geographical sales data. But that is the limit.
Book reviews serve little real value either, as there are so many fake and paid reviews online that it is next to impossible to know which reviews are genuine.
I don’t know of course, but I would hazard a guess that even major publishers, who sell their books via Amazon, Apple, B&N and alike, do not have access to basic demographic sales data either.
At the same time, I am absolutely sure that Amazon, Apple, B&N and Kobo store and use this data that they collect during visitor browsing, at the time of sale, and from user profile and credit card details to help them fine-tune their own marketing to increase their sales volumes.
The question, therefore, is this.
Why aren’t authors and publishers given access to just a tiny little bit of this extremely relevant data? Gender, age range and country would be more than enough information to be able to gain an understanding of our readership.
The answer, or excuse, will be that it is a matter of privacy. Yes, of course.
By publishing the images above, of the demographics reports of my Facebook and blog visitors, have I invaded, threatened, exposed or mistreated anyone’s individual privacy?
No. Nor would it be, if online retailers supplied just a little relevant sales data in a similar form to my images above for authors and publishers.
My guess is that the reason authors and publishers are not given access to this information by online retailers and publishing platforms is not a matter of privacy or credit card security. It is a matter of marketing power.
Online retailers aim to sell a few copies of thousands upon thousands of titles, while self-published authors, small press and even major publishing houses need to sell thousands of copies of only a few titles. It is part of the new publishing power game at work.
Have we traded one lock keeper for another?