I met the folks at Find My Audience at Book Expo of America 2015 in NYC. We were two companies of twenty that were invited to attend as start-ups to watch. From first impression, them seemed smart and with a really helpful product, especially for the indie author. Check out my interview below with the CEO!
Jennifer Bowen: Let’s be non-traditional and start with a burning question – what’s one of your favorite books and why?
Paul Agostinelli: Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” is one of my all-time favorites. The plot is harrowing and hilarious, but more importantly we get to inhabit the intensely rendered consciousness of all the characters, young and old, male and female, bright and dull. Growing up in Connecticut, the South was an alien world to me, but Faulkner opens up the inner lives of his characters in a way that is both relatable and profound.
JB: Great. Let’s get into it. 🙂 Tell us your background, where the company is located, etc.? Also, how did the company come about?
PA: I studied Physics as an undergraduate and then shifted to English Literature, which I studied in grad school under a Mellon Fellowship. When I left academia, the combination of those interests led me to technical writing, and from there I got into technology entrepreneurship. I co-founded my first startup, an Open Source web consultancy for non-profits, in 2000.
Find My Audience was born in the vision of my co-Founder Mark Schroeder, who like me is a internet entrepreneur as well as novelist and writer with an advanced academic degree in Literature. Three years ago he shared the vision of a platform that would use the booming innovations in Big Data, social listening, and cross-channel communication to help writers find readers. I’m always discussing new technology ideas with my friends and partners, but from day one I loved this idea, and could not let it go. We spent a year working on the side, prototyping the system, and when we were ready for funding we were fortunate to find an interested angel who has experience in Publishing and saw the promise of the system.
We’re based in Boulder, CO, a technology hotbed that we feel perfectly positions us between the East Coast centers of traditional publishing and marketing, and the West Coast centers of internet tech and Big Data. That’s where we live intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
JB: How does Find My Audience work? And how will it help authors?
PA: We start with a work profile, which includes a book’s genres and micro-genres, similar books and authors, and relevant keywords; then we map those elements against a large volume of filtered social feeds from Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and other channels. We bring back people, places, groups and conversations that we’ve qualified as potential interested readers of your book. From there a writer can identify their best potential audiences, and engage with them. Once you set up your profile, we automatically run audience searches every night, so every morning you wake up to new readers.
JB: I see you’re in a beta stage. So can authors sign up now to get clarity on the demographics of their readers even while you’re in beta?
PA: We are really in pre-beta with our author platform. You can sign up now, and when we are ready in a couple months, authors can set up their profile and start finding their audiences immediately.
JB: When do you foresee the beta phase ending and fully launching?
PA: We hope to be in live production by the end of the year. There will always be a free tier of service for authors. At some point within the next year we’ll add our pay tiers, which will involve additional social channels and/or the ability to manage audiences for multiple titles.
JB: Let’s say, theoretically, I’ve recently self-published my first paranormal mystery YA book. I have a website, links to buy on Amazon and a few other sources, and Facebook & Twitter accounts. But beyond my 200 friends and family members who bought my book, sales have ground to a halt. How can I use your service to increase sales?
PA: First off, congratulations on publishing your book! 🙂 Secondly, you are a perfect candidate for FMA, the exact type of user we designed the system for. First you profile your work in terms of genre, similars and keywords (which should take you about one minute) then hit Find. Within ten seconds, we bring you back potential audience members and relevant conversations across three social channels. We bring back a lot of information on these people, so at this point we suggest you listen. See who’s out there and what they are talking about. You may find very active hashtag conversations that are relevant to your work you had not thought of and you can instantly add them to your profile and re-run your Audience. Next you promote those people and groups that you want to engage with, then message them through our platform.
Social Media book marketing and sales is an evolving discipline. We share our learnings about what and when to message, the various best practices about sharing content, commenting on other peoples posts, re-tweeting, etc. When etiquette and best practices are followed, then communities of interest, affinities, and fan support will develop nicely, and this ultimately leads to sales. When they are not followed, you get a bunch of spam, and we are not into that. We want to raise the signal to noise ratio on social media so that you are talking with people who have a predisposition to like your work. You are not just bullhorning a pitch across the web.
JB: Will your service once it’s launched be a monthly-fee service?
PA: Yes, there will always be a free tier, but then pay tiers will be available at what we believe to be acceptable subscription fees, $5-$15 per month.
JB: Outside your service, can you offer any other advice to authors on how best to self-promote on varying budgets – say $0, $500 & $2,500?
PA: For low-to-no budget, I suggest working the social media channels, grow your fanbase, share your ideas and your voice. Use strategic promotions, freebies, giveaways, etc. Always give more than you are asking for, in the way of comments and re-tweets and likes of other people’s comments.
If you have a few hundred dollars to spend (and you are not a web developer) I suggest you have someone help you develop a blog. Of course you don’t need outside help, but a web developer-graphic artist can elevate the design and function of the blog. If your prospective readers see you have done a good job on your blog, then converting them to an actual reader will be that much easier.
If you have a few thousand dollars, I would hire someone to help you build an “author web site.” This serves a variety of purposes: first, it helps you get discovered; second, it provides a PR platform; and third, it’s your storefront. It’s enables you to sell books — and at the end of the day, that’s what all writers want!
Once those are done, if you still have budget, you can consider some paid SEO or even targeted ads, sponsorships and promotions. Ultimately, we’ll be helping with those things too.
JB: Any last insights?
PA: Authors should embrace self-marketing. It took me a long time to realize this, but an author’s vocation is to tell a story, to entertain and enlighten readers with their insight and their voice. They can do this on a smaller scale when they engage in conversation with their audience or tribe, sharing the story of their book and encouraging people to read it.
Enterprises and brands have been doing sophisticated tech-driven social marketing for several years now, and of course they have huge budgets to do so. I want to make those same tools available to writers for far lower costs. And I hope they embrace them, because they have so much to share with society, yet rising above the noise of the social web is hard. It’s really impossible without some help.
Super helpful, right? Whenever I finish my YA book, I plan on using their services for sure!
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