Just launched your book (or hope to soon)?
Wondering why there is more fizzle than fan-fare?
Your target audience–or lack thereof–may be to blame.
Why Target An Audience?
One of the biggest mistakes writers make as fledgling authorpreneurs is believing that the larger the potential market, the greater the chances that their book (or freelance services) will get noticed.
In fact, the opposite is often true. The larger the market, the more competition you are likely to face and the bigger the drain on your already limited resources.
Trying to appeal to the masses instead of understanding the needs, wants and desires of a select few–the ‘right’ few–is the recipe for a book launch flop.
Finding and narrowing your niche will help you to reach–and appeal to–more of the people that will ultimately buy your book.
The key is to identify and research what your true target audience craves, recognize the unique and meaningful aspects of what you have to offer, and align the two to benefit your ideal reader in an exceptional way.
Here are some additional points to consider:
- Don’t assume you already know your audience, or that they are just like you. It’s possible, but not always the case that your audience will think like you. So do the work to confirm what your readers actually want; not what you think they need.
- Self-published authors aren’t the only ones who need to have a firm grasp on their target audience. Agents and traditional publishers also want you to know who your audience is, your allure to that particular group, and how you plan on connecting with them.
- Even though it’s important to niche-down, it is equally important to ensure that you haven’t narrowed your market to the point it has become unprofitable. A bit of research will help you define your sweet spot.
- Another mistake that many authors make, especially fiction authors, is failing to identify their target audience before writing the book. I know it messes with the creative process for some, but it certainly can’t hurt to have a picture in your mind of who you are writing for as you craft your novel. In fact, it can make things easier by helping to clarify the purpose of your book, keep you on track and even motivate you to finish. Both fiction and non-fiction writers need to write with their target audience in mind.
What’s Your Appeal?
It’s difficult to tempt people with what you have to offer, unless you know exactly what it is that you’re offering. And, why it is that they should care.
Take the time to discover your author brand. Dig deep, and define your goals for your writing in general. Why are you writing? What is your central philosophy, and why is it important to share it? Remember to consider not just this book, but future works as well.
Get to know yourself and your book intimately and tease out the potential benefits, advantages, points of difference, uniqueness and angles. What’s your hook? Who might be interested? What makes your work so compelling or entertaining that a book buyer would choose you over a comparable book, or another author in your field?
It becomes much easier to discern who is most likely to buy your book if you can get to the core of who it’s really meant for and the secret sauce that makes it stand out from the rest.
Who Do You Need to Reach?
Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of determining and describing who you need to reach.
Given what you have to offer, who would be most interested and why? Who will benefit the most?
Recognizing that your book is not a ‘must read’ for every literate person on earth, necessarily means you need a way to narrow your focus.
The goal is to segment a broad market into smaller, distinct groups of individuals who are like-minded or share specific characteristics, behaviours and needs.
To do this, use this checklist of questions to help:
- Where do your potential readers live (now, previously)? Country, region? What language is spoken?
- What is the climate like? The seasons?
- What is the age, sex, race or ethnicity of your readers?
- Education level?
- Occupation or employment?
- Are your readers married? Do they have kids?
- What is their religion or religeous affiliations?
- Generation? Baby boomer? Gen X? Gen Y?
- What type of lifestyle do your readers maintain?
- Their social class (lower, middle, upper class)?
- Do they live in an urban or rural environment?
- What is their health like?
- Background or upbringing?
- What are your readers’ goals, beliefs, interests, habits, values and attitudes?
- Any subconscious emotional associations?
- What occasions are important to your reader?
- Are they loyal (already fans of your genre/topic)?
- What’s their motivation?
- Where are they in terms of readiness to buy? (Already read the first book in your series?)
- What are their buying patterns? (Buy on impulse, or look for value?)
- Where and how do they read? (Mobile? Ebook vs. print?)
Where Can You Find the Answers?
The answers to the above questions should not be just a guess, but gleaned from as many sources as you can get your hands on.
If you currently have a fan base, consider polling your readers or asking them to complete a survey to better understand how best to serve them. Ask questions:in your emails, in your comments (on your own blog and others), and join forums and clubs that discuss your topic or genre to find out more about your audience.
Find comparable books and investigate the book or author websites. Who is commenting? What types of content are they sharing and what platforms are they using to share it? Next, check out the various social platforms that the author is active on. Look at the profiles of the followers–many are very likely your target audience as well.
Here’s a few more ideas:
- Google the reader demographics for magazines, publications or newsletters that pertain to your topic or a subtopic in your book.
- Certain social circles, networks, librarians and local bookstores might be able to share some insights on a potential audience for your work.
- You can even Google your country’s census bureau for additional statistics.
Now that you’ve got more information then you can shake a stick at, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned.
A well defined target audience includes elements from more than one set of criteria or segment above.
So for example, if I were considering writing a book about snowboarding tricks and tips, my target audience might look something like this:
13 – 25 year old, single males from middle to upper class families who live in regions that experience winter conditions part of the year. They are athletic, daring and competitive. They like to push themselves to improve by learning new snowboarding techniques, and have the free time to practice. Prefer ebook format, lower price point and generally impulse buyers, but influenced by peer and influencer recommendations. Snowboarding competitions or exhibitions are an important draw. Most active on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Images, video and music should be incorporated in marketing strategy.
- If I found in my research that snowboard repairs were also a significant interest (due to the intensity and wear and tear on the boards from the tricks), I could consider adding a section on repairs in my book, and title it:Snowboard Tips, Tricks and the Inevitable Repairs.
- If I found in my research that the 12-25 year old male snowboarder market was still too broad a market (too competitive), I could change my focus and target 13 – 25 year old Canadian, female snowboarders.
As you can see from the above example, the target market you choose will also influence the marketing decisions you make. So use the information you gather from your research to devise various marketing strategies and promotional tactics according to the tastes of your future readers. Create your book based on what your research reveals your readers want and need.
If this post comes to you a little late and you already have your book in hand, you can still apply these concepts. Segment your market based on what you learn about your current readers or comparables. You may even find that you have more than one target market (perhaps you’ve written a young adult novel that would also appeal to adult readers of romance, for example). The key is to know exactly who it is that your book will benefit most.
“Select carefully. The target market you choose will help dictate your marketing strategy.” (Tweet this)
Position Yourself Well
The position your book occupies in the reader’s mind is linked to your author brand. It’s what sets you apart.
Your job, then, is to consistently and effectively convey your brand, while continuing to provide your audience with what they’ve told you they want; something they can only get with you.
You’ve Found Your Audience; Now Create Your Plan to Reach Them
By now you know exactly who your target audience is, and have streamlined your brand to be ‘in tune’ with their interests and desires.
The final step is to be where they are.
A technique to make finding and engaging with your target audience easier, is to create a highly detailed and accurate reader profile or persona that represents your target audience.
Don’t panic! You’re done with the hard work, so your reward is to use the information you’ve gathered to create a profile (like you might for a character in your novel). Grab your notebook and do a character sketch of your ideal reader. Give this individual a name. Connect with them, understand them.
Once created, this profile or persona (my snowboarder’s name is Alex) is who you think of, speak to and write for when creating any marketing message. Every email, social media post, design tweak, book trailer, book cover, blog entry, excerpt, and comment must be crafted with your reader profile in mind.
With Alex in mind, here are some questions I can ask and things I can do to connect with him. Replace Alex with your ideal reader profile (oops, ok just a bit more work ):
- What blogs does Alex read, what forums does he frequent, what networking sites does he post to?
- Given what I know about Alex, where would I advertise?
- Knowing Alex as well as I do, I have the ability to talk to him using the language that will resonate with him; I can use his words to tell him exactly how and why my book will appeal to him.
- I can anticipate where Alex might look for advice, reviews and additional information before buying.
- By combining forces with other authors or businesses that share my target audience (Alex), I can gain credibility, and perhaps additional access.
- I can influence his influencers: ask bloggers who blog on the topic of snowboarding or winter sports to review my book. I can encourage testimonials from readers within my audience and gather endorsements from other writers, businesses or organizations that have a connection with my books content.
- By matching Alex and my audience demographics with various media demographics, I might be able to obtain free or inexpensive publicity: local radio spots, competitions, sporting or charitable events, or even midday news on TV.
Are you seeing how much easier it is to plan your marketing and promotional activities with a ‘person’ in mind?
Here are a few more ideas that you can employ to stay connected with your audience:
- Monitor mentions of your book/brand online (set up Google Alerts).
- Stay up to date with news and trends regarding your topic or genre. What are other authors, bloggers, and industry influencers talking about? (Some resources: Feedly, AllTop, Google Trends and NewsMap)
- Go where they are; contribute and be useful.
- Get ideas from your ‘competitors’. What works? What doesn’t? Don’t just copy–imitation will not help you stand out.
- Start (or continue) to build your author platform: 101 Quick Actions You Can Take Today to Build the Writer Platform of Your Dreams.
- Wondering where to start with social media? Here’s an excellent article by Phil Mershon at Social Media Examiner: 5 Social Media Tips for Finding and Engaging Your Target Audience: New Research.
For the most part, identifying your target audience is relatively easy once you’ve gathered the information. However, there are a few instances where it may not be so simple.
Children’s books and gift books are two instances where the book buyer isn’t necessarily the book reader. And textbooks represent a situation where the book reader is required to purchase the book, based on someone else’s suggestion and opinion.
In these cases, the process for finding and describing your audience (oraudiences) is similar, but your marketing strategy must take into account the two or more, often disparate groups.
Find Your Place
One final thought to keep in mind: Don’t try and leverage off of someone else’s brand. There is no need to play second fiddle. Establish your own place with your own purpose. Your audience is waiting.
“Know yourself. Know your audience. Construct and execute your plan to reach them.” (Tweet this)
Armed with the above information, book launch fails or book sales slumps will be a thing of the past.