Image: Matthew Loffhagen
As an author, the secret to finding your target audience is not to list everyone who might be interested in your book. That’s a simple way to waste your book marketing efforts. Oh no, the key is to find your one perfect reader.
You know, the reader who buys every single one of your books. The reader who signs up to your newsletter, pays attention to every word you write, and who knows your main character almost as well as you do.
The thing is, once you’ve found that person, you can extrapolate out to a segment of readers who are fundamentally similar. These are the people who make up your initial target market.
You are not going to target “Everyone” or “Everyone who can read” or even “Everyone who can read in English and is over 18”. Of course people who can read are more likely to be interested in your book than people who don’t, but those are not practical target markets. They are far too broad to be meaningful.
This is not to say that your book will only be read by its obvious target market. What I am saying is that you should first identify who your obvious target market is before you start trying to appeal to “Everyone”.
Get the right focused market and you will have a chance of selling your book(s) and building a solid fan base.
I’d now like to introduce you to your perfect reader…
James is 43 with two kids. He went to college and now works as a mid-level executive in a small manufacturing company. He has a love of fast cars and a harmless addiction to Starbucks coffee. James reads books by Dan Brown and Michael Crichton but he’s not a big fan of Stephen King. He loves books with a rough-around-the-edges antihero, and he really loves detailed descriptions of supercars.
So how do you convince James to read your book?
Well for starters, you could collaborate with supercar blogs or you could use Facebook advertising, which is great for targeting specific demographics. You could even hang around the Dan Brown section in your local book store and hand out promotional bookmarks. (You don’t actually want to do that last one, you’ll only get yourself thrown out of the book store.)
Knowing where you reader lives, what demographic he is in, what he does, and what he likes, means you can actually find him, or people like him, and have a chance at getting him and others interested in your book.
1. How to develop a target audience when you’re just starting out
If you are just starting out as a self-published author, you’ve got a slightly harder hill to climb than an established author. But don’t despair, I have a few tips and tricks that will help you find your book’s target market.
1.1. Start with yourself
This is a pretty straightforward thing to do. You can assume that if you enjoy writing about a certain topic, then someone who is the same age and gender, and who has similar interests to you, may also enjoy reading about it. So take some time to really analyze who you are and what makes you tick.
For example, say you are:
- A 36-year-old female;
- You live in Los Angeles;
- Your favorite books are Secrets of Meditation and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success;
- You belong to the mediation community on Google+.
Using this information, you can generalize and create the following profile:
- Females aged between 30-40;
- Live in the USA;
- Enjoy reading spiritual and self-healing non-fiction books;
- Active blog and forum users.
By looking at the types of books you read, the types of movies you like, the music you listen to, the magazines you buy, the hobbies you have, how you spend your vacations, etc., you can get some interesting insights into others that fit a similar profile.
1.2. Analyze your book
One of the main reasons people are going to be interested in your book (aside from the amazing plot and characterization) is because of the subject matter.
For example, if you love ancient churches, Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth will surely be on your bookshelf. If you work in the legal system, John Grisham’s books are going to interest you beyond the actual storyline.
To start your book analysis, you need to sit down and make a list of the different topics covered in your book. They could be obvious:
A book called “My Family’s Kindergarten Nightmare” is clearly going to appeal to parents of young children.
They can, however, also be a bit more subtle:
A novel set in medieval Britain may appeal to medieval weapon buffs if it includes very detailed and well researched descriptions of the weapons used in that time.
Analyzing your book and identifying the topics will lead you closer to your desired readers so make sure you devote some time to this step of the process.
1.3. Take a look at social media
Look at the social media followings of authors that are similar to yourself. You’ll be surprised at how much information can be gleaned by looking at who is following these authors on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you spend an hour or two working through their followers, you’ll start to get a decent idea of an age and gender profile. If you have time, look at a few things that the author’s followers are posting about as you may pick up on some shared areas of interest.
You can use Twitter’s advanced search function to give you an idea of who’s talking about authors similar to yourself, and of course, what they are talking about. Yes, you are playing the role of detective, but if you pay close attention to what is being said, you will soon have a better understanding of who your readers are and how to connect to them.
Social for Publishers has a content research tool which is great for exploring Facebook with. Best of all, the basic account is free.
1.4. Think about the buyer
Allow for some flexibility in your research. This is particularly relevant for authors of children’s books because although your books are written for a young audience, it is the parents and teachers that will be the buyers.
2. Learning about your book’s target market when you’re already published
If you’re an established author with an existing fan base, you will focus more on maintaining and growing your existing fan base rather than finding one. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
2.1. Mine Facebook
Facebook has a huge amount of data on its users and if you have a Facebook page (you should have a Facebook page), you can access some enlightening information about your fans. Note, this doesn’t work if the only people who like your page are your friends and family as they are not representative of your general target audience.
This information can be found under the “new Page Insights” on your Facebook page. Simply click on the “People” tab and you will see a fantastic break down of your fan demographic. If you like the sound of this, have a look at this great article.
2.2. Check your email subscribers
Email service providers often have a lot of information on the people who subscribe to your email list. Some providers also give you access to other social data which can help you narrow down your audience.
2.3. Poll your fans
Use an online survey company to create a poll asking your followers who they are and what they are interested in. You can post this on your website or blog and send it out to your Twitter followers. This of course only works if you already have a fair number of fans.
2.4. Ask your publisher
If you have a publisher, they should be on hand to help you out (in an ideal world). Publishers generally have a very good knowledge of their audience and should be able to give you some insight into your readership or the readership of similar authors. They will also be able to give you some useful ideas about marketing to these readers.
3. Create your reader profile
This step applies to new and established authors as a reader profile is at the heart of your marketing efforts. Doing this will not only give focus to your marketing campaign, but it will also make your campaign far more effective. Suddenly, you are able to address the specific needs and desires of your readers which forms the foundation for developing relationships and breeding loyalty.
You may wish to write a bullet point list of your perfect reader or you may even want to stick a photo of your perfect reader in your office. Some of the authors that we work with actually write a short biography about their readers. You can take any approach that works best for you, as long as that approach gives you a clear understanding of your readers.
You might have multiple target audiences, for instance, you might have a book that will appeal to knitters as well as single dads, so by all means have two “ideal readers” but don’t get carried away with this. One, two, or three are more than enough and if you can narrow it down to just one, you’ll make life far easier for yourself.
After you have created your specific reader profile, the next step is to extrapolate to a wider group of people. This group will form your target market.
Here’s how you can do this:
- Sally from San Diego becomes “Women in California”.
- 36 years old becomes “aged 30 -40”.
- A boy called Angus and two girls aged 3 and 5 becomes “has a family” or “is a mum”.
- That turtle called Shelly morphs into a generic “loves animals”.
- Those years of partying at college become “has some college education”.
You can go into as much detail as you like.
Where to from here…?
The key is not to assume that having a target market means your work is done. You still have to engage with this group of people, but the odds of finding them are now much higher.
I’ll be writing more about how to engage with and market to your readers soon, so if you’d like to read the articles, simply sign up to receive blog updates on the right and I’ll let you know when it’s finished.
Have you taken the time to figure out your perfect reader? Do you think there’s any value in doing so? Share your thoughts in the comments.