One of the first questions I ask an author when we’re discussing book marketing is “Who’s going to read your book?”
About 99% of the time they respond, “I hope everyone reads my book!”
While it would be nice to have every single person between the ages of 6-100 pick up your book and love it, there’s no such thing as a book for everyone. (Even Harry Potter has critics.) We all have reading preferences and are drawn to specific genres based on our own interests and background.
Your time and money will be best spent marketing to a core group of readers– the people most likely to read (and love) your book. This group of people is known as your target audience. Identifying your target audience is so important, because once you decide who you should reach out to you will be better able to decide how you should reach out to them.
Here are 4 ways I help authors define their target audience:
1. All About You
Multiple writing mentors have taught me, “Write what you know.”
Being able to draw from your personal experiences makes your writing both believable and relatable. Your life and interests are woven throughout your book (sometimes unconsciously), because you’re writing about the things that are most important to you. If you read through your manuscript, chances are you’ll find a lot of yourself in the plot and characters.
Your target audience will enjoy your book simply because it’s written by you. Friends tend to share similar interests, and the same trend applies to readers and authors. Below are a few questions to ask yourself. You’ll be able to find a part of your target audience just by going through these questions because their answers will match yours.
Yes, these are very similar to questions you might ask on a first date 🙂
- What are your hobbies?
- What is your favorite school subject?
- Where did you grow up (city, country, suburbs, internationally, etc.)?
- How do you spend your Friday nights?
- What is your dream job?
- What is your favorite time of year?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
2. All About Your Protagonist
We are naturally drawn to books where we relate to the main character. Whether you’re writing fiction, a memoir, or creative non-fiction, you’re going to have a protagonist, and your protagonist is going to be unique. Go through basic character development questions (beyond physical appearance), and you’ll have a nice idea as to who would read your book.
Here are a few character development bullet points to get you started. Remember your target audience will be similar to your protagonist.
- Family Life
- Greatest Strengths
- Greatest Weakness
*Keep in mind that young readers like to read books where the antagonist is about 2 years older than them.
3. Single Sentence Summary
Sometimes we get caught up in the sub-plots or the unimportant details of our book. Yes, your YA romance could have a protagonist whose favorite teacher is married to a doctor, but that doesn’t mean that your book will appeal to readers of medical fiction.
If you can find the barest bones of your plot, you’ll have a better idea as to who will be interested in reading your book.
Write down the basis of your book in a single sentence. State only the facts and leave out any adjectives or adverbs. Here’s my single sentence summary for a book I’m working on: Faye, an 18-year-old girl with a power that makes both the angels and demons want her, must put love aside in order to choose who she will fight for in the war for humanity.
Now bold key words in that sentence: Faye, an 18-year-old girl with a power that makes both the angels and demons want her, must put love aside in order to choose who she will fight for in the war for humanity.
Take a look at your key words and think about who would like this book:
- 18-year-old- YA readers
- Girl- Female readers
- Power- Fiction readers
- Angels, Demons- Supernatural readers
- Love– Romance readers
- Fight, War for humanity- Action readers
So, the target audience for my book would be females that enjoy YA romance about supernatural action. Yes, there are family issues in my plot. Yes, there’s also self-discovery. But, they aren’t the focus of my book, so I left them out and found my true core group of readers.
4. Comparative Titles
When thinking about your book’s target audience, always research comparative titles a.k.a. comp titles. Comp titles are books that will directly compete with yours for sales. You both will have the same genre, the same readers, the same price point, and similar packaging (i.e. paperback, hard cover, box set, etc.)
If you’re not sure what comp titles your book has, think about where your book would be shelved in a bookstore or library. If you want another reason to go to the bookstore, use “comp title research” as your excuse and browse the genre your book falls in.
Once you have a list of 3-5 comp titles, take a look at their target audience by answering these questions:
- What is the look and feel of their book/author website? (Look at color scheme, font choice, and the content they post.)
- Which magazines and blogs reviewed the book?
- What types of stores did the author hold events at?
- What are the demographics of the author’s social media followers?
- Which organizations is the author involved in?
Go through each of these points, and you’ll be able to find the right readers for your book. If you focus your outreach and marketing on this specific target audience, you will see an increase in book sales and your fan following. Yes, there will be a few outliers who don’t fit your described target audience, but if you focus on your core group of readers then you can be confident in the direction of your marketing.