How To Target an Audience (And Avoid Book Launch Flop)

How to Target Your Ideal Audience | YourWriterPlatform.comJust 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:

Geographic -

  • Where do your potential readers live (now, previously)? Country, region? What language is spoken?
  • What is the climate like? The seasons?

Demographic -

  • 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?
  • Nationality?

Psychographic -

  • 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?

Behavioural -

  • 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.

Start Targeting

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 How to target an audience snowboard photo | YourWriterPlatform.comcrafted 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, AllTopGoogle 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.

Plot Twist

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 (or audiences) 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.

What do you think?

Do you know your target audience? Will knowing help make marketing your book easier?

What does your reader profile look like?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Original top photo by earl53 

Snowboard original photo by Lightbox

Comments

  1. This is another post just filled with excellent advice, Kim! It takes awhile to really learn your target audience, but once you do, it makes writing the book a lot easier than if you just had a vague idea in your mind about your reader.

    Thanks for all the useful checklists and ideas!

    • Yep, knowing your audience helps with both the writing process and with marketing.

      Thanks for your comment and for stopping by, Bobbi!

      • Jennifer Graham says:

        Hi Kimberley
        You have no idea how timely this is for me to stumble upon your website.
        I’m about to have a memoir published (for the first time) and I’m kinda fumbling in the dark regarding marketing and advertising. I’m planning a book launch in my small town with an independent bookstore, not so much for big sales but to get myself known locally and as a celebration with my friends. My publisher will provide me with a website to be able to purchase my book. I’m starting out on a small scale – 500 copies to start off with.

        I’ve subscribed to your website. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generosity in sharing all this information with your fellow writers.

        Best regards,

        Jennifer :)

        • Congratulations on your memoir, Jennifer! I hope your book launch is a huge success (or at least loads of fun for you and your friends in celebration of your accomplishment)!

          And thank you for joining the YWP community! I hope you’ll find what you need to get your memoir off to a great start, but if you have any additional questions, feel free to send me a quick email. :)

          Good luck!

  2. Thanks so much for this excellent advice. I’ve only signed up to your site recently and I’ve already found your articles very helpful. Your site is going to be my go-to place for help on my author platform. Keep up the good work.
    Thanks
    Samantha

    • Thank you so much for all the compliments, Samantha! And thanks for joining the YWP community!

      I’m glad you’re finding what you need; if you have additional questions, just shoot me an email! :)

  3. Hi Kimberley,
    I really, really appreciated this article as I’m in the stage of working out who my target audience is so thanks so much! Loved the checklist too :)

  4. You’re right on Kimberley about knowing what your audience wants. This is definitely a post I’ll have to read a few times.

    I think a lot of authors figure out after they write a book or two that they really should have analyzed who they wanted buying the book before they ever started writing. If you can target a specific group’s wants you’ll be in such a good position to market to them and sell to them.

    • You’re right, Greg, but I think many writers have it deeply ingrained that strategically targeting a market for their work cheapens it; that it turns their art into a simple ‘product’ they then trade for cash. It’s sometimes only after a remarkable book goes unnoticed (like you’ve noted), that an author realizes even great art needs a marketing nudge.

      A better way to look at the process, is to understand that a significant reason we create ‘art’ is to share it. And to do so, we must consider–at all stages of creation–how best to get our work into the hands of the people who will care and appreciate it the most.

      Thanks for your comment, Greg!

  5. Sheer awesomeness. So invaluable! Reasons include but are not limited to:

    (1) The information you provided pertains to such a large group ex. those who have an audience vs. those who do not, fiction vs. nonfiction, experienced vs. inexperienced, etc.,

    (2) You weaved SO much information in such a short blog (amazing!!!),

    (3) The persona idea – loved it, and

    (4) The example you provided really illustrates your points.

    Your website has become one of my top go-to-places for writer platform information.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, Sally! I really appreciate your kind words and support. :)

      I’m happy to know that you’re getting the info you need!

  6. thank you for more interesting information. as a new author one of the things I’m finding important is both growing and understanding my niche

    • Finding your niche and understanding the wants and desires of your ideal reader is key, R.L.

      What is your niche? Why do you feel you have to ‘grow’ it? Be careful that you haven’t narrowed your focus so much that your niche is too small to be economically viable.

      Creating an audience is hard work; finding a group of people that are already interested in what you have to share, is much easier! :)

  7. Daniel Kenney says:

    Hi Kimberly! Great article. I stumbled onto it because I’ve been looking for effective ways to target buyers of Middle Grade Books. I haven’t found many good strategies on how to target buyers of Middle Grade Novels prior to having a fan base. Sure, once you have a big fan base, an author might tailor their site and offerings towards their kid readers. But prior to having a fan base, it seems a bit more difficult. Was wondering if you knew of any good online resources that talked more in depth about how to reach out to buyers of Middle Grade books. Or if you have your own thoughts on the subject, would love to see you do a detailed post on marketing to Middle Grade. Thanks Kimberly! Daniel Kenney

    • Great topic suggestion, Daniel! Children’s books in general are a trickier beast, because your readers aren’t your buyers; their parents and teachers are. But I do think it’s important to market to your readers first, then draw in the parents and teachers.

      I have three boys, and if they’re pushing for me to buy a particular book, it’s likely I’ll buy it. But no amount of coercion and bribery on my part will entice those guys to read something that I think is brilliant reading.

      Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

      1) Be interactive – get into schools, local bookstores and libraries for readings and events. Personally interact with your readers, do Skype interviews, Q & A’s. Try to attend kid’s book clubs, or other events/associations that might be related to your characters’ activities.

      2) Be fun – market to your younger audience with a fun, interactive website. Readers can unlock bonus material or chapters by performing certain tasks, interact with your book’s characters, or get insider information and so on. Try including games and learning skills in your readings, also.

      3) Poll the experts – ask your target audience what they want. Interview some middle grade readers instead of guessing what they want. Have a chat with some librarians, teachers and even parents of the readers you’d like to market to. Here’s a fun example of an interview with an 8th grader at Literary Rambles.

      Hope this helps, Daniel!

  8. You have packed in some great information, Kimberley. Thank you! As a new writer starting out, I’m not at this place yet but it has still given me some good points to mull over. Glad I found you on Third Sunday Blog Carnival.

  9. Hello. You gave some really great advice. I was just wondering though…is it possible to target more than just one type of people? I ask this because my finished novel could potentially reach a number of different groups of people that I’m not sure overlap enough to make a concrete audience.

    • It is possible to target more than one audience, Camille, but it’s difficult to do – especially if, like you say, there is little overlap between the groups.

      Focus on your main audience first and make sure your marketing plan makes sense for that group. Then you can consider adding in additional markets if it feels right. But remember, just because you could market to a particular group, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

      Consider if your favourite Italian restaurant all of a sudden started offering Chinese food on their menu. They have the ability to do it (kitchen, staff, space, location, etc.), but it wouldn’t work well from a marketing/branding perspective, right?

      • Thanks, Kimberley! That helped me out a lot. Now I have to figure out who my main audience is! :-)

      • Great blog, and post, Kimberley. I’m taking all your advice and applying it as best I can, however, I’m in a bit of a quandary. I write in many genres, both as a novelist and screenwriter. I realize that the wisdom of the day (and those gone by) is to write one genre to satisfy your audience and not confuse them. I am not that kind of writer. I write what compels me. That said, my books do have aspects in common that I think may work in your restaurant analogy– I think I’m closer to offering a fusion menu, rather than one particular cultural treat. Does that mean all quadrants of the reading public will like my work? No, but I’m looking for readers who like (love) great stories and great storytelling that engages, as well as, entertains them. So, I guess my question is, should I search each individual reader demographic for each genre, or do a wider sweep and look for those with broader interests? And is there really a demographic like that?

        • Excellent question, Stuart, and not one that necessarily has one ‘right’ answer. My best advice would be to focus on the target audience for each book or project and plan your marketing strategy to suit that market. That said, if you can find general characteristics among two or more of your markets, take advantage of that as well.

          From what you’ve said, though, it sounds like the only common feature running through your work is ‘great writing’, and that is just too broad to plan a marketing campaign around. Most often, authors will have pen names and different websites for their varying genres/topics, but without a team of people working for you, multiple blogs can be a full time job. :(

          Consider creating an umbrella site, where you brand you. You can have several distinct pages dedicated to specific genres and topics, separate mailing lists, separate marketing and so on for each. The key is that you have a ‘headquarters’ for your operations, where your fans can congregate and relationships can develop.

          If you find that one area of your writing seems to be taking off, and deserves a bit more *love*, then you can consider building a separate website for that ‘brand’. But I’m not sure that it’s necessary in the beginning.

          Hope this helps, Stuart! If you’ve got more questions, keep ‘em coming; I’d be happy to help if I can!

          P.S. Love the idea of a fusion menu! :)

          • Thank you so much, Kimberley, for your advice and taking the time to give it. I will definitely follow your lead, in fact, I took a bit of that advice alreadyand put together nine elements all my stories have so readers will always be sure of what they’ll get when they read one of my novels or screenplays.

            1. concise, immersive prose
            2. unique plot twists
            3. unique and compelling, fully realized characters
            4. unpredictable plot lines
            5 unpredictable endings
            6. highly-charged action scenes
            7. tightly-crafted dialogue
            8. characters and story woven into highly-researched, unaltered history
            9. solid structure

            Serving up genre fusion for your reading pleasure. :-)

            Thanks again, and best to you,

            Stuart

          • Sounds like a good start, Stuart! Just remember to use your audience’s language in your marketing – not a writer’s.

            When asking a friend for a book recommendation, I don’t say “I’d love to read a book with tightly-crafted dialogue and highly-charged action scenes!”. I’d more likely say: “I’m dying for an action-packed who-dun-it! Read any good one’s lately?”

            Your readers might expect these nine elements from your work, but what you really want to ‘market’ is their emotional reaction or connection to your stories: “Holy cow! I just finished this novel by Stuart Land, and seriously, I could not put it down! I can’t get this guy [character] out of my head! It was about these two university students who…” and I’m still yammering on about your book’s awesomeness for the next 15 minutes while my friend is typing the book’s title into the Amazon search bar. ;)

            Do you see the difference? It’s like the features vs. benefits discussion in sales. Features aren’t what entice people to buy your book. They aren’t what makes it spread like wildfire. Benefits are.

            And what are benefits? They are the results that people have or will experience when reading your book: the emotional impact, the solution to a problem, a need that’s been satisfied.

            Focus on this aspect when you’re researching your target audience, and they will be compelled to listen when you provide the answer to their question: “What’s in it for me?”

  10. Some great insights thanks!

  11. Wow! You are so right, Kimberley. I can’t thank you enough for your advice. Okay, I’ll call you tonight around 3 AM to remind you. :-P You’ve put me on the right path, and when you see me on the NYT Best Seller List, you’ll know it worked. I promise I’ll still talk to you.

  12. I find a lot of your posts to very helpful. I end up reading many of them a few times over. This one was one of those. In it, you state, “once you have a fan base…” and you describe how to reach them. Awesome. But what if I’m not sure who my fan base is? I have a blog that used to focus on one target audience, but over the years, the focus has shifted. Now I need to know how to reach out to readers, but I have no readers of my blog to build a demographic base on. Through you I have lots of ideas what to put on my blog, but no idea how to attract those who will want to read it.
    Any advice?

    • Great questions, Carolyn! It is kind of a chicken and egg, which comes first thing, when building your target audience. If you don’t have an audience, it’s hard to know who your work appeals to, and in order to build an audience, you need to know who your work appeals to. :(

      Here’s the trick: know yourself, discover your brand and be crystal clear on what makes you unique. What makes your writing different? What blend of experience, talents and ‘special sauce’ will make your work recognizable as yours alone? Taking this first step is essential, because you must know what you can offer before you can determine who might be interested in that offering.

      Once you’ve got that nailed down, then you need to do some research to start narrowing down groups that identify with aspects of your work. (And knowing who your work doesn’t resonate with can be just as important.) Keep fine tuning until you get a solid representation of the people who are the best ‘fit’ for work, and then move on to the next step of learning as much about them as you can.

      As for attracting the readers to your blog (or to you), that becomes much easier if you’ve done the work above. If you have the ‘right’ book available for the ‘right’ people, then it just comes down to being in the right place at the right time – which you ensure through your marketing strategy, not by chance.

      The content on your blog needs to be so fascinating to your target audience, that they are compelled to return, and to seek out more. The way to do that is to know yourself, and your fans, completely.

      Hope this helps, Carolyn! Good luck!

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