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While hopeful writers may convince themselves everyone needs to read their book, the truth is that no book is for every reader. How to determine your target readers is a crucial step toward attaining a degree of success. Visions of tantalizing bookstore displays have probably churned around in that fanciful author noggin of yours, but only books published by large- to medium-size publishers make it into a lot of bookstores (and for a rather limited time unless the title sells). If published by a small press, there’s no guarantee of healthy bookstore distribution. If you’re self-publishing and schlepping your POD books around, think twice. Your time is better spent finding readers online since the majority of bookstores won’t stock such titles, and when they do, it will be only a few.

This year, I will be covering blogging tips for authors, target readers, local marketing, and marketing audiobooks. Feel free to explore Word Bank’s archive of marketing posts. In particular, you might find Newsletter Basics for Authors of interest.

How to Determine Your Target Readers

Ideally, research done on target readers is carried out before writing begins. This is especially important when it comes to writing a nonfiction book proposal. Advance research can be priceless when it comes time to shift direction. Ultimately, this can result in attracting a larger audience. In addition to a primary target audience, a book will likely end up having other segments of readers based on how diverse its appeal is. Perhaps one of your characters struggles with mental illness or addiction. Voila! Say hello to additional market segments!

Gather Audience Information

Try to make informed answers to as many questions as possible regarding audience segments most likely to read your book. This starts with demographics such as age, gender, religion, income level as well as what this potential may do for a living and whether or not they are retired or a stay-at-home parent. Also consider the highest level of education likely completed along with marital status and if any children remain at home. Location of residence comes into play as well. What region does this likely reader live in and is it urban, suburban, or rural?

Utilize psychographics such as favorite books, authors, and genres. Ask how many books this reader likely reads a month and if the purpose of such reading is for entertainment or education. Also ask what sorts of movies and TV shows this reader may like as well as how they spend their free time. What hobbies do they pursue, and where do they go on vacation? What is their health like? As for buying habits, are they deal hunters or impulse shoppers? Is this reader likely loyal to various authors? Do they rely on recommendations for reading material or might they be random reading adventurers?

Extend this realm of questions to a potential reader’s online behavior as well. What social media sites are they most likely to spend their time on? What sorts of blogs and articles do are they most likely to read on a regular basis? Where are they most likely to discover and shop for books? What online communities or groups do they visit and make contributions to?

Determine Comparable Titles

“My book is utterly unique. I can’t even begin to think what title to compare it to.” Think again, my friend. And think hard. Regardless of your path to publication, knowledge of comp titles is crucial. It goes without saying, reading widely in one’s genre is never a bad idea. Yet, reality dictates only so much time for reading, not to mention a number of authors prefer not to read in same genre as their current draft. Research can save the day! Once you have some idea of the type of readers most likely to read your book, start compiling a list of titles that are similar to yours in crucial ways. Such a list not only comes in handy when querying agents, it also allows you to position yourself for marketing purposes for all the marketing you’ll have to do on your own.

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Create a Reader Persona

Once you’ve amassed a wide array of ideal reader demographics, psychographics, online behavior, and list of comparable book titles, it’s time to craft a reader persona for your ideal reader. You will likely want to craft at least a few reader personas given that the primary genre of your book may cross over to audience of another genre. For example, young adult romances will appeal to a segment of adult readers, and memoir readers are often drawn to self-help or wellness books. This guide on crafting marketing personas will prove helpful. Whether you use bullet points or write these personas up is up to you. What matters is taking the time to come up with a composite sketch that will enable you to make informed decisions about who and where to market your book.

Compile Keywords and Search Terms

Once you’ve compiled the treasure trove of reader information above, it’s time to get down and dirty with some metadata. For better or worse, all of the content in a book becomes metadata. This data about the data in your book needs to be your best friend. The content tags you choose for Amazon and other online book retailers should be queries readers use to find books like yours using searches like “strong female lead,” “government conspiracies,” or “dating after divorce.” Also, utilize resources like Google Trends and Google AdWords to see how search topics related to your book are faring. Knowing what searches readers are doing will help especially when it comes to writing guest blog posts.

Devise a Plan of Attack

With all of this valuable data in your possession, it’s time to devise a plan of attack. Going through the motions of how to determine your target readers counts for little unless you can implement a plan for helping readers discover your books. Marketing may or may not be your cup of tea, but it can’t be avoided. If in-person events aren’t your thing, focus on online efforts. It simply won’t do to wait until you’re in the mood to get some marketing done or have a spare minute. You must make the time and do so in a strategic way. This will entail daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals that are re-visited as needed. When one approach isn’t working, try another one. And try, and try, and then try again. Got it?

Doesn’t all of this sound so simple? I always hate people who say you can only spend twenty minutes a day on marketing and call it good as well as be a success! Granted, some effort is better than no effort at all. The truth is that though it may fairly straightforward to go through the steps above, doing so takes a hole lot of effort and a hell of a lot of time. If you truly want to find a lot of readers for your book, you’ll find a way to make this happen.


What has your experience been like? What would you add to this list of how to determine your target readers?


Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2018. Post may contain affiliate links. Image credit: Keyboard with Sphere.

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