Successful Book Marketing 101: Know Your Target Audience

target audienceAs you’re probably well aware, marketing your book begins long before it’s been published, and one of the first things you’ll need to establish once you’ve finished that manuscript is who your book’s target audience is.

One of the easiest ways to approach this question is to think about your favorite bookstore. Imagine yourself walking through its front doors. Now, looking around at all the shelves, where would you look for your book? Jot down the name of the section. Some bookstores even have sub-categories within their sections. For example, the cooking section can contain subgroups like “Vegetarian,” “Mediterranean,” or “Desserts.” If your book falls within a subcategory on the shelf, list that too.

When I speak to an author who is preparing to publish, one of the first questions I ask is, “Who is your target audience?” When the answer is “Everyone,” I get a little worried.

Think about any product or service and you will realize that not everyone owns or likes it. Though it’s tempting to think all people everywhere would enjoy our book, “everyone” is not a target audience. There are some wonderful novels, memoirs, self-help books, business books, and cookbooks—but they are never for everyone. Using our bookstore approach from above, if you’re writing a steak cookbook, not “everyone” who’s interested in cookbooks would buy it—take vegetarians, for example!  And if your marketing efforts are focused on the world at large, your marketing efforts will feel more like shooting darts at a faraway target while wearing a blindfold. This kind of marketing can also quickly become exhausting because you won’t see the desired results of your efforts.

Before you even think about publishing your book, it is essential to identify your target audience by answering these questions:

  • Who are the most likely readers for your book? Women? Men? Teenagers?
  • How old are they?
  • What are their interests and hobbies?
  • What kind of work do they do?
  • How much money do they earn?
  • Are they married, single, or divorced?
  • What kind of lifestyle do they lead?
  • What other books/authors do they read?
  • What are their challenges and how can you solve/help them?

Narrowing down your focus on a specific audience will allow you to first reach them, and then connect with them. It also doesn’t mean that people from outside your target can’t be readers—they certainly can. But being clear about your target audience will help you remove the blindfold and get a better aim at your target.

Once you identify traits about your target audience, you can figure out how to reach them. Consider these questions:

  • What newspapers and magazines do they read?
  • What radio shows (traditional and internet-based) do they listen to?
  • What websites do they visit?
  • What online groups do they participate in?
  • What local groups do they participate in?
  • Do they belong to any specific trade associations or clubs?
  • What conferences or events do they attend?
  • Where do they spend their time?

When you answer these questions, you will find the golden key to the kingdom because now you know how to find your audience. Next, you need to decide how to reach them. Consider the following tactics:

  • Speak at their events
  • Contribute content to the publications and websites they like
  • Develop a website that provides content they are interested in
  • Attend their meetings and events
  • Get interviewed in publications that reach them
  • Start your own local group
  • Start your own online group via LinkedIn or Ning.com
  • Send direct mail campaigns
  • Purchase a trade show booth at their conferences and events
  • Get your book reviewed in their publications

The above questions are a starting point, but be sure to spend some time really understanding your target audience, what motivates them, and where you can reach them. Consider how your book will help, inspire, teach, or entertain them and how you can get that message out to them.

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