As a nonfiction author, you likely have goals in mind for ways that you want your book to impact readers. This is especially true for prescriptive nonfiction books, however it’s also true for other nonfiction genres. For example, a memoir writer may want to touch lives by helping readers learn lessons or identify with themes from the story.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love touched on a variety of themes that connected with women. It was about Gilbert’s struggles in love relationships, getting in touch with her spirituality, learning about herself, and healing past wounds. Each of these themes appeal to different readers. If Gilbert were just beginning her author journey, she would need to form a plan for her author career, just as you do.
Here’s an example of how Gilbert might answer some important questions:
Primary themes from my current book: Struggling with love relationships, feeling dissatisfied with life, seeking spiritual guidance, healing past wounds, finding a sense of self, adventure travel.
Potential themes for future books: Creativity, novels about strong women
Overall author-career goal: Impact the hearts of women so they know they’re not alone on life’s journey.
As you can see, a memoir should have one or more relatable themes, which you need to identify as you set the foundation for your author career and begin to build your book marketing plans. It is also extremely helpful to think about your future plans as an author. If you want to write more books, what will they be about? How can you weave a common thread through your books so they appeal to a single audience?
Following is an example for prescriptive health book.
Primary themes from my current book: How to live a healthy lifestyle and treat or cure symptoms of autoimmune illnesses, based on anecdotal stories from my own life and those I interviewed.
Potential themes for future books: Gentle exercise strategies for a longer life, aging well through nutrition
Overall author-career goal: Help readers better their health with simple tools and practices.
Answer these questions for yourself:
- Primary themes from my current book:
- Potential themes for future books:
- Overall author-career goal:
Now that you have a grasp on the themes for your work, the next step is to identify your primary target audience. No book is right for everyone. To stand out as an expert, and have your book to stand out amongst its competition, you will have a greater chance of connecting with an audience when you narrow your focus.
Using the previous example of the book about wellness practices, there are several potential audiences:
- The holistic community, which is a niche in itself, but it’s rather broad.
- People who regularly practice yoga. Or runners or hikers or people who go to the gym.
- Stay-at-home-moms or women who are career-focused or women at or near retirement.
- Business professionals who think they’re too busy for wellness.
- Overweight women or men or baby boomers.
- People who are in recovery (12-step program).
- People who struggle with depression or mental health.
- People who practice a specific faith.
In my own career, I’ve known for years that I wanted to work with authors. I could have chosen to work with all authors—novelists, horror writers, poets, romance writers, etc. Many of my peers are happy to work with all authors, and it’s a niche in itself, though it’s large and rather crowded with books and experts.
As I thought about it more, I realized that I’m not passionate about many sub-genres of books. My passion has always been in nonfiction books. I read them, I write them, and I love them. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I wanted to write books for nonfiction authors and build my career around working with them. As I explored the potential opportunities, I quickly discovered there was very little competition in the nonfiction space. In fact, it was an almost completely untapped audience. Claiming this as my expertise allowed me to quickly stand out as a leader in the field.
The goal for you is to do the same—to determine who you’re passionate about writing for, and whose lives you want to impact.
Perhaps you’re a retiree and want to bring your solutions to fellow retirees so they can better enjoy their lives. Or maybe you’ve been a volunteer for a mental health nonprofit and you want to reach families who struggle with caring for loved ones struggling with a specific condition. Or maybe your memoir details how you learned to manage your child’s food allergies and now you’d like to empower other parents to do the same.
Answer the following questions:
- What potential audiences would I like to reach?
- From this list, which audience is my top choice?
- Is there a secondary audience you want to reach? Who are they?
I strongly advice choosing only one or two primary audiences. It is tempting to cast a broader net and feel like you might miss out on opportunities. But when you find the right audience, which means readers can directly relate to your content, everything else falls into place.
Serve Your Audience
Once you’ve nailed down an audience you’re passionate about, the next step is to determine how you will connect with them. One of the best ways to connect with an audience is to offer solutions to their problems. This is done by giving a compelling speech, writing a blog post that details how to do something, sharing tips on social media, or through other content marketing strategies.
The other option is to entertain your audience. Perhaps you’ve authored a funny memoir that is simply meant to be a light-hearted read for men with young kids. In this case, your goals may be more around entertaining potential readers than solving their problems. But guess what? You still need to understand them better so that you can use content marketing strategies to connect with them, and that means understanding their challenges, fears, and struggles.
Answer these questions:
- What are the challenges, struggles, and pain points for members of my audience?
- How can I either offer advice for these issues or provide entertaining content around these issues?
Once you have a clear understanding of who makes up your audience and what they care about, your marketing plans should speak to them directly.
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