When setting out to launch your book into the world, you will be faced with plenty of competition.How to Clearly Define Your Target Audience So You Can Build Your Platform and Sell More Books There are millions of book titles available today and as many as one million new titles released each year. As a result, book categories are jam-packed with options for readers. It is imperative you find a way to make your book stand out against the rest. I whole-heartedly believe it all starts by getting clear about your audience and carving out a niche.

For example, you could:

  • Write another general financial-planning guide, which will have dozens or even hundreds of competing titles. Or, your book could be aimed at providing strategies for single moms, college kids, or baby boomers getting a late start on planning.
  • Write a book on parenting, or you could write a book about parenting for single dads, parenting special needs children, or parenting through the challenging teen years.
  • Write a book on how to live a happier life, or you could write about how to thrive after divorce, how to enjoy life while living with diabetes, or ways to live happier on a budget.

The same rules apply to narrative nonfiction and memoir. Instead of marketing your memoir to the masses, consider focusing on a theme from the memoir—like how you have managed to live a full life with a disability. Then, you can target your marketing efforts toward others with disabilities.

If one of the themes from your memoir is about your experience in military service, focus on military families or historians. If you have overcome adversity of any kind, others can relate. Find those who do relate because they will be the easiest audience to connect with.

If you’re writing a history book about the town where you grew up, it will appeal to those who have lived there in the past, as well as those who live there now and in the future. It may also be of interest to residents of the state and local historical societies.

While we all want our books to appeal to the largest audience possible, choosing a niche focus doesn’t mean that others outside your chosen focus won’t read it. Instead, it allows your book to stand out in the eyes of its ideal target readers. Claiming a niche can allow your book to rise to the top of a busy category, build readership, establish you as an authority, influencer, and thought leader in your subject matter, and ultimately sell more books.

And by the way, if your book is already written and published, it’s not too late to carve out a niche. Simply shift your marketing efforts toward your ideal audience.

EXERCISE: Questions to Help Clarify Your Niche Audience

  • Who can relate to my book and the information I share?
  • Who else has been through similar experiences?
  • Who am I passionate about wanting to inspire, teach, help, or entertain?
  • What audience can I find from my personal background? (Do you have a background in military service? Have you been a kids sports coach? Did you work in high tech or health care? Are you a schoolteacher, dog walker, or a federal employee? All of these can be niche audiences of their own.)
  • Are there clients or groups of people I’ve worked with in the past who could be considered a targeted niche?
  • Are there people/clients I do NOT want to target or work with?
  • Where do I want my books to be sold? For example, if you are aiming at colleges, your audience might be young finance professionals or people starting out in the tech industry.
  • Where do I want to speak?
  • How do I want to make a difference in the world?
  • What information is missing in my space?
  • How could I bridge a gap or bring something new to my audience?

How to Locate Your Target Audience

Once you know who you want to reach, every bit of your marketing messaging should speak to them. You also need to determine how you will reach them, which means finding out where they spend their time. Research opportunities by answering the following questions:

  • What blogs and websites do they visit?
  • What print publications do they read?
  • What podcasts do they listen to?
  • What YouTube channels do they follow?
  • Who are the top five authors they follow?
  • What trade associations do they belong to?
  • What conferences do they attend?
  • What social media networks do they frequent?
  • Who do they follow on their favorite social media networks?
  • What groups do they belong to on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere?
  • Where else can I connect with them?

Learn How to Serve Your Audience

When it comes to book marketing, it ALL comes back to your audience. If your efforts don’t connect with the right potential readers, books won’t generate sales, and you will be left frustrated and disappointed. Fortunately, this is a fixable problem.

To attract the right audience of potential readers, you must do the following:

  1. Get clear on who your ideal readers are, preferably a clearly defined niche.
  2. Understand their needs, challenges, and interests.
  3. Speak to those needs, challenges, and interests with everything you do. Address your audience with the content on your website, your speaking engagements, blog posts, podcast interviews, and everything in between. Your messaging should always focus on serving the needs of your audience.

Get to Know Your Audience

One of the most basic principles of marketing anything—whether marketing a book, a fancy watch, or a Disneyland vacation—is to address the needs, challenges, and interests of the target audience.

It would be nearly impossible to sell a Disneyland vacation to retirees who favor low-key activities like attending theater events. But moms with school-aged kids who are above a specific income bracket and take one or more vacations each year, would be an ideal customer for a Disney trip.

What are the needs, challenges, and interests of these affluent moms?

  • Committed to entertaining their kids and making memories.
  • Believe that young kids love Disney.
  • Take one or more vacations per year.
  • Would like to save some money, but it’s not a top priority.
  • Want to give their kids the best experience possible.
  • Can’t go during the school year, unless it’s an offer too good to miss.

Now let’s look at this from the perspective of the author of a Disneyland travel guide for families. Knowing the above details, your marketing headlines could look like this:

  • Easy ways to plan the perfect family trip to Disney.
  • Five ways to make your Disneyland trip memorable for your kids.
  • The best times to go to Disneyland with kids.
  • Essential packing tips for a family trip to Disneyland.
  • Ten ways to ensure kids under 5 have a memorable trip to Disneyland.
  • What to know before you plan your Disneyland family vacation.

By the way, marketing headlines like the ones shown here could be blog post titles, speaking engagement topics, podcast topics, and more.

The main point to remember is that whatever content you share speaks directly to your ideal readers. 

Identify What Your Audience Cares About

To determine your audience’s needs, challenges, and interests, try answering the following.

  • What questions do they frequently ask you or others about your topic(s)?
  • What kinds of Google searches do they do? Use the Google Keyword Planner to investigate: google.com/intl/en_ca/home/tools/keyword-planner/.
  • What questions do they ask in forums? Locate groups on Facebook or LinkedIn where you target audience spends time.
  • Survey members of your target audience. If you don’t yet have a way to reach them, you can purchase survey responses with SurveyMonkey.com.
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
    • What would you struggle with if you were new to your topic?
    • What would you find entertaining or interesting about your topic?
    • What obstacles would you need to overcome?
    • Would you care about saving money or making money? Saving time or spending time? Learning how to do it yourself or outsourcing or both?
    • What motivates you?

As you get to know more about your target audience, pay close attention and engage with them as much as possible. This allows you to learn more about how to serve them and keep learning as your audience grows.

For example, my personal mission is to answer every author’s question with a piece of content. That could be a blog post, report, podcast interview, checklist, template, or book. I engage with my audience often and do many Q&A events, so whenever I’m asked a question that I can’t answer with a piece of content, it goes on a list I keep on my desk. I use that list to inspire ideas for future piece of content because I know if one writer has a question, it’s a good bet others do too.

What to Do Next

Now that you’re clear on who makes up your target reader and what they care about, focus all your marketing efforts on addressing their needs, challenges, and interests. This means your website should address them directly, your book description should speak to them, your media pitches and articles and speaking topics should all address these issues. Every marketing task and decision you make should focus on them. This alone can be a game-changer in the results you see from marketing your books.

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