How to Identify and Understand Your Target Audience as an Author (And Why This is Crucial)  

identify your target audience

Recently someone in one of my Facebook groups wrote how frustrated she was that her books weren’t selling, and she had no idea why. This is almost always because the book isn’t designed to sell to the right audience. What genre is it? Scifi? Fantasy? Contemporary? This has to be immediately clear from the cover and blurb, and you should know exactly who your book is for before you publish (ideally, before you even write it, but at least before you publish). Otherwise, everything you spend on promotion or marketing is a waste.

HOWEVER, on top of good design, branding and positioning, you also have to know WHO your audience is, what they want, what they like, where they hang out – so that after you’ve designed and positioned the book to sell, you can also REACH them.

Chase Neely sent in this guest post, and while it’s a very detailed overview of 5 key steps, it’s basically the same as the strategy I laid out in Book Marketing is Dead years ago: find real people; make real relationships. Marketing isn’t about blasting crap to a million disinterested people. It’s about finding just the right people and knowing exactly what to say to them; and about providing value, rather than asking for favors.

 

This might be surprising, but a great idea is only a small part of becoming a successful author.

In my line of work, I run across many authors who have great ideas, but they’re missing three critical parts they’ll need to “make it” as an author.

First, they need writing skill — which can be developed. I always suggest aspiring authors read Jerry Jenkins’ blog, especially his post on writing a book.

Next, they need a writing plan. How will they write their manuscript? When will they write? How much will they write? Where will they write? You get the idea.

Because, “I’ll just write when I have time,” too often turns into “I always wanted to write a book, but never did.”

Finally, they need (and this one is neglected way too often) a marketing strategy. How do they plan to sell their book once it’s complete?

identify and understand your target audience

In order to make this work, they’ll need to dedicate some time to finding the audience that will actually be buying their book.

The question that naturally follows is:

How do I find my audience?

 

This is the wrong question.

The right question — the question that will push their project forward is:

Who am I talking to?

 

Identify who you’re talking to first, then focus on finding them online and/or in-person.

This five-step guide will help you find out who you’re talking to and then give you concrete and practical steps to get your book in front of your ideal audience.

 

Step 1: Who am I talking to?

Don’t you hate it when self-proclaimed experts use incorrect grammar?

I do too.

Sorry for the incorrect yet colloquial heading to this paragraph, but I think it clearly gets the point across — you must find that one person who is the ideal, number 1, voracious reader of your work-in-progress.

So, begin to identify that person in your head:

What do they look like?

Where do they hang out?

Who do they hang out with?

Where do they spend their money?

What are they looking for in a guide? (Hint: You want to be their guide…)

What do they enjoy?

 

These are just a sampling of the types of questions you need to ask about your target reader. There are hundreds more you could ask.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you begin to form the outline of a customer avatar. This is marketing speak for that number 1 ideal reader we talked about before.

 

Here’s why avatars are so important:

Once we know who the avatar is — we can start to find out where they hang out online. Once we start finding where they hang out online, we can begin to position you as an expert guide in that space.

So by starting with the avatar, we can not only find your audience, but we can also make them want to hear from you.

 

Step 2: Where’s your target reader hanging out?

For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus online.

You want to target specific places online that your target reader is hanging out as narrowly as possible.

So, for instance, don’t say “My target reader is on Facebook.”

Instead, say “My target reader is in the ‘Mystery/Thriller Review’ group on Facebook.”

The more specific you can get with this, the better.

Find those nooks and crannies of the internet, research how people come to those online communities, and determine how they fit in with the avatar you created in Step 1.

 

Step 3: Who is leading the charge among your target readers?

At this point, you know who your target reader is. You know where they’re hanging out online. Now, start to identify the influencers in that space.

Which members of that online community are considered “experts” by other community members?

Who has the most interactions on their posts?

Who do the target readers ask for advice and help?

Whose books do the target readers discuss the most?

You must know who the experts are in the space. Once you do, make a list of these experts. It will come in handy for our next step.

 

Step 4: Build a relationship with the experts in the space

This is easier said than done.

Experts are inundated with authors who want to leech off of their popularity to build their own platform.

Here’s how to set yourself apart:

Build a relationship.

What does a relationship require? Give and Take.

Notice how “give” comes first? Before you attempt to get anything from the expert, you should GIVE — a lot.

You have to provide value to these experts in some way.

Give them a platform to advertise their next project, for instance. Don’t go in asking for a guest post right off the bat, find a unique approach that will set you apart.

A great way to cultivate these relationships is through social media.

Find their handles, and engage in authentic conversation. Here’s the biggest thing to remember on this point:

Be a person, not a leech.

Which leads us to our final step.

 

Step 5: Leverage relationships with experts to get access to your target reader

Want to know why most authors fail?

Or why most books never gain an audience?

Because the authors give up.

They’re not willing to keep trying after an initial rejection. (This applies to all personal brands, really.)

In this crowded entertainment world, the separating factor is not competence, it’s persistence.

You have to keep developing authentic relationships with influencers in your space. Then — and only then — ask them for a chance to get feedback on your work in front of their audience.

“Chase,” you might say, “this is ridiculous. No one will ever give me the time of day online.”

To you, I’d say, “That’s false. With enough skill, persistence, and tact, it can happen. As a matter of fact, you’re reading this because of a relationship I developed online.”

 

 

Conclusion

You don’t have to be talented to pull this off.

But you do have to be a hard worker.

You’re reading this blog, so you must be one. You obviously want to hone your craft. So, don’t be afraid.

Get out there!

Let me know the concrete action step you’re taking in the next 24 hours to get your book in front of your target reader.

I look forward to your success!

 

Chase Neely is the Co-Founder and President of Leverage Creative Group―a digital marketing agency that works with brands and authors to develop products, build sales funnels, and spread their message to the masses.

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book editor turned book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors write and publish bestselling books. FREE GUIDE: Sell your work without selling out.