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Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Consider The Reader: Identify Your Audience

A number of authors have recently contacted me about marketing their books. So I’m going to begin by providing the best piece of advice I can on this topic, which is to consider your reader. Without taking this approach, I think it’ nearly impossible to market a book. That said, there are two specific components to this:

1. Identify your audience
2. Know what your audience wants

Once you know those two things your marketing plan is much easier, and if you can’t identify those two things, just about any marketing plan is likely to fail.

BUT ... what if my book is for everyone?

Let me begin by saying that it’s not. There are people who are indifferent to and even hate some of the best selling books in history. My point is that no matter how great your book may be, there is no way that it’s for the entire planet. My experience is that if you really believe that everyone is your audience then no one is likely to buy the book. People don’t believe they’re all the same, either, so there’s no way that everyone would like the exact same book. Sure, we have some common experiences (that’s part of being human), but we also have individual differences. This is why there are so many different genres, and that’s a good thing.

What if I just write for myself?

Then consider that maybe publishing isn’t the right answer. Sure, you may have something to say that could be beneficial to a segment of the population, but if you don’t know who that segment is then you’re highly unlikely to reach the people who would get anything from your work. So your book will go unnoticed, and you’ll wind up frustrated. In addition, if you write only for yourself and don’t consider the reader, then the only person you can successfully market your book to is you, and, again, there’s no reason to publish. I'm not trying to be harsh. I’m attempting to emphasize the point that writing is communication and if you’re just talking to yourself on paper then there’s no point in getting frustrated when no one else listens. So ask yourself if you have an audience that you need to define better, or if your writing should simply be a personal exercise.

Defining Your Audience

This may appear to be a daunting task, but it may help if I share my experience. I find that readers of my work fall into three categories:

Some love my work.
Some hate my work.
Some don’t care about my work.

The audience I want to identify is the first group. People buy books for different reasons, but there’s a high probability that the people in that first group share some very similar reasons for the books they choose. These common characteristics may be defined by gender, occupation, location, education, or other combinations of qualities. Some of the things I know about my audience is that they tend to have three things in common: they like children’s literature (many because they are children or work with children), they typically don’t take themselves or life too seriously, and they generally tend to be female.  Does this mean that I don’t have any male readers? Of course not. It simply means that if I market to women I'll be more successful than if I market to men or both. Marketing to everyone wastes your time and resources, so it's best to focus as much as possible.

There are numerous way to figure out your audience. For example, you can find geographical information from sales data and your Facebook Fan Page (this will also give you age and gender information). However, I’ve found that the best way to define my audience is through interactions. When you do a book signing or public event look at the audience and see who took the time to attend. Make yourself accessible online and see who contacts you through your website or friends you on social networking sites. Also monitor the engage different social media posts receive - observing how people respond to your posts tells you what's important to them.

Once you identify who is likely to be in the first group of “some who love my work,” then it’s easier to figure out the next step, which is what they want ... and that will be the topic of my next post.

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