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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.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Consider The Reader: What Your Audience Wants

Last week I talked about defining your audience. That's one of the first steps in marketing your book. But once you’ve identified who may want to read your book, the next step is to define what they want.  There are two parts of this to consider, but both pieces work together. The two parts are what the audience wants in terms of content and what they want in terms of marketing/ outreach.


Every genre carries different reader expectations. If you can deliver those, then your book is more likely to be successful, and readers are more likely to spread the word. Of course there are some genre requirements for all books (solid writing, likable characters, etc), but what I’m talking about here are the things that draw specific readers to that particular type of book.

What experience does the reader expect from a book in your genre? Now take a look at your work and determine if you’re delivering that. For example, detective stories need to contain a mystery with a solution that’s cleaver, difficult to see from the outset, and when the reader reflects back the person should be able to see that all the necessary clues were present within the story.

If you write adventure stories, does your book contain enough thrilling moments to get the reader’s heart racing? If this is an instructional book, does it provide enough detail so that the reader can build, make, or accomplish whatever you’re telling them that they can? If your book doesn’t fit into any genre, then you may be setting it up to disappoint readers because they’re coming in with unknown expectations. If you don’t know what the reader wants, it can be very difficult to deliver successfully. So make sure that your books include enough of whatever the key elements of your genre may be. Not only are readers more satisfied when you deliver on their expectations (which helps with reviews), but now that you’ve identified those elements it will be much easier to write advertising copy because those are the points you want to emphasize when you tell readers about your book.


First of all, let me state the obvious: you need to meet your audience where they are, and don’t expect them to come to you. If you write graphic novels, you should be at places like Comic Con. If you write cookbooks, you should be advertising in cooking magazines or looking for opportunities to speak at home shows or other events that highlight culinary related topics. If you write fiction, you should be on sites like Goodreads and Shelfari.

Secondly, look at marketing expectations within your genre. Some genres have readers who prefer ebooks instead of physical books (or vice versa). This is important if you’re planning a promotional giveaway. Make sure that the book format matches reader preference. If it doesn't, the giveaway winners may never read it.

Also take a look at the way your books are presented for sale. Do your readers like bundles (several books sold together at  discount) so they feel as if they’re getting a better deal? Do they enjoy books that are part of a series? Are short stories preferred over novels? What is the preferred length of a novel (60k words? 100k words?). It may seem silly to a writer who just wants to tell a story, but when a reader expects a short read and sees a 130k novel, they’ll pass on it and choose something else that matches their expectations.

I’d like to conclude by clarifying that thinking about the audience doesn’t mean that you allow the readers to tell you how to write your books. It has more to do with remembering that writing is communication and should be treated that way. If you don’t listen to what your readers have to tell you concerning what they want and how to reach them, then success as an author may be very difficult to find.

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