Identifying Your Target Reader: Tips for Authors

identifying your target readerIt’s true. Writing is a business. That’s especially the case in today’s world of sell-it-yourself self-publishing. So as a business person, you need to put on the thinking cap of a business executive. First task? Identifying your target reader.

Just as the people who founded Pepsi Cola, Hasbro or Amazon mapped out their business plans and identified who their customers would be, you — the author — need to do the same. After all, if you’re not keeping your readers (aka customers) in mind at each and every step of your journey, then you’re potentially costing yourself success.

How to Go About Identifying Your Target Reader

Start with your genre. Which type of user generally reads that type of book? Are they male or female? What’s the age range? Are they more likely to read a hard copy or an e-book?

Chris Jones, an award-winning writing coach, recommends in a HuffPost article that you actually, “create an avatar, a fictional character on paper based on who your ideal reader is” to help you to stay on target with your message and your marketing. Here are some questions he recommends you ask as you’re creating this persona:

  • What do they look like?
  • What are their book buying habits?
  • What do they most like to read about?
  • Where do they like to find information on their favorite authors within your genre?

The Realities of Identifying Your Target Reader

So how will identifying your target reader actually change what you’re doing as an author? Well, there are a few different ways your daily activities can — and should — be adjusted by your continual reminders about your target reader.

First, it can impact the actual writing of your story. For example, if you have identified that your target reader is older, you may decide that you want to be a little less gruesome in the way you tell the story of a character’s death. After all, a 60-year-old probably isn’t as enthralled by the blood and guts as a teenager would be. Or, conversely, if your story is geared towards 20-somethings, you may decide that you want to tweak the habits of one of your characters to make him or her more relatable to that generation. Similarly, if your book speaks to the less educated, you may want to write shorter sentences and paragraphs, while a more savvy audience may find that structure a bit patronizing. There are various ways — both big and small — that keeping your reader in mind can impact your writing.

Second, identifying your target reader can impact the whens and hows of publishing your book. I mentioned before that it’s important to think about how your readers will ingest your book. Will they be binge readers, in which case you may want to release all three books of your trilogy simultaneously? Will they be reading it as an e-book or a hard copy? Do you really need to publish it in both formats, or is it a better use of your time and money to focus on one? Is your reader more likely to read your book on the beach in the summer? If that’s the case, time your release accordingly.

Lastly — and possibly most importantly — identifying your target reader should be a crucial piece of your marketing efforts. After all, how are you going to get your book in the hands of the right people if you don’t know who they are, where they are, and how they’re investing their time?

For your online efforts, pick your website strategy and social networking channels accordingly. If your audience is a group of professionals, LinkedIn may very well be worth your time. If your book is aimed at teenagers, then Instagram or SnapChat might be a better use of it. Similarly, create an author website and blog that meet your readers’ needs and preferences. Would they prefer to read a humorous blog post each week? Or would a more static site that they can turn to for information at their leisure better serve them?

Your offline efforts can also be impacted by this. If you’re trying to reach suburban moms, speaking events at book clubs or libraries may be worth your time. That effort would be far less impactful with a younger audience. Once you’ve identified your target reader, think about how and where you can meet them where they are: nursing homes, community centers, schools, etc…

The Benefits of Identifying Your Target Reader

The benefits of all this should be obvious: increased book sales. By properly identifying your target readers and making sure that all aspects of your book efforts — from writing to publishing to marketing — are geared specifically towards them, you’re increasing the likelihood of them hearing about your book, buying your book, loving your book and telling their friends about your book. And that, folks, is how bestsellers are made.

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