Identifying target readers is at the root of all book marketing strategies that work. But who exactly is your target reader? This is the most important question to answer for book marketing success.
Figuring out who your target readers are can take a little bit of trial and error. And when you're starting out, it can feel like an impossible task to identify your target readers. So I encourage you to start with what you know, start with your book.
Start with your book
If you didn't write your book with a target reader in mind, it's possible to reverse engineer who it would be perfect for. Think about who would resonate with the story or ideas in your book.
When you think about your book, who do you imagine reading it? Who would you like to read it?
Beyond your own hunches, think about the genre that you've written in. Who is the typical reader of your book's genre? That will give you a good starting point.
Next, think about your comparable titles. These are other books that your target readers are reading now, or would be perfect for your readers to read next. If your book is not published yet, what are your readers currently reading? Those are your comp titles.
Who is reading your comps? If you look on those authors' social media channels, for example, you may get a good sense of who their readers are. If you look at their website, you may get a sense of who it targets; whether it's women, men, older or younger audiences.
It's important to think about the themes and hooks in your book. Who would resonate with those topics and ideas?
Think as well about what sets your book apart from the competition, what makes it special? That can be things like your writing style, your strength of dialogue or how you set your scenes, for example.
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What do you – the author – bring?
The next way to identify your target readers is to think about you as the author and what you bring to the table. So your writing style, what's special about it, what sets you apart from the competition?
Think about why you are the best or the only person able to write your book. If you're writing a memoir, it makes sense only you can tell your personal story. But if you're writing general fiction, why are you drawn to that type of fiction? Why do you write those particular stories? It could be to do with your previous experiences or characters that you have known. It could be parts of yourself that you're writing about, or it could be stories that just come into your head. But why those particular stories?
Have a real think about what draws you to write the stories that you write. When you know what's unique about your writing style or why you write the stories you write, it's easier to connect with others who relate to these things.
Your target readers may be like you, or like someone you know. It's okay if you think your target reader is a version of yourself. To begin with, identifying your target readers will be guesswork. What you come up with may not be accurate, but you've got to start somewhere. So start with what you know.
Paint a picture of your reader
Once you have a reader in mind, you want to paint a picture of them. So think about their gender, their age, and any other demographics that you can. Also think about their interests, their fears and desires. Try to create a detailed description of this person. If you describe this person to someone else, they should be able to say, “I know someone like that,” or “That reminds me of me”. When that happens you know that you've got a real person in mind for your target reader.
As I've already said, it's important to leverage your comparable titles. So other books like your book, who is reading those? What you want to do here is find a shared readership. When you've identified those books and those readers, then you've identified your readers.
If you're not sure about your comparable titles, then I encourage you to read widely in your genre. If you're self-publishing and you only know of trade published comps, try to seek out self-published books similar to yours. Those authors are going to be a little bit ahead of you and you'll be able to follow their lead. You can see what kind of marketing work they're doing that is not coming from a trade publishing house. That will give you some great book marketing strategies to reach your target readers.
Test your theories
At this point you should have a target reader in mind. But you may feel that this person is completely made up off the top of your head. And it could be that this person is not who your ideal reader is at all. So it's important to test your theories.
So try to find this person on social media, for example, and see whether they take an interest in your books. Put your reader magnet in front of them and see if they subscribe to your mailing list.
Think about your target reader and where they might be hanging out online. Which blogs are they reading, which podcasts are they listening to? One of my favorite book marketing strategies is to pitch yourself as a guest on those media outlets. In your author bio or at the end of the podcast, you can talk about your reader magnet and see if those readers and listeners sign up for it. That is one of the best ways of getting in front of target readers and encouraging them to sign up to your list.
Iterate your target reader
It can take some time to identify your target readers correctly. And to begin with it will take trial and error. You will need to use your best guesses. But as time goes on, and as real readers show up, you will be able to iterate your target reader. You're going to be able to make changes to that picture you drew. You're going to be able to update it based on real information.
That information may come from email or social media analytics. Or it may come from feedback from real people that reply to your emails or talk to you on social media. So you're not going to do this research, find your reader and say, “That's it, I know who they are.” You are going to have to keep doing this over a long period of time. For perhaps your entire author career, you're going to keep refining your target reader. But the more real information you get, the closer you will get to an accurate picture. Then you're going to be able to implement better book marketing strategies as a result.
To kickstart your research, download my free checklist to help you identify your target readers!