Too often, authors come to me only several weeks before they want to launch their books, asking me to help them create a publicity campaign.
One of the first questions I ask is, “Who’s the target market for your book?”
Nonfiction authors have a pretty good idea. They rattle off the demographics and likes and dislikes of their ideal readers in about 30 seconds, sometimes with a little prodding from me.
For fiction authors, the question often stumps them.
Before I tell them where they can find their target market, I help them define it precision and accuracy. Here are my five best tips on how to do that.
How to Define Your Ideal Readers
1. Start with the demographics.
If you’ve written a literary novel, chances are good your readers are college educated. Trying to market a love story about a young Amish girl? Most of your readers are probably Christian, and many of them shop at Walmart, a big box retailer that loves these wholesome books.
For World War II historical fiction, target mostly men, many of them Baby Boomers.
Here are questions to ask about your readers’ demographics. If you don’t know the answers off the top of your head, pay attention to your readers when you meet them in person, talk to them on the phone and engage on social media. Look for clues that will help you answer these questions:
- Male or female?
- Age range?
- Income range?
- Job titles?
- Religious preference?
- Do they live in a specific region of the world or a country?
- Democrat, Republican, Independent? Do they even care about politics?
- Gay or straight?
- Married, single or divorced?
- What’s the family’s living arrangement? Are they boomerang parents whose twentysomething kids live at home? Or is the target market the kids who moved back? Do your readers live in retirement communities?
- Are they part of the sandwich generation, caring for still-at-home kids and elderly parents?
2. Don’t stop there. Know their likes and dislikes.
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- Do they travel? If so, where?
- Do they invest money? Or are they in deep debt?
- What business problems keep them up at 3 a.m.?
- What lifestyle problems cause sleepless nights?
- What are their favorite TV programs?
- What magazines might you find on their night stands?
- Do they listen to radio? Talk radio? Jazz? Hip hop? NPR?
- What social issues and causes do they care about? Are they activists?
- What influencers (celebrities, experts, thought leaders, famous authors) do they follow?
3. Define how you can help them or entertain them.
Yes, if you write fiction, this is definitely for you even though you might not think your books can “help” in the same way nonfiction books help people who need solutions to problems. Ask:
- What are the top 3 problems they face—problems they want to escape when they look for good fiction to read?
- How can your fiction help them? Or is it pure escape?
- What don’t they know that they need to know and that your book can teach them?
- Do your readers want weepy romance novels? Or crime thrillers that will encourage them to pretend they’re Lieutenant Columbo?
- Do they want nature poetry they can read while hiking in the middle of the forest?
- Are they toddlers who need a calming story before bedtime and whose parents will welcome the help your books provide?
- Why did you write the book? Sometimes the answer to that question is about helping readers understand something, or cope with it, or let go of it.
4. Pay attention to who’s attracted to your competition.
- Choose your top three competitors—authors who’ve written books that are similar to yours and are competing for the time and attention of your ideal readers.
- Check out their Twitter profiles. Find out who follows them on Twitter, and follow those people, many of whom will automatically follow you back. Publicity expert Sandra Beckwith explains how in 3 Steps to More Social Media Followers.
- Which reviewers are reviewing your competitors’ books?
- Can you follow those reviewers on the social media sites? Do they have blogs where you can comment on topics they’re discussing without promoting your book?
- In which special interest groups on book review and recommendation sites are your competitors discussing books and other topics?
- Do they have their own reader forums or discussion groups? LinkedIn or Facebook groups?
- Where are your competitors getting publicity? Those journalists, bloggers, podcasters, talk show host and reporters are also part of your target market. Connect.
3 Places to Find Readers for Your Fiction
Now that you have a pretty good idea how to define your ideal readers, it’s time to find them and connect. Here are three ways to do that.
1. Answer questions about the topic of your book.
If your historical novel takes place during World War II, you’ve most likely done a lot of research that can help people interested in the war.
You can find readers in LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups and on Quora.com, the giant question-and-answer site. Here are 6 reasons to use Quora to promote your expertise. Fiction authors often have expertise, even at a basic level, on the topics they’ve written about. If you do, promote it!
2. Visit online forums to meet readers interested in your topic.
I did a quick Google search and found more than a dozen forums that are discussing World War II. You can do the same to find readers who love sci-fi, fantasy, romance novels, crime thrillers, young adult, LGBT, etc.
But don’t join these forums only to promote your book. As soon as you join, spend some time lurking. Get a good feel for what other members are discussing, and decide how you can best contribute to the conversation. Use these forums to ask questions, too.
3. Look for offbeat places in your own community where your ideal readers gather.
The best site for finding local groups is Meetup.com. Even if they meet to discuss a topic, and not necessarily to discuss books, you can offer to speak to their group (and sell books at the end). Many Meetup groups love hosting speakers.
One of the big advantages to researching Meetup groups is that many groups leave a trail of bread crumbs you can follow to find similar groups. Along the left side, you’ll find a column titled “People in This Meetup are Also In” and a list below it where you can find similar groups.
How to Learn More About Finding Your Ideal Readers
Join me on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time for a webinar I’m hosting on “30+ Places to Find Fiction and Nonfiction Readers in Your Target Market.” I’ll tell you where you can find your readers and exactly what to do to connect and start building relationships.
Register here even if the time is inconvenient because I’ll send you a link to the video replay and the bonuses within 48 hours after the call.
Investing 90 minutes in this training now will save you months of tedious research when your book is ready. This program is also perfect for authors whose books have been on the market awhile but aren’t selling.
Bring your questions. I’m leaving time at the end of the call to answer them.
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