This discussion will focus upon authors finding an appropriate audience/readership for their book(s). Generally, though not exclusively, most authors, unless the genre for their book is very specific and fits into a niche market, are unsure of the type of reader to aim for. Many simply consider their book is for the ‘general’ public. However, such an approach has consequences when it comes to effective publicising and marketing. Whether liked or not, market research, of which finding the right audience is just part, is a necessity. A large percentage of authors admit to finding the whole aspect of marketing difficult and a bore. Nevertheless, unless they are able to simply write for their own pleasure without the need to sell their books (lucky them), it has to be faced.
Note: As stated the subject is being viewed from an author’s perspective. Consequently, most of what is shared or suggested will not apply to entrepreneurs etc. who sell definable products. Markets for such things are usually more easily identifiable. Nevertheless, it is possible they may find something to inspire them within the article.
Identifying the right audience
Any search of the subject will bring back multiple results, mostly to blog posts by both professional and lay personnel. In the majority of instances the advice tends to be ‘top level’ e.g. without specific guidelines as to who the individual reader actually is (as a person). Many will concentrate on the genre and topic of the book or will simply suggest trying to identify where the author’s audience spend their online time. Naturally, both will be appropriate in the longterm but in the meantime it is necessary to identify who these individuals are. Throughout their research and subsequently, author’s should always bear in mind, readers are individuals and not a conglomerate. Trying to sell to a broad unidentifiable mass will rarely work. Just to be fair: some advice does go a bit further but, in general, most remain at the high level.
So how may an author zero in on their ideal reader? How can they start to identify who would be interested? This is where their imagination, that they presumably are already using in their writing, comes into play. They need to visualise the ideal reader. The suggestion is, rather than look at the broad spectrum of potential readers, they drill down into an individual character and personality. A few examples of what may be considered:
- Are they an old lady or a modern, working mother?
- Are they a thirty something upcoming business man?
- Are they a young adult just starting out on their life path?
- Are they married with children?
- Are they widowed without any offspring?
- Are they divorced?
- Are they an abused woman or man?
- What is their likely income?
- Which genre are they likely to prefer?
- Where do they spend their time?
The list can be endless; the above are just intended to get the reader’s mind turning.
In some senses these still only form a higher level viewpoint. It is now time for the author to visualise an actual reader. The temptation remains to try and identify multiple potential readers but, yet again, this would more than likely prove counterproductive. It is here the author needs to discipline themselves to view an actual individual, perhaps two but, at this stage, no more. For example:
Using a retired lady of sixty plus as an ideal reader (remember this is using the imagination to visualise an individual):
- Does she live alone?
- Is she shy and retiring by nature or an extrovert?
- Is she pragmatic or ethereal in her approach to life?
- Does she like tea or coffee?
- Does she enjoy a little tipple?
- How often does she go shopping?
- What is her dress style?
- How does she wear her hair?
- Does she belong to a day club?
- Does she enjoy bingo?
- Which television programmes does she watch?
- Does she prefer physical or digital books or a mixture?
- Which genre does she prefer: Romance; Memoir; Action; Detective; etc.?
The questions to ask may, again be endless. Initially, some may not appear to be relevant to reading however, it is a real person the author is attempting to identify. The idea is to try and visualise an actual person.
What is the purpose behind these exercises?
To be able to effectively connect with potential audiences/readers:
- Marketing materials, written and pictorial, need to be in a format and style that appeal to the identified individual. By visualising them an author should be able to understand what would work and, just as important, what would not.
- Communications should suit and fit the accepted formats for the sites and places where the identified reader potentially spends their time. These are frequently online but physical locations should not be forgotten. If not actually utilising physical marketing material the tone and style that would have been adopted should be born in mind as it may easily impact upon how the reader likes to communicate e.g. terminology, format, etc.
Where to find them?
There will be no point in trying to connect with the identified individual where they do not spend time. It will take a little research to ascertain facts e.g. by searching social media demographics, but will be time well spent. Here are a few statistics the writer has found:
Facebook: Used almost equally by men and women.
Age range: 18-29 = 88%; 30-49 = 70%; 50-64 = 61%; 65 + = 36%
Twitter: Used equally by women and men.
Age range: 18-29 = 36%; 30-49 = 22%; 50-64 = 18%; 65 + = 6%
LinkedIn: Small disparity between male and female users (Male 28% Female 23%).
Age range: 18-29 = 34%; 30-49 = 31%; 50-64 = 21%; 65 + = 11%
Pinterest: Far more women users (38%) Men (15%).
Age range: 18-29 = 36%; 30-49 = 32%; 50-64 = 24%; 65 + = 9%
Instagram: More women users (32%) Men (23%)
Age range: 18-29 = 59%; 30-49 = 31%; 50-64 = 13%; 65 + = 5%
Goodreads: A site authors should always take into consideration but for some reason many of the statistical reports found did not include it. However, the writer understands stay at home mothers of young children who are also avid readers form the bulk of users.
Age ranges: As is readily obvious some sites e.g. Pinterest and Instagram appeal more to the younger user. While older people (65 +) tend to gravitate more to Facebook than any other site.
Additional information e.g. regarding income; location; etc. may also be found.
Disclaimer: The accuracy of the above statistics cannot be guaranteed. They have simply been compiled from information found on the internet for which the writer has no confirmation of accuracy.
Finding further readers
Initially authors should restrict themselves to connecting with the type of reader they have identified and monitor response and effect. Without forgetting these, they may then go on to slowly identify other potential readers, again restricting themselves to one or two types. Marketing may then be enhanced and broadened to also appeal to these in the places where they spend their time.
Understandably, authors may become frustrated because conducting effect market research takes time. Identifying readers one or two at a time is a slow process but they should understand it will usually prove more effective in the longterm. As in all aspects of life, building relationships takes time but once achieved are reasonably easy to maintain provided everyone treats each other with respect and consideration.
Effective marketing requires the identification of potential audiences. Best done by identifying the individual rather than the conglomerate.
Time invested in marketing research (e.g. identifying an individual reader) is NOT wasted time.
The terminology and format of publicity and marketing material needs to appeal to the individual and adhere to styles normally used within the sites where these individuals spend time.
To slowly build publicity and marketing processes and campaigns normally produces the best results.
4 thoughts on “Finding the Right Audience”
Useful information Tanya, thank you.
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Glad you found it helpful Lucinda.
Thank you, Tanya, for an excellent article and one I shall keep as a reference. May I add that authors, after reading this, authors that still believe their book is suitable for a “general audience” can still benefit from your advice.
That is, they should style their marketing according to the usage of the various social media avenues. For example, Instagram posts should be styled to grab the attention of the younger age groups while Goodreads for the ardent reader. Both images and words need to be considered. I know this means more work, yet again, for the independent author, but worth taking the time as part of any marketing strategy.
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Thank you Pam for adding additional information for authors. Very much appreciated.