Tips for Targeting Your Audience

Way too often, new authors go through all the trouble of writing, editing, typesetting, then publishing a book–but have no idea how and where to sell it.

They ask, “I just published my third novel. How do I sell it?”

Uh-oh. It’s too late to ask such a question. An author should know his or her audience long before the novel hits the street. It’s like this: Everyone won’t read your book. Not targeting a particular group is like throwing darts at a swarm of flies, hoping to stick one.

Analogy alert: Serious fishermen know fish and how to catch ‘em. They know the best season of the year, time of day, right temperature, specific locations, the right bait to use, and best equipment to catch the most fish–more so than the novice Joe Schmoe who just wings up, hoping to snag something. Yeah, Joe Schmoe may catch a few snappers, but the true “Fish Heads” will return home with a seafood buffet in a bucket. Why? Because the Fish Head did his homework. Joe Schmoe didn’t.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, as the author, you’re the fisherman who’s trying to hook as many “fish” as possible–the readers.

Many new authors just don’t ask themselves two important questions when trying to sell their books: 1) Who’s my audience and 2) how do I reach them?

Answering those questions is not as hard as you think. However, to get the answers to those broad questions, you’ll have to ask additional questions that are more focused. What’s your book’s genre? Who reads this genre? What’s your typical reader’s profession? Relationship status? Where do they live? What kind of books do they read? Where do they buy their books? Are they on social media?

Focused questions help you target your audience–the people most likely to read your book. It’s probably not a good idea to promote an erotica novella to a group of people who normally read children’s books.

You can also ask focused questions about the book itself, like what city is the book based in? Or what’s the main character’s profession? If your book is a murder mystery involving a magician who lives in Seattle, you’ve already narrowed down two categories of potential readers–magicians and Seattle book clubs. I’ve found that some readers love reading books based in the city they live in. And just about every profession has a regional, statewide, and/or national organization an author could target (i.e., The International Brotherhood of Magicians).

Once you identify the specific group who are interested in your book’s genre, you’ll need to know how to reach them. My first book SELLOUT is about the struggles of interracial dating from the perspectives of three individuals, so my partners and I came up with a game plan to target individuals in interracial relationships, which, actually, wasn’t that hard.

For example, I’m engaged in several Facebook groups for interracial couples, participating in relationship topics (they often get heated, too); I’ve published essays in online journals that focus on subjects related to race; have done radio interviews on interracial dating; and even received a written review for Sellout from a student who conducted a panel on interracial dating at a local university. I’ve also targeted book clubs and book bloggers who read my novel’s genre.

If you do research BEFORE your book launches by narrowing your audience, you won’t feel like Mr. Joe Schmoe the clueless fisherman, hoping to get lucky with no set plan on how to catch ’em. Fish don’t just jump on the boat. You need to know what kind of fish are biting and the right bait and equipment to use, THEN know how to get to them.

Dang, now I want a Red Snapper sandwich!

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