What is a target audience? In a nutshell, a target audience is the slice of the world population who would be the most interested in reading your book. Every author needs to identify their target audience, because those are the people who will be interested in and buy your book.
Why You Need to Define Your Target Audience
Think about it – you can post your book cover on a bill board on the side of the highway for all to see – but how many of those people are going to hit the brakes and pull over screaming, “OMG! I need that book!” Much as we’d like to see the formation of a major traffic jam in this scenario … the reality is that almost no one is going to buy your book based on a bill board. Why? Because very few of the people traveling that road are thinking about reading and buying a book in your genre right now.
On the other end of the spectrum – what if you bought a BookBub ad? BookBub and similar book promo lists email your cover and blurb to readers who are interested in your genre and have signed up for the service, thus expressing their readiness to buy. Boom! Ultra targeting! Many an indie author has catapulted their career on the back of a BookBub ad.
Audience targeting is essential for far more than just BookBub. It can help you decide what kind of content to put on your blog and other social media accounts. And it sure as heck will dictate the success of any Facebook ads you might choose to invest in. (Totally check out Mark Dawson for this.)
Target Audience … Blah, blah, blah
When I first learned about audience targeting, I was bored out of my mind. I was told I ought to picture my ideal reader and identify this person’s gender, age, and a bunch of other random stuff. For instance, a woman between the age of 18 and 30 who buys beaded jewelry and cute buckle boots.
But what if you’re convinced your book would appeal to any age, any gender, and any check-out cart on Amazon? I could see my books being read by both men and women, ages 13 to 100, and who gives a rip what they’re buying?
In my novel Mailboat …
- My main character is a teen girl who worries about not looking like a dork in front of the other kids at school.
- Another primary character is a man in his seventies who’s lost all his family and is stoically holding together the remaining shards of a broken life. He gets just as many POV scenes as the teenager.
- Two other major characters are a divorced couple in their forties working in law enforcement.
Sadly, all my novels are like this. If I tried to target readers who were similar to my lead characters, I’d get nowhere. So I take a different approach to finding my target audience. Age and gender are chucked out the window. (I’ll find that out as I pick up more readers and poll them – cuz, you know, I’m still curious.)
What do I replace all this with? Interests. Beyond beaded jewelry and cute buckle boots.
Targeting Readers by Interests
For me, the most obvious is the location – Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. People who live in Lake Geneva, vacation in Lake Geneva, or have heard of Lake Geneva are all inside my target audience. (And from my research trips to Lake Geneva, people are pretty much insta-fans when they find out I’m setting a book in their town. Always carry business cards!)
Another major topic in my book is fatherless daughters. So girls who grew up without their dads, dads who are fighting for equal rights to the custody of their kids, and anyone interested in the role of fatherhood are also inside my target audience.
Obviously, fatherless daughters in Lake Geneva would be the bull’s eye of my target audience – but that’s going way too narrow. So I market to anyone who falls inside any of the rings on my target.
The Ideal Model for Your Target Audience
Remember I talked about picturing the ideal member of your target audience? Well, I can tell you exactly where to find that person.
Go look in the mirror.
Yep. In most cases, you are the model of your ideal reader! When it comes to defining the target audience, I find it way easier to put the cart before the horse.
- What am I looking for in this book I’m writing?
- What are the topics I like writing about?
- What is the genre I like writing in?
Now I just have to figure out where to find people like me.
What to Do with Your Target Audience Knowledge
It’s no secret I love Twitter. One way I find my target audience is to visit the #LakeGeneva hashtag frequently. Thanks to the hashtag, I’ve secured a promised book review from a local blogger and received invitations to two local book signings. (Boom!)
I also plan to use Facebook ads to promote my book. Targeting is crucial to a Facebook ad. Genre may be your best friend – but once again, I could target the ad to people who have expressed interest in Lake Geneva, as well as people who have expressed interest in the role of fathers. (Take this advice with a grain of salt – I haven’t tried it yet!)
Don’t forget that knowing your target audience will dictate everything about how you’ll communicate with those readers. For instance, how you’ll word an ad and what kind of graphic you’ll use with it. An ad targeted at fatherless daughters wouldn’t show a flaming car flying over a cliff – even if that was in the story. It might, however, show a teen girl staring distantly across a lake.
Nothing wrong with breaking your audience down by gender, age, and values. But nothing wrong with breaking it down by topics and interests, either. Sometimes, that’s a whole lot easier.
Okay, here’s a question for you guys: How do you go about defining your target audience?