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How To Identify The Ideal Reader For Your New Book
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All authors dream that their first book will be launched into the welcoming arms of an eager audience just waiting to snap it up. Unfortunately the reality is usually somewhat less romantic. Your book may have all the right parts and pieces - great cover, a popular niche, and all the right story elements, but if you want to become known as an author and get your books into the hands of readers, you can't just sit back and hope people will find you. You have to do the work to identify your target readers, because the bottom line is it doesn't matter what you say, if you're not saying it to the right audience.
When to Start
Prevailing advice is that you should define the target audience for your book before you write it, at the very least before publishing. Of course if you're like many new authors who push the self-publish button for the first time without having identified an audience or built brand awareness for yourself, then at some point you may begin wondering, "Okay, so now what do I do?"
The bad news is the time you saved by not doing your research up front will cost you on the backend when it comes to marketing your book. The good news is there are more creative ways than ever before to begin growing an audience for your published book. It won't happen overnight, but if you're willing to think long-term, the work you do now will help you with your next book, and the next.
Please, please do not make the classic mistake of dismissing this process by thinking your target audience is "everybody" because there is no such audience. There are many wonderful books on the market, but no reader likes every one of them... doubt that, just read a few of the reviews at Amazon!
The aim of connecting with your target audience is to understand their wants and needs and to build trust. To exceed reader expectations you must first know those expectations.
Start with a Plan
While there are no hard "rules" when it comes to the process of targeting your audience, starting with clearly defined goals will save you from wasting time in search mode, only to end up with a lot of information you don't really need. Begin with a concise description of what your book is about and how it will benefit your readers, and from there start building your audience profile by answering the following basic questions:
• What is the typical gender of your audience?
• How old are they?
• Are they married, single or divorced?
• What other books/genres/authors do they read? (Who is your competition?)
• What are their dreams?
• How will your book inspire, inform or entertain them?
The more detailed you are able to get about your target audience, the better chance you will have of reaching them and speaking their language. This does not mean that other people outside your target audience can't or won't read your books, but the goal is to be able to focus your time and resources on the readers who are most likely to value what you have to say and buy your book(s).
Resources to Research your Market
Demographics: The idea of digging into demographics is intimidating to many people, but there is a wealth of information available if you're willing to invest the time. A good starting point is your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center).
Forums: A quick and easy way to find forums in your niche is with a Google search - "(your niche) forum" and depending on the topic you should end up with a pretty long list of forums. Forum research is ideal for the nonfiction author.
Social Media: Social media can connect you with a huge audience of potential readers, but to save time be prepared with the keywords you established for your book and use searches and hashtags (for example #books, #personalgrowth, #romance, etc.) to find conversations and identify influencers in your genre.
Polls: While a lot of people use polls, to be honest I'm not a fan of them because it's too easy to misinterpret the information. One way to improve your odds is to post several polls over a period of time with the same questions worded just a little differently. At the end of that process if you can get consensus on any of the answers, then you've got something meaningful to work with.
Book Bloggers: Book bloggers who specialize in your niche will have a good representation of your target audience among their followers. To get the most out of this opportunity listen to what their readers have to say in comments and actively contributing to the conversation without blatant self-promotion. (Tip: Be sure to register for your own avatar at Gravatar so a professional image shows up with your comments, and links back to your blog.)
Your Author Blog: It takes time to build readership for a blog, but once your audience shows up they can become one of your greatest resources to understand what your readers want from you. Whenever possible, respond to every comment.
Monitor and Evolve
Identifying your target audience is just the beginning. It's essential to continually perform research to stay current on competition and feedback from your readers. This information will help you identify trends, and possible ways you can expand your readership.
Finally, please keep in mind that you are the driving force behind this process because it's up to you as an author to decide who you want to writing for - otherwise it would be like that old saying about "the tail wagging the dog." Only by identifying your ideal readers can you effectively set out to learn more about their needs, wants and expectations.
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