Too many authors think, “My book’s audience is everyone.” This fallacy only leads to disillusionment. With a little research and a professional attitude, authors can find their audience and get their book into their readers’ hands.
Once an author finishes writing a book and starts to think about marketing, one of the first questions authors are told to ask themselves is “Who is my audience?” Many authors reply, “Oh, everyone. Everyone will benefit from/like my book.”
And wrong also to ask this question after the book is written. The question should have been asked when the book was still a concept. It’s pointless to write a book without a clear idea of who the audience is and how the author will reach that audience.
Too many times I have spoken to book reviewers and bookstore owners who have taken the brunt of authors’ frustration because the reviewer gave a bad review or declined reviewing a book or because the bookstore could not sell the book or declined carrying it because the manager felt it would not sell. Too often, authors react to this news with anger, even insulting reviewers and bookstore employees. Then they are surprised when they write their second book and the same stores again refuse to carry them—this time because they don’t want to work with a temperamental and unprofessional author no matter how good the book.
These authors could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and heartache had they simply realized from the beginning that they do not have a widespread but a smaller target audience. Following are a few pointers to help you figure out that audience and how to reach it, both before and after the book is published.
Before it’s even published, it’s a good idea to talk to people about your book. Ask people if they think your book will sell—you can start with friends and family members so you get encouragement, but remember they will probably not be honest with you because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Instead, go to bookstores and ask for five minutes of the managers or workers’ time to tell them about your book and ask whether they think it will sell. I’ve known some authors who even bring in their book covers to get feedback on whether it will attract buyers.
Look at books the bookstores carry and find ones similar to yours. Buy those books and read them, think about why they are or are not good and how your book can be better; don’t forget to look beyond the content at the packaging—the cover, which ultimately is what sells the book. Do the same at online bookstores. Check the bestseller lists to find out what is popular. If you plan to sell your book to a traditional publisher, be prepared to submit a proposal that includes market research and listings of other successful books similar to yours to convince the publisher your book has an audience and will sell.
Find Your Audience
Find out how to reach your audience. If you’re writing a Christian novel, maybe you won’t sell a lot of books at Barnes & Noble, but you will at Christian bookstores. Find places online as well such as discussion groups where you can participate and thereby reach your audience, or attend events your Christian readers will attend where you can promote your book. Find media publications—television, radio, and newspapers geared toward your audience and contact them about your book.
Be Clear About Your Book’s Category and Content
Too many times, book cover descriptions misrepresent a book’s content or fail to describe it. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve seen without any summary of the book—who is going to buy a book if they don’t know first what it’s about? At the very least, your book needs a label as to whether it is fiction/non-fiction and preferably more descriptive ones such as “mystery, suspense, historical fiction, essays, biography” etc. That makes it easier for the bookstore to know where to place it, and it makes it easier for readers to know what to expect. And you definitely want your book to meet readers’ expectations. Anything you think might interest or upset readers should also be disclosed. For example, if the book has gay sex in it, you should mention that upfront so the customer doesn’t spend money on the book only to be angry later and write a bad review on Amazon. Disclosing content is also important so you get good reviews from professional book reviewers. Furthermore, if your book has gay content, it will limit your audience down from “everyone” but it will also more likely attract your target audience. It will help bookstores put your book in the section where your target audience is most likely to look.
Being angry that people do not like your book and expressing that anger is not going to help you or anyone. Do your research ahead of time to find your audience and figure out how to reach it. You’ll be happier, sell more books, maintain your credibility, and have a better relationship with reviewers, bookstores, and readers.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.