A Common Misconception

Publicity Tip #11

Know Your Target Reader

Target MarketSure, this sounds obvious but in a recent conversation with an new author, when I asked what her niche or target market was the reply surprised me.


I didn’t take her seriously.  I thought she was pulling my leg.


As authors it is the ideal or the dream to have everyone read and love our work – that is to say, we know everyone won’t but we anticipate that anyone could if they gave it a chance.  J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants), and Eleanore Catton (The Luminaries) represent children’s, contemporary, historical, and murder/mystery – these authors have made the dream possible.

But consider the statistics… over 2, 300,000 books have been published this year.  This is normal.  How many of these books have you heard about?  The New York Times Book Review publishes, on average, 15 reviews a week – let’s say 20 to be generous.  That’s reviews of just over 1000 books a year only for writers in the United States.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

It is a common misconception for new and emerging authors to set their sights too high.  The odds of becoming the next Stephen King or Mercedes Lackey (thriller/horror & fantasy genre writers respectively) is difficult enough without adding everyone to your list of potential readers.

Analyze your book.  Determine fiction or non-fiction and then sub-categorize from there.  Know what age range would most enjoy your work or naturally gravitate toward it.  Do a character sketch of that representative reader – give him/her a name, a vocation, hobbies, a personality… be honest.  That is your target market.

When you give interviews, do virtual & traditional book tours, publicize and market your book, keep this target as your focus.  Once you have exhausted all your resources (and they should be wide and varied), take a look at who else is buying your book.  Not who else you want to have buy your book but who actually is.  Once you know your demographics, use them to your advantage – choose the next target market and reach out to them as well.

By specializing in this way, you will actually open yourself up to the world market and that elusive everyone dream.  Remember, Harry Potter was advertised as a children’s book but through word of mouth, great reviews, and an interactive author it reached out to the world and embraced everyone.

If you start by marketing to everyone, you will only spread yourself too thin and spin your wheels in an endless hamster-cycle.  If you are considering querying to agents or small publishers they will only look at your work if you know what you write and who will read it – and everyone doesn’t count.  Even as a self-published author, book sites generally only give you between 3 and 5 genre options to list your work in (e.g. Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal, Suspense).

The more specific you can be about who your target audience is, the better your chances of being noticed… by everyone.

Categories: Publicity

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2 replies

  1. You’re right – everyone is too broad. I focus on everyone who is able to read. Marketing to toddlers is tough, so that helps a little. 😉


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