Nonfiction Authors: How to Find Your Ideal Reader

POSTED ON Feb 6, 2015

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Marketing, Self-Publishing > Nonfiction Authors: How to Find Your Ideal Reader

By Cathy Yardley (@CathyYardley)

It can be a challenge for self-published authors to determine who will read their books. Today, editor and author Cathy Yardley shares her tips for finding readers for your nonfiction book. I think you’ll find this helpful.

The most important factor in creating an effective marketing plan for your book is to identify your ideal reader, and target them specifically. The more broad your target, the more diffuse your message will be… and ultimately, the less impact it will have.

But How Do You Figure Out Who Your “Ideal” Reader Is?

The process varies, depending on whether or not you write non-fiction or fiction. In this part, we’re going to detail how to identify your ideal non-fiction reader, step by step.

  1. Identify your topic.
    Ideally, you’re building your audience around a set of linked topics. It’s unlikely that you’re going to write about raising cockatiels in one book, and repairing your 1970 Nissan pickup truck axle in another. (If you are, then you’ll obviously have two very diverse audiences – or one very small, oddly specific overlapping niche!) Topic is the first defining step. You’re looking for people interested in your topic.
  2. What topic-related problem is addressed in your book?
    Non-fiction has a purpose: to inform. Your book has information that will help readers solve specific problems, even if that problem is “I don’t know enough about cockatiels.”

    Generally speaking, if your audience is searching for something, there is a pain point. They need an answer, badly enough to actively hunt for it.

    Your book should serve as a solution. For example, “The Care of Cockatiels” would help someone whose bird is sick. “The Breeding of Cockatiels”, on the other hand, would help someone who wants more birds. While they may also want to keep said birds healthy, the more pressing problem is getting those eggs produced. Two different, if potentially overlapping, audiences.

  3. What is the outcome behind the need?
    Non-fiction books, like any “product”, don’t sell features – they sell outcomes. If a reader picks up “The Breeding of Cockatiels” book, they want to breed their birds, naturally enough. But there’s a big difference between someone who is trying to perpetuate a species of cockatiels, someone who is such an avid bird lover that he wants to fill his house with birds, and someone who simply wants to raise cockatiels for profit.

    Not to say that a simple “breeding tips for cockatiels” book wouldn’t address all three. But your book probably fits one better than another. The reader who wants to perpetuate a species, or perhaps create cockatiel hybrids, will need more specific information.

    The reader who wants to raise cockatiels for profit might want to know more about:

    • how to increase odds
    • how long between breeding cycles
    • how many birds they can produce
    • how quickly, and when birds can be separated from their families

    The person who wants to fill his house might just want the basics:

    • how to build a breeding enclosure that fits well in the home, or
    • how to prevent overpopulation if necessary

    Look at your book again. Who would most need the information in your book, and why?

  4. What is book’s tone and personality?
    Is your book academic? Is it irreverent? There’s a big difference in tone between “A Guide to the Propagation of Cockatiel Hybrids” and “Cockatiel Speed Dating for Fun and Profit”. What sort of tone does your book project – and consequently, what audience would most appreciate it?

Next Step: Firsthand Research

Once you’ve answered these questions, identifying:

  • topic
  • problem
  • outcome, and
  • tone

you’ll have a character sketch of who your ideal reader is, and what they want. Now, you need to see how these readers actually behave.

Ask yourself: if I had the problem that my ideal reader has, and I wanted the outcome they want, and I had this specific personality, where would I look for my solution?

From there, you can Google for solutions, to find blogs and user forums that discuss the problem. Look at your competition, the other books that propose solutions. Then see what the range of outcomes addressed are, and the types of personalities represented.

Hang out with end users: the people with the problems. Most of all, check out what they’re saying about where they go, what they’ve tried, what frustrates them, and what they really need.

If you’re our cockatiel author, odds are good you’re already hanging out with other cockatiel owners and aficionados. That should help you find out where they go when they’re stumped. It might mean speaking with veterinarians, or pet store owners, as well as reading competing books.

Right now, you’re just asking around for what people do when they’re in the position your ideal reader is in. (Hopefully you’ve already qualified that there’s a desire and need for what you’re writing, but if you haven’t, now is a good time.)

Final Step: Create a Targeted Marketing Plan

You’ve identified your ideal reader. You’ve tracked him down to where he hangs out and where he goes when he’s looking for books like yours.

Now, you just have to introduce him to your book, specifically.

Your marketing plan will walk him step by step through the process of solving his problem. You now know where he turns when he’s looking for answers. You’ll provide answers there, too.

  • If he Googles, you’ll go for SEO, since you now know what keywords he’ll probably use to find his solution.
  • If he looks on blogs, you’ll be guest posting about the basics of the topic he’s interested in, offering some genuinely helpful tips that aren’t being covered elsewhere.
  • Or, he’ll find out about you through word of mouth and reviews from people who he trusts, because you’ve provided those people with free review copies of your book, and they’ve found it helpful.

Look at What You Have to Identify Your Audience

Finding your ideal reader isn’t easy, but it is straight-forward. Best of all, the answer is right in front of you – in your own book.

Next Week: Fiction Authors: How To Find Your Ideal Reader

Yardleyphoto2Cathy Yardley is the author of eighteen traditionally published romance, women’s fiction, and urban fantasy novels. She’s also a developmental editor and writing coach at Sign up for her free e-course Jumpstart Your Writing Career, and receive helpful hints on pinpointing where you might be stuck – and how to get back on track for a successful fiction writing career.


Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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