Why Authors Should Know Their Target Audience

POSTED ON Sep 7, 2020

Kate Tilton

Written by Kate Tilton

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By Kate Tilton

Who is your target audience? What is a reader profile?

These are two questions that continue to baffle many authors, not only new authors starting out in this business but even established authors with several books out. I get it, with all the marketing information out there these terms get thrown around a lot. So first let’s break it down.

By definition a “target audience” is “the intended group for which something is performed or marketed; the specific group to which advertising is directed.” (Dictionary.com) In other words, your target audience is the people you market your book to. A target audience is also referred to as a “target market” or in our industry a “target reader” or “target readers” so keep this in mind.

A “reader profile” on the other hand, also referred to as a “buyer persona” or “buyer profile” is a fictional representation of your ideal customer or reader, based on research. In this series, I’ll be walking you through how to research your target audience to create your own reader profile.

For many authors I’ve worked with, at first blush this can sound super intimidating, but think of it this way, a reader profile is similar to a profile you might create for a character in your book. This series will walk you through the research steps to create this fact sheet listing the vital stats and characteristics of your ideal reader.

But before we get into the who, let’s cover the why.

Imagine you’re a salesperson and the product you’re trying to pitch is a picture frame. Your boss sends you out in the big wide world and says, “Go sell picture frames!”

So, which of the following places would you go to sell picture frames?

  • ComicCon
  • Disney World
  • An art gallery
  • A photography club
  • A school
  • A cooking class
  • A local art and craft club

If you know your target audience, you go to the art gallery, the photography club, and the art and craft club. By knowing who is most likely to buy your product, in our case books, you save time by focusing on places where you are going to sell the most for the least amount of effort.

Another example, one I love to give with my clients, is this: imagine you are invited to speak about your book to a room full of a thousand people, from elderly men to middle school girls, from Americans to the people of Japan. This room has a mix of people from all over the world with different beliefs, backgrounds, vocabulary, lifestyles, hobbies, and more. How will your presentation go? How can you convince this room full of people that your book is meant for them? That without your book their lives will be missing something great?

The answer is you don’t. There is no way to convincingly sell to a group so diverse with one sales pitch. You are more likely to get up and present a very vanilla representation of your book that doesn’t capture interest (or in other words, sales).

Now compare that room full of a thousand different people to pitching the book to your best friend. You know your friend, you know what words they use, what hobbies they enjoy. Because you know your friend intimately, you know exactly what to say to them to explain your book in a way that will interest them.

The closer you get to narrowing your definition of your target audience, the closer you get to creating your reader profile, the one person in the world who is your #1 fan. With your reader profile in hand it becomes easier to find those like your #1 fan by helping you discover:

  1. where they hang out
  2. who they hang out with
  3. what they look for in the books they read
  4. their needs and expectations and how to meet them
  5. where to do you marketing (online/offline, social media, email, blogging, live events, etc.)
  6. how to talk to them

In my next article we’ll go over the first steps in the process to discovering who your target audience is so we can build your unique reader profile.
Photo: BigStockPhoto

Kate Tilton

Written by
Kate Tilton

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