In any form of communication, be it verbal, written or otherwise, the way we approach our audience is crucial to how the message is received. Imagine the language you use on the phone to a friend, and compare that with how you present yourself at a job interview. Mix the two up, and you’ll doubtless end up with an incredibly bored friend and no offers of employment.
All too often, when a writer is asked who their book is meant to appeal to, the given answer is ‘everyone’. Although you might like to think that your book is universal, in reality this is just not the case. Unless you intend to produce a Harry Potter-esque blockbuster, of course.
The truth is that by writing fiction for everyone, you are in fact writing for no one. As much as you would love the content of your book to appeal to a broad range of people, to make it really worthwhile you need to target it towards the people who are most likely to enjoy it. Believe it or not, J. K. Rowling had actually quite a niche audience in mind when she wrote her books, but subsequently garnered a wider appeal due to the early successes.
Think like a marketer
Even the most creative of writers has a great deal to gain by thinking a little more like a marketer. You may not have any double glazing to sell or a half price sofa to shift, but you do have a product. As any marketing expert will tell you, to sell you need to pitch, and to pitch successfully you need to know to whom you are directing your pitch.
What are your goals for your writing – to get published? Or to get read? Winning a lucrative publishing deal is certainly appealing, but there are few of us who would lie on our death beds musing over the satisfaction of the royalties we’ve amassed.
How to identify your audience
The one thing that is so often lacking in many great writers work is the research. You could be the next Ernest Hemingway for all we know, but if you haven’t done your homework, nobody will ever care.
Discovering who your audience is will take some work on your part, as well as an open mind. Don’t assume that you already know them, or that they are just like you. Here are a few top tips which should help you to start identifying who your target audience is.
- Identify who the content of your book would interest
Try to broadly isolate what sort of people will enjoy reading your book. If you are writing a historical drama set in the Blitz, you would almost certainly appeal to history buffs as well as those who have served or are interested in the military. On the other hand, a recipe book for birthday cakes is more likely to appeal to parents, nannies and crafty types.
- Look for comparable publications and see who buys and reads those books
Some book types are very straightforward in their appeal. For instance, lots of gardening books will be aimed at retirees, and are mainly bought by them too. However, other books have unexpected audiences. The Twilight Sagas, for example, were squarely aimed at tween and teenage girls, but have ended up appealing to older women of the Mills and Boon generation too.
- Find your USP
No, that’s not a typo. USP is your Unique Selling Point in marketing speak, and it is the one thing that sets you apart from the competition. What is your book about, and what makes it different to the competition? This will help to further define where the appeal of the book lies, and therefore what sort of people it is going to engage with the most.
- Start forming some demographics
With the information you have, you should be able to start forming a picture of who is going to read your book. Think about their age, gender, their preferences, their ethics, educational levels, geographical locations… the list is endless. The more you know about your audience, the more you will be able to connect with them on a deep level, so do your best to define them as specifically as possible.
- Lather, rinse and repeat
Feed these tips back into themselves to gain even more insight into your primary target audience. There may be many different groups who would enjoy your book, so try to define where their preferences overlap and where they oppose each other. If you’re a visual learner, you might find it helpful to create a Venn diagram (Google it) to help visualize the boundaries, and for a great excuse to do some coloring in!
If you are struggling to get to grips with who your primary audience is, don’t be afraid to step out into the real world with your research. Marketing companies will often be able to help you set up focus groups and survey studies for a fairly reasonable investment, or if you prefer something less formal you could canvas the opinions of social followers and email contacts yourself. Other authors are also usually more than happy to help, so find your peer group in the online or offline world, and get their input too.
Creating audience centric ebooks
Once you know who your primary target audience is, you’ll need to use that information effectively in order to make the content audience centric. If you understand some of their drivers, you’ll be able to present the information that will speak most clearly to them. Consider your:
- Tone and topic: Focus in on the people you want to appeal to, and use topics they will relate to. If you’re talking to trendy twenty something’s, it makes more sense to talk about Starbucks and EastEnders than M&S and the Antiques Roadshow.
- Language: Are you talking to kids? Don’t use words they won’t understand. Older people will prefer a more ‘Queens English’ approach to reading, whereas younger readers will understand colloquialisms and won’t mind the odd bit of swearing.
- Appeal: Sing to the things that really drive their emotions. Ask yourself what makes these people excited, what makes them cry and what will keep them turning the page right up to the end.
It might help you to understand your audience by creating a persona for them, or even several if you think you have multiple audiences to please. Try to understand what makes them tick beyond their reading material preferences, such as political leanings, how they spend their spare time, whether they are likely to be religious.
Understanding your audience is crucial to long term success
It’s not just the self-published author who needs to have a good grip on who their audience is and how to appeal to them. Agents, traditional publishers and future potential founders will all want to know who your audience is, why you appeal to them and how you plan to connect with them in the future. Time spent on developing your understanding is time well invested, so don’t scrimp on the effort with this.
We live in a world which is increasingly a numbers game, where successes are judged by numbers of ‘likes’, followers and fans. But creating a faithful audience for your self-published Kindle books is a whole different ball game. It’s about developing trust and loyalty one person at a time, so take the time to understand the people, and you’ll be rewarded over time.