Book Marketing for Authors. 2 Identify the audience for your book

Why is nobody buying my book?

The number one reason for lack of book sales is lack of an audience. Obvious? Right, yet so many authors overlook this. 

From the very start of a writing project, it helps if you have an audience in mind and write to and for that audience. When you know your audience, you can market effectively.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why would a reader select my book?
  • What am I saying in my writing?
  • Who is the message or content aimed at? 
  • What benefit will a reader derive from my book?

Don’t be the author who, when asked, ‘Who is your audience?’ responds, ‘I don’t know’. Or worse still, ‘Anyone who likes {vague reference to the genre}’ or ‘Everybody!’. 


You must understand who your audience is because you cannot market to a blank space. 

Although some books have broad appeal, even a broad audience will have defining characteristics. Identifying the characteristics of your audience will help you to market to your niche.

Your goal is to sell as many books as possible, right? Well, let’s extend the answer to ‘My book is for everyone who…’ and be specific about your audience.

What about ‘My book is for everyone who likes fiction?’

Yes, this is more specific but still too broad a segment of the population from a marketing point of view. Clued-in authors know their specific audience intimately; that is why their books sell. 

What do you need to know about your audience?

When looking at the audience as a demographic, we look at gender, age, socio-economic position, taste, political affiliation and more. For instance, if your book is about organic gardeningyou can assume your audience might be over 30. They will be of any gender, probably affluent, and probably vote liberal or green. They will be concerned about the environment and healthy eating. So we are nailing down an audience, but it is still too big, and without a huge budget we can’t hope to market to it effectively. 

So, what more do we need to know?

How do you identify your audience?

Book Metadata: As mentioned in earlier post which you can find here metadata refers to those small parcels of information that indicate genre, target market, price and so on. If properly structured, your metadata should be the first indicator of an audience. If your book is fantasy fiction, for the YA market, then young people who read fantasy fiction will consist of your broad audience. 

Beta readers: For the first-time or relatively new author, a great way to identify an audience is to get your manuscript out to beta readers; that is, readers who are not friends or family, and who will give you honest opinions. Make your beta reader group as diverse as possible to begin, and then close profile those who react positively to your work. This will give you a feel for your audience.

Comparable titles: Look closely at books that are similar to yours in genre and content. Who reads them? If your comparison is well-drawn, you have another link to your potential audience. 

Social media: When you have found comparable titles, look at the comparable (successful) authors’ social media profiles. How many followers have they got? If your book is similar to theirs, here is a ready-made audience. Look at posts about comparable titles, see who reacts positively to them, and what they have in common. Here is another link to an audience for your work.`

Trends: When researching reactions to comparable titles, try to identify trends. Do the majority of people who respond positively share a specific age range, gender, area, ethnicity? Pay close attention to these patterns. Every piece of information you can glean is taking you a step closer to identifying your audience. 

Cover test: As mentioned in a previous post, impulse plays a massive part in the decision to buy – and the primary driver for impulsive purchases is your book cover, right? 

A cheap and easy way to hone in on a demographic is to post on social media say three or four potential covers that you feel relate to your book and its contents. Ask your social media friends to select their favourite. Analysing the reactions of even a small reactive group will help you identify what appeals to your audience.

Post excerpts: There are numerous sites where you can post excerpts of your work in progress and ask for constructive feedback. These sites are an excellent test for your potential audience, helping you identify those most likely to be attracted to your work.

Get off the FB and Twitter merry-go-round:  Social media is a terrific resource, but also very time-consuming. Consider other platforms that are specific to your style and tastes. Find groups, blogs or fan-sites that are specific to your genre. You will find more of your audience to connect with there.

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes: Once you have identified your audience as a group, you need to re-examine them as people; you are, after all, aiming to sell to humans. If you have concluded through research that your ideal reader is a young father on middle income with a child/children under five years old, then consider him. Ask yourself what will appeal to him, what issues he is facing, what problems can your book solve for him, or what it offers him. All this information is invaluable when formulating your marketing strategy. 

Look inward: Another obvious but often missed identifier of your audience is you, yourself. 

Usually writers’ work appeals to their own tastes; they are their own demographic. If you are a reader of crime fiction and you have written in that genre, your best audience will probably look a lot like you.

How to expand the audience for your book

Up to here, we have been micro-focusing to identify the most compact niche that we can call your audience. This niche is the one you should focus all your initial marketing efforts on. But once that is done, you should look at expanding outward. 

Look at the audience you have identified as your primary target, and then consider other audiences that would have similar tastes, challenges or problems.

Let’s take our sample of a young father on middle income with a child/children under five years old. What can we extrapolate from that? Who else will buy this book? Would his partner buy it for him as a gift? Of course! You could market it as an ideal Father’s Day present, for instance. Would a young man on the cusp of becoming a father buy it? Yes, he would. 

Be creative, find ways to market your book to other, look-a-like audiences.

If you are struggling with identifying and building an audience, professionals can help to test market your book, or a genuine social media expert can help you build your following by suggesting posting and advertising strategies that work. After all, if your book was worthy of time to write it, it is also worthy of investment to get it into the hands of readers.

Remember that without an audience, your book will remain a pretty dust collector. 

In the next post in the series, we will look at how to use the information leaned here to build and capture an audience. 

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