4 Ways For Authors To Reach The Right Audience For Your Book

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.


To sell more books, you must really know your ideal reader.

To sell more books, you must really know your ideal reader.

You’ve spent months (or years) writing and producing your book. It’s for sale online and … crickets. Nothing but chirping insects piercing the silence, far, far away.

“But all my beta readers enjoyed it,” you may say, “Where are my sales?” The answer is this: creating an enjoyable book is one thing—but attracting an audience to your book is something very different. Just as you worked hard writing, formatting, and setting up your book for sale, you also must work hard to reach your audience.

To find and connect with the right audience for your book, follow these four steps. First, identify your readers. Next, understand your readers. Third, go where your readers go on the internet. Fourth, talk about what your readers want to hear.

For more information on this topic, attend my online seminar with Katherine Sears  Wednesday, October 15, 2:00 EST 2013 on Shindig.

1. Identify your readers

Who are your readers, really? Let’s say you write YA books. You may think, “Every teen and twenty-something will love my book!” You may wish that all of the kids born from 1993-2003 will buy your book, but that’s the endgame of your marketing—it’s not the way to start. Begin with a very specific, narrow definition of your reader.

The more narrowly you define your ideal reader, the better. Why? Reading is about as personal as it gets. So instead of saying, “My book is for teens,” think hard about which of the many types of teens you are targeting. Those who love science fiction? Dystopian science fiction? Steampunk dystopian science fiction?  Steampunk dystopian science fiction with a large helping of romance? Teens who like all that and have a lot of friends at high school, or those who are marginalized? Teens who buy their clothes at a national chain store or knit their own tunics?

Narrow down your audience as closely as you can. Your goal is to define a very specific group of superfans. Don’t settle for “everyone” because “everyone” won’t give you a place to start your marketing. If you sold your book to every marginalized teen who knits tunics, that  might give it enough traction to take off and grow. And if not, at least your book has found a cozy, respectable fan base.

2. Understand your readers

As a writer, you know how to do character profiles. Well, as a marketer you’ve got to do character profiles, too. Think about that narrow group of people you’ve identified, then explore them deeply till you really feel you understand them.

Here are some exercises for you to do:

  • If you write nonfiction, create a resume for your ideal reader.
  • If you write romances, imagine what your ideal reader’s purse looks like and list everything that’s inside.
  •  If you write kids’ books, list the things your readers love (trucks, hamsters, Legos) and the things they hate (nap time, mushrooms, when their mom stares into her phone instead of paying attention to them).
  • Imagine your ideal reader’s desk or bedroom, and describe everything you see.
  • If you spent a weekend tagging along with your ideal reader, where would you go?

3. Go where your readers go 

You may spend most of your time on the Internet searching Craig’s List for antique sewing machines, chatting on San Diego Chargers forums, or buying things at Etsy. But that may not be where your readers go. It’s time to start spending time on the sites your potential fans will love. Think about steps 1 and 2 and identify the web sites where those types of readers hang out. Go there and interact with them.

Here’s a quick list to get you started:

  • Is your ideal reader a man or college educated? Try LinkedIn. Nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn and more LinkedIn users (37%) have bachelor’s degrees than Facebook (20%).
  • Is your ideal reader from a racially diverse category? Twitter users are the most racially diverse mainstream social network platforms.
  • Targeting teens? Don’t bother with Twitter. Just 8% of teens say they’ve ever used Twitter.
  • Writing non-fiction? Put some key facts on Slideshare.

Just as important as participating in the well-known social media sites, it’s valuable to hang around a bunch of niche internet sites that fit your ideal reader’s psyche. Do some research to find them. Participating in a small site full of your target readers is a much more valuable use of your time than trying to get your message heard in a crowded forum like Facebook or Twitter.

4. Talk about what your readers want to hear

Now that you know who you need to talk to and where you need to go, join in the conversations. Make friends. Be social. It is, after all, social media.

Think about social media as a big cocktail party (or church picnic, or rowdy convention, or whatever real-life get-together your ideal audience likes to attend). Ask questions that attract quick, emotional or opinion-based responses. Be helpful when people ask for advice. Offer answers or provide links to web pages that deliver more in-depth information.

Most importantly, don’t be too aggressive in selling your book. Yes, when you’re on Twitter, it’s OK to ask for retweets. And it’s OK to ask for Facebook likes. You can announce author events, book signings, blog tours, and other events you’re participating in. Just don’t repeatedly send out links to your Amazon purchase page. Some of your messages can be sales-y. But most of your input should build relationships.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Let other people offer their praise. I asked an open-ended question about an author I know on Twitter, and one of my followers responded with a solid recommendation of her book.
  • Let your readers do the talking. Interview your readers on video and post their candid answers to YouTube.
  • Guest blog. You’re a writer. Offer to write a guest post on a blogger’s site that’s popular with your niche market. The blogger gets free content and you get visibility.
  • Contests. Create a contest on your web site or blog and give your book or a gift card as a reward.
  • Fan art. Author Marni Mann provided images and logos to bloggers and asked them to make their own fan art.

Books don’t sell books. People sell books—to other people. So if you want to sell more books, go out and start building relationships with the people you’ve identified as the ideal readers for your book.

For more information on this topic, attend my online seminar with Katherine Sears  Wednesday, October 15, 2:00 EST 2013 on Shindig.

 Image via Shutterstock.

6 thoughts on “4 Ways For Authors To Reach The Right Audience For Your Book

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  3. John P. Wheeler

    Hey Beth! Great advice for authors thinking of breaking into self publishing. I’m currently working on my first ebook and one of the things that I really struggled with in the beginning was writing in a tone that my readers would respond to.

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