Want to Sell More Books? Understand Your Readers

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

Know your readers well—and sell more books.

Know your readers well—and sell more books.

Every self-published author wants to sell the most books possible. But not every book appeals to every reader—not even books that achieve best-seller status.

The cold, hard fact is your book has unique characteristics that only interest a select group. The good news is you don’t need to appeal to everyone to experience brisk sales. According to BookPromotionHub.com, if you can bring in 1,000 sales of your book within the first few days following its release, you are on your way to making it part of Amazon’s Top 100 list.

Match your marketing to your audience.

But how do you attract those first thousand buyers? You need to define your audience and match your book’s marketing messages to your audience. The more specifically you define your audience, the more precise you can be with the content and tone of your messaging. Your readers will identify themselves in your marketing and decide that, yes, your book is the one they want to read.

Related:To learn more about marketing strategies, register for “4 Weeks to a Powerful Book Marketing Strategy,” a hands-on course from Digital Book World University. 

Let’s look at an example. If you’ve written a financial planning book for widows who’ve recently lost their spouses, the messaging for this book is going to be different from the messaging for a financial planning book for high-rollers burned by the recession of 2009. The marketing messages for the book targeted at widows will probably be educational in tone and have a gentle, sympathetic tenor. The messages for the high-roller audience might be more enthusiastic in tone and have a positive yet aggressive attitude.

Help your customers self-select.

Both of the above books have the potential for high sales—as long as your customers can recognize themselves in your marketing messages. The people who would choose the book for widows are not the same people who would choose the book for high-rollers. If you help your readers recognize themselves, they’ll respond by saying, “This is the book for me!”

Find the social media platforms your customers visit.

Another reason you need to spend time carefully defining your audience is that you can use this knowledge to generate ideas about places to reach them. For example, many fans of Dick Francis come from equestrian circles because his mysteries often involve horses. If your book appeals to a specific hobby or affinity group, you can use this information to direct you to social media platforms full of potential fans.

Narrow your audience to study a few individuals.

If you feel it’s difficult to wrap your head around an entire “audience” of people, don’t worry. You can make a lot of progress understanding your potential audience just by studying a few ideal readers. If you’re an author who’s written a book of fiction, you know what it’s like to do a character study. Some writers swear by elaborate character charts. The Gotham Writers organization offers a lengthy Character Questionnaire. These character studies allow authors to flesh out all kinds of details about their characters in an effort to write about them more authentically. Well, you can do the same sort of thing or marketing. In the marketing field we call this exercise creating a customer persona.

Customer personas are detailed profiles of your ideal readers. The best way to create a customer persona is to find and interview a real person whom you believe would love your book. This person should not be a friend or family member, even if you think they would be ideal fans of your work. Find someone who has no stake in the outcome of your book’s success, and ask that person some heartfelt questions.

Customer persona questions get at the heart of your audience.

Customer persona questions can be open-ended but are most effective if they’re based on the themes in your book. You should also be sure to make note of:

  • a quote (a personal motto or something they’d say)
  • top three likes (some activities they enjoy)
  • top three dislikes (some activities they can’t stand)
  • personal goals (what they really want)

Once you’ve interviewed this person, you can use the information to streamline your marketing communications. Your persona’s point of view may be different from the perspective you originally envisioned. If that’s the case, you now can eliminate any biases you’d been holding onto that now seem irrelevant. For example, you may have written a vampire story and assumed that your readers would be more interested in the fights and bites. Your ideal reader, however, might mention that she buys those types of books for the tender moments, not the suspenseful ones. Now you know to emphasize the sensitive side of your characters and the romantic themes.

Your interviews with ideal readers will help you tailor your marketing messages to emphasize the concepts that are important to them. You only know what’s important to them if you talk to real readers.

More “superfans” mean more word-of-mouth marketing.

Once you have a few complete customer based on real readers, you’ll have a better understanding of the types of people who will become your “superfans”—your advocates, the people who are so excited about your book that they’re happy to spread the word for you. Ideally, these readers will be inspired to write a review on an online store or mention your book at a party or around the water cooler at work.

Real word-of-mouth marketing is what turns good books into bestsellers. And the more you know about your actual audience members, the more likely they are to spread the word for you.

Learn more: To deepen and expand your understanding of marketing strategies, register for “4 Weeks to a Powerful Book Marketing Strategy,” a hands-on class from Digital Book World University.


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