Before you kick off any kind of publicity strategy, one of the most important things to figure out is the target audience you want to reach. You might assume you already know this—but so many get it wrong!
Tell me something: Who do you think is your audience?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you have to offer is for everybody. But there’s a saying that if you make something for everybody, then you’ve made it for nobody.
No matter how wonderful your book is, it will not appeal to every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth. No book has ever done that. Your book won’t be the first.
This is true for every author. There’s no author who’s universally loved. Think of the most popular authors—in any category—and there are people who don’t care for them. Even authors who sell millions of books aren’t loved by everybody.
Just because you get in front of a crowd doesn’t necessarily mean that that crowd includes your target audience. There are companies that advertised during the Super Bowl—the largest audience in the world—and then went out of business before the end of that same year. They spent a lot of money getting in front of a lot of people who didn’t care about what they had to offer.
Focus On Those You’re Uniquely Qualified To Serve
Your target audience includes people for whom you can address their interests, wants, and/or needs. So, while this includes people who know they are interested in your category or genre—there are also people for whom your category isn’t necessarily top of mind, but they do want the benefit that you can provide.
Publicity bridges the gap between you and the ideal people who should be in your target audience. What you need, in fact, is to figure out your Ideal Reader Profile.
"Why Do I Need an Ideal Reader Profile?"
When you narrow your focus on your ideal reader, this helps you...
- Own your niche so you become the go-to expert
- Appeal to a specific someone as opposed to a generic everyone
- Make it easier to build closer relationships with your readers
- Attract more of the right readers (because the "wrong" readers will NEVER buy your book)
- Avoid spinning your wheels on promotions that just don’t work
When you figure out your ideal reader, that makes it easier to lavish your attention on the right people. This will improve how you position yourself as an author. This, in turn, helps you do a more effective job with your publicity. It can also improve your results on your blog, social media, emails, and everything else you do to raise your visibility and promote your book.
When you’re building your platform, some of your activities will be different depending on whether your ideal reader is...
- A stay-at-home parent who wants to start a side business to help with family bills
- A 50-something office worker who desperately needs a career change
- A middle school student who wants more friends
- An overstressed parent who needs something to read on long flights to business meetings
The key, then, is to focus your attention on attracting the right people.
Two Types of Target Audience
In general terms, we can define an audience as either being geographical and or grouped together because of their shared interests.
People have an interest in what’s happening near them. This is why local media often highlights people, places, and events that are connected to their local area.
Look at a map of where you are. Now, draw a series of concentric circles around your location. Your story may of interest to other people who are in your neighborhood, your town or city, or the region. The “local” angle can be part of the pitch. An example of a local news story may be that you conducted a workshop at your local library.
However, there’s also a way to pitch a “local” story even when you’re from out of town. In this case, the story is local to the audience. Say you’re targeting a newspaper in the next state—if you set up that workshop at a library near them, then you can still pitch a local angle.
When you start with local media—newspapers, radio, television, and any other media that serves your immediate area—they’re easier to contact. You are in their viewing area, listening area, or reading area.
Local media also offers you less competition. You’re more likely to be competing with other local stories instead of big national or international stories. When you’re pitching to local media and you can add a “local” angle to the story, that will give you a strong case for media coverage.
People also want to be updated on topics that impact them. This can include stories about their finances, health, or relationships.
An audience can also be grouped by a shared love of, say, music or sports or a particular genre. Even in these cases, zero in on the specific interest…
- Fans of music aren’t necessarily fans of all
- Fans of sports aren’t necessarily fans of all
- Readers who enjoy stories about pirates don’t necessarily want a historical romance because it’s set on a pirate ship.
They may also share demographic traits, such as…
- Member of a group
- Same beliefs
- Same lifestyle
Once you know an appropriate category to target, see whether you can narrow down even more than that. Focus on a niche inside the category. Look for the audience most interested in your particular way of writing. Who’s looking for that kind of book? Who’s reading other authors in your category?
Conversely, don’t waste time trying to convert readers with no interest in your category or genre. If you write about werewolves and they hate stories about werewolves, you’ll be wasting their time and yours.
Think of it this way: If I try to sell an electric mixer to some remote village with no electricity, it won’t matter a lick it’s the greatest electric mixer in the world. If they don’t have electricity, they’ll never buy my electric mixer. Why bang my head on the wall chasing after the wrong market?
Whatever you write—your category or genre—there’s a target audience more interested in that than other audiences. Figure out that audience.
Narrowing down your target audience also means you can focus on strong pitches for niche media that serve those specific interests or specific types of people. Examples of these “niche” audiences would include fans of a certain genre, an audience devoted to a certain hobby, or members of a certain trade group or organization.
When you start with a smaller media outlet, it’s easier to make a connection with the right people and have a conversation. It’s easier to get on their radar.
Pursuing a small media outlet also carries less pressure. When you’re talking to bigger outlets or bigger opportunities, there can be a lot of pressure to do everything right. There’s a lot of competition for their attention.
While niche media may have fewer people in the audience, those people are way more engaged in the topic. The big audience of that general interest show or magazine is probably just listening to the show in the background while dressing the kids for school, or flipping through that magazine in the doctor’s office until his or her name is called.
Another reason to start with small or niche outlets is that it will be great practice. You may think it would be amazing to start out on that big morning talk show, but once you’re staring down that camera at millions of people dressing their kids for school, you might just freak out.
Starting out with the smaller outlets gives you an opportunity to get comfortable answering questions, talking on a microphone, talking to a camera, being in the lights. The more that you do your own media (blogging, podcasting, videos) and are able to practice being a guest, the more prepared you’ll be when bigger opportunities come knocking.
How to Create Your Ideal Reader Profile
In this section, we’re going to go through three major parts to your reader profile. (It’s possible to create an even more detailed profile, but right now let’s keep it simple.)
Starting out, you may have to make some educated guesses to fill in the blanks. You can always update the profile later as you get new information.
Now let’s look at each section...
This section is a description of this person. The goal is to create detailed, vivid images of the exact person you have in mind when you make decisions about your publicity and other types of promotion. This part of the profile includes:
- Marital status
- How many children and their ages
- Where this person lives
- This person’s profession
Goals and Values
In the second section, we want to know the goals and values of your target reader.
- What does this person hope to accomplish?
- What does this person believe?
Where They Get Their Information
In the final section, we want to know all the sources where your ideal reader gets his or her information.
- What is this person reading?
- What is this person listening to or watching?
- Where does your ideal reader hang out online?
Whenever possible, try to list niche media and events that attract your ideal readers and almost no one else.
- Your Target Reader: Identifying and Making the Connection
- How to Create an Ideal Reader Avatar to Focus Your Marketing
- Your Ideal Reader Informs All 7 Stages of Publishing
- Your Reader Profile Will Solve Most Marketing Dilemmas
What Are You Going to Do Now?
What I want you to do now is to write down your ideal reader. List out all the details.
By the time you’re done with this exercise, you should now have written down what specific kind of author you are, a specific description of your topic, and now your specific target audience.
Do you have a clear picture of your ideal reader? Share what that person is like in the comments below!
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