Example conversation with an author whose audience is too big:
Wise Ink (WI): So, you’ve written a nonfiction book on dating in the modern world. Who is your target audience?
Author (A): Well, I think my book is really for everyone who wants to learn how to date by the rules of now.
WI: No, but really, specifically, who are you trying to reach?
A: Well…I guess men and women, ages 18 – 95.
WI: Do you think men or women would be more likely to read it?
A: Hmmm…I think it will probably be equal.
WI: Okay, so do these people have any shared interests?
A: They would probably be people interested in learning how to date by the rules of now.
WI: Yeah…you said that.
I get it. It’s difficult to narrow down your audience, because it feels like you’re cutting out whole sections of people who might be interested in your book. Who knows, right? You could go into an eleventh-grade health class and get as many interested parties as if you were a presenter at an Elk’s Club luncheon! So why should you limit yourself?
This all-too-common mistake (and misunderstanding) leaves authors drowning in a world where consumers are getting hit at every turn. If you haven’t thought about specific audiences, it tells editors, publishers, agents, and booksellers that you haven’t done your research AND that you don’t care to be marketing your book in a smart way. If you don’t care about marketing your book in a smart way, how are you going to drive profit to your agents, editors, publishers, and booksellers (including yourself)? And if you’re not going to drive profit to them (or, incidentally, to yourself), why should they care to help you sell your book? It’s not all about profit, either. If you don’t limit yourself to select audiences, at the beginning at the very least, it will be much more difficult for you to know your next step in marketing.
When narrowing down your target audience(s), be ruthless with specificity! If you get to broaden it later because of your book’s broadening success (when your book is actually published and has sold hundreds or thousands of copies in a short amount of time), great! But at the beginning of the publishing process, and at the start of marketing, it’s imperative to narrow it down so that the marketing process is conceivable, so that you can make the most of every effort you make to sell your book. An example of a well-defined audience:
Ages 21 – 30
Incomes between $30,000 and $70,000
Near metropolises of at least 50,000
Own a smartphone
See how much easier it would be to target this audience than it would be to target “men and women 18 – 95 with an interest in learning how to date by the rules of now”? In marketing to this audience, you would know much more easily and quickly which stores, radio stations, publications, networking groups, etc. you should target when jumping in the marketing process. This saves you time (and probable money), and gets your book into the world much faster. Also, when media and booksellers see how well you’re getting your book to your target, they’ll be much happier supporting you.