How to Build an Author Platform Chapter 2
You wrote a great book, one that everybody and their mother should read. But nobody is reading it. How come? For the majority of books, the reason comes down to not knowing who your audience is. When you begin the writing process, you should do so with your target audience and book marketing plan in mind. You should know why a reader would want to read your book in the first place. What message does your book communicate? What potential impact might it have? Who is the message for? And, as discussed in Chapter 1, how will the reader benefit from reading your book?
When asked who their target reader is, many authors reply, “I don't know,” or “everybody who likes (insert topic here).” Either answer will reduce your book sales and profits. If your book is for “everybody,” how much would it cost you to reach them frequently enough to make an impact (if you could even find a way to do so)? And how do you wrap your brain around the vastness that is “everyone”.
Your book is not for everyone, and the sooner you accept this, the more successful you’ll be. If your goal is to sell books, a lot of books, that’s great! But no writer who has sold books in large quantities has done so by thinking, “My audience is everyone.” It’s hard to build a strategy on “everyone” and much easier and fruitful to narrow your focus.
Successful authors know who their book was written for and they go after those people in particular with very targeted book marketing. Maybe you’ve written a mystery and you’re thinking to yourself that your audience is people who like mysteries. That’s a start, but do you know how old your average reader is? If they’re male or female? If they tend to live on the East Coast or West? If they listen to certain radio shows, read particular magazines, or shop in specific stores?
Or consider you wrote a book about ways to resolve fear and your premise is that everyone is afraid of something on some level. But how can you tell “everyone” the ways in which your book will help them? One way is to divide your target readers into categories. Using these techniques, you might address the people who are afraid of flying, spiders, being in a relationship, or other types of fears individually, building a message specific to those audiences.
Narrowing your audience and knowing the details behind who they are and how they live can help you sell more books, fine-tune the way you communicate to your audience, and determine how best to invest your time and money.
Who is your audience really? Here are a few ways to find out.
Your book format, genre, book cover, writing style, font size, title metadata (such as price, page range, BISAC subject codes, age range, and keywords) will help dictate who your audience is by attracting certain people based on these basic book components alone. For this reason you should use these elements to define who your primary audience will be. Some people may only read ebooks or only print books. Some may only read romance novels, thrillers, or YA. Some readers may only pick up books with people on the cover, or don’t like long books, or books over a certain price.
Your book’s basic makeup will determine some of your audience for you, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t conscious, strategic choices you should make from the outset. Consider these aspects of your readers when you’re setting up your basic book information so that you’re not missing out on your main audience by publishing it in the wrong format or some other misguided specification
Take the time to research other books that would be in the same category, genre, or niche. Search for ‘established’ and ‘top-selling’ books within your category and make a list of the titles and authors. Once you recognize who your competition is, it may be easier for you to pinpoint your potential readers because chances are, you share the same target audience.
When you have identified the established and top-selling books within your genre, look at who is following them on social media. Don’t be surprised how much information can be gained by looking at the interactions and posts. Keep an eye out for the demographics, trends, and other habits that might not be obvious, but can provide a tremendous amount of useful information.
There are several free and paid tools to help you determine your audience. The most obvious places to start, however, are social networks—namely Facebook and Twitter.
Another strategy for social media is to connect with groups and online communities that have shared interests. Run a search on Facebook for groups who are interested in books similar to yours. Look for followers for your book’s genre on Twitter by searching for tweets that contain related hashtags. Carve out some time each day to work on these strategies.
A few simple Google searches will direct you to online communities, blogs, and networks where your target audience is already engaging in information sharing and promotion activities. Look for blogs that are within your genre. Look at the author websites of established and top-selling book authors to see what their articles are about and who is commenting. Engage in guest posting and guest hosting activities to gain exposure to other’s audiences within your target audience.
You can also research current trends to formulate new ideas or refine existing ones. To do that, use tools like Google Trends and Google Adwords. Both platforms will show you how popular a given keyword or subject is. Keep in mind that too much popularity is not a good thing, as there will likely already be hundreds of books on the subject and make it harder to be found or stand out. Find a keyword or phrase that has a decent search history, but is not overly used.
This should help you see where there are gaps in the marketplace. For example, you may be great with interior design, but the marketplace is already flooded with design books. Perhaps instead you want to focus on a particular area, like working with specific materials, how to mix patterns, or something else. The trick is to pick a general subject that pertains to you, and chisel it down into something that doesn't have an overwhelming amount of competition.
Think about who would be interested in the content of your book. Visualize who they are, and what they look like. Remember that you are marketing your book to people, not to faceless segments. So who is the typical person in each segment who will actually purchase your book? If you can describe those individuals and the problems that consume them, you can communicate the ways in which the content of your book can help them.
What if “moms” were singled out as a target segment for your book? Defining the “typical mom” for your book and creating a composite of the person to whom you will promote your book, you might seek answers to the following questions:
Using these questions to help you think about who buys, and considering the why that was covered in Chapter 1, will help you more effectively position your author brand in the minds of your customers.
It’s also important to consider secondary markets. Secondary markets are those that are not the most obvious, but that would also be interested in your book. For example, a children’s book written to help kids manage anger would have a primary audience of children, and a secondary audience of parents, educators, therapists, or others working with children. As tempting as it might be to think the parent would be your primary book audience (children don't usually buy their own books), avoid overthinking this process and focus in on who will be reading the book.
Try to come up with at least five markets for your book—a primary market and four secondary markets. To help you discover other secondary markets, you can start in reverse with a broad audience and then narrow it down.
If you’re having trouble identifying your target audience, ask other authors or industry professionals for help. There are plenty of experts in the publishing industry that can help you define your audience. Book marketing professionals know how to reach certain types of people and where. Book publicists know what kinds of media (newspapers, magazines, radio shows, etc.) certain audiences subscribe to. Social media professionals know how to pinpoint specific audiences where they spend most of their time, on social platforms.
Even with the tips offered in this course, if the thought of finding your audience and effectively growing your author platform is too overwhelming for you, seek help. The necessity of finding, understanding, and building your audience as an author can’t be over-exaggerated. With no audience, you’ll have no book sales. You need to lay this foundation and then you’ll need to cultivate it.
Once you find your target audience, the focus shifts to building a following. Here are a couple of ways to do this.
This chapter was compiled from the following posts on the IngramSpark blog:
“Tips on How to Target Your Book’s Audience” by Brian Jud, Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales
“6 Tips for Finding Your Book’s Audience” by Rick Lite, Owner Stress Free Book Marketing
“Finding a Niche Market for Your Book” by IngramSpark Staff