Authors write to be read. Who are you, consciously or subconsciously, writing your book to?
In the beginning, many authors write for an audience of one: themselves. However, as writers prepare a book for publication, it becomes necessary to ask yourself: who do you hope will read your story? Answering that question will help you on your road to publication.
The Biggest Mistake
Many authors fail to identify their target audience because they don't realize how important it is. Identifying a target audience is about realizing who will want your book, and tailoring your marketing campaign to make sure those people can easily find your book. It's the first step in forming a successful marketing campaign
You may feel that if you define an "audience" that doesn't include everyone, you are limiting your book's potential, but that isn't the case. By identifying your book's genre and intended age group, the right readers will be able to find (and buy!) your book easier.
For example, imagine your book as an item of food. If you just call it "food," shoppers won't know where in the grocery store to find your product - especially with so many competing food items available. However, if you specify it as a "fruit," it will point shoppers in the right direction. By getting even more specific, "apples," you are no longer struggling to push readers toward your products. Instead, shoppers looking for apples will know exactly where to find you.
To make a literary parallel, identifying your book as "a book" only points readers to the boo store, while an age category, Young Adult, will point them to the correct section, and the genre, "Fantasy", leads them to the exact shelf.
If you can't divide your book into a specific age category and genre, neither can your reader, or the book seller, or agents or publishers. In short, if you, the author, can't identify where your book belongs, who can?
Knowing Your Book
We mentioned earlier that identifying a target audience is the first step of building a successful marketing plan. If you are planning to self-publish, you'll appreciate how important marketing is. Even if you are planning to traditionally publish, an author's ability to market still matters.
But why? Isn't it the job of the book seller or the publisher to identify where the book should go? Won't they do all of the marketing?
The publishers should help with your marketing to an extent, but they can't do all of it. After all, who is in charge of marketing your book to agents or publishers? You.
The more you know about marketing, and the stronger your marketing plan, the more successful your book will be.
It Isn't A Popularity Contest
Lastly, knowing your target audience doesn't just help you get your book to that audience. It helps you keep perspective when the book reaches the wrong audience. Good and bad reviews will happen to your book. Being able to identify when a book has been reviewed by someone who is not in your target audience can protect an author's self esteem and ego. After all, someone who loves pears won't be giving your apple as good of a review as they'd give a pear.
Not every reader is your intended audience, and that's a good thing.
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