Finding Your Book’s Audience: How to Find the Right Market

When you write a letter or email to somebody, you always know who you’re writing to and why. But you’d be surprised how many people write a book without considering these questions. It’s a big reason 10%-35% of books get returned to the publisher unsold and unread. If you want your book to be read, before you write it, you should have clear answers to the questions:

  • Who am I writing to?
  • Why would they want to read what I write instead of doing something else with their time?

You can answer both questions at once if you realize that the reason people will read your book is if you’re offering something they need. When you factor this in, you can answer both questions at once using this formula:

I am writing to people who need X.

But how do you find what X is? And where do you find people who need X?

Finding Your Audience

To answer these questions, it helps to bear in mind how you’re going to be promoting your book later. The channels you’ll be using to promote your book will determine who will be reading it–who your prospects are. This in turn will determine what those prospects need.

Promotion is a separate topic covered in more detail elsewhere on this site and in our book Publishing for Publicity, but for now let’s consider it as it impacts marketing. Where are you going to find prospects who will want to read your book? There are various possible sources, including:

  • Your existing and past customers.
  • Customers of your joint venture partners.
  • Customers of your competitors.
  • Readers of traditional and online publications and information products in your field, such as articles, newsletters, books, audios, and videos.
  • Attendees of your speeches, seminars, and training programs.
  • Listeners to your interviews.
  • Audiences exposed to your community relations activity.
  • Audiences exposed to your direct mail campaigns.
  • Audiences exposed to your traditional or online ads.
  • Internet users searching on a target keyword or visiting a target website.
  • Mobile phone users.

Which of these prospect sources will be the primary target of your promotional campaign? Focus your market research on the type of source that best represents the audience you will be trying to reach later.

So if you’re looking for more customers similar to your current customers, you might focus your market research on surveying your current customers.

But if you’re planning to promote your book in a traditional or online publication, you should study that publication to understand your market.

If you’re planning to promote your book at your seminars, you might survey your seminar attendees.

If you’re planning to run a direct-mail or ad campaign, you should do some test mailings or ad testing.

If you’re planning to promote yourself online, you might put up a blog and survey visitors.

These illustrate just a few of the ways you can identify your audience by identifying the promotional channels where you intend to contact them.

Finding What Your Audience Needs

Once you’ve found your audience, how do you find out what they need? The best way is to ask.

How you ask them depends again on how you intend to contact them. For instance:

  • If they’re existing customers, you might interview them personally or mail out surveys, ideally with some incentive to encourage their participation.
  • If they’re readers of publications, you can study these publications for clues, such as which article topics are most popular, which ads run most often, and what subjects occupy letters to the editor.
  • If they’re attendees of speaking events, you can ask for a show of hands or pass out surveys.
  • If they’re to be contacted through direct-mail or ads, you can use low-cost methods such as postcards and classified ads to test response.
  • If they’re online, blog surveys work well, and blog and forum comments and frequently asked questions are also informative.

However you contact your audience, you goal is to ask them what they need. A good way to do this is to present a list of up to ten potential book topics and ask them what they’d most like to see covered. If possible, when they answer, follow up by asking them why that topic is important to them and what they would hope to get out of a book about it.

Once you know what your audience needs, you’re in a position to offer to meet that need. But first you should check out what your competition is already doing to meet that need. For more tips on how to do this and see your book through to publication, read the other articles on this site and go to Amazon to check out our book Publishing for Publicity.