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How To Find Your Target Market

    Categories: Marketing and Promotion

OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn

This article addresses a question I know writers struggle with all the time. Most of us would love to think that our books will touch the world, but it just isn’t true.

You can’t have all the cupcakes!

Your book will only ever appeal to a specific group of people and your marketing life will be a LOT easier if you identify who they are, and then where they are.

In today’s article, Nick Thacker goes through an easy process to get started on this difficult process.

The elusive “target market.”

Demographics.

“Ideal reader.”

These words tend to make event the most business-savvy writer go crazy, for one reason:

Writers aren’t marketers, right? 

Wrong.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably an “indie” author, or self-published writer, or whatever term you want to use. You don’t have a multi-million dollar publishing conglomerate behind you, and you most likely never will (by choice!).

In that case, you probably also know that you are a marketer — at least when it comes to your own work.

If you won’t market your book, who will?

The best writers are the ones who know their readers well. 

Think about it: your favorite author isn’t, in your mind, the best because he or she writes objectively better than all of the other writers out there. That author is the best because they write what you want to read.

Arguably, they probably also write what they want to read — but at the end of the day, they’re not the ones buying their books — you are.

In the same way, you as a writer need to recognize, acknowledge, and write for your readers.

But first you need to find them…

Finding your target market (readership) can seem like a daunting task, but it’s really not. I’ve written about this before, and I used to work at a marketing company full-time — marketing is fun to me, and it’s also something that works when it’s done well.

Here is my dead-simple strategy for finding your target market:

1. Start with yourself. 

There’s an inconceivably small chance you’re writing something that you wouldn’t want to read. I’ve never met an author (at least a successful one) who wrote outside of a genre they enjoyed reading.

It just doesn’t work — and readers can tell.

So start there: who are you? If you can figure out who you are (and really, you should be able to!), you can get a head start on marketing to other people like you. For example:

  • I am a 26-year-old male
  • I live in the United States
  • I love to read action/adventure thrillers, with a taste for historical intrigue
  • I like movies like National Treasure, Da Vinci Code, and Lord of the Rings
  • I’m college-educated, and like to engage in activities that make me think

Just from that assessment of myself, I know that my broad target market might look like this:

  • Male
  • US-based
  • Enjoys books that are fast-paced
  • Enjoys movies that follow a proven story arc (3-Act Play)
  • Educated

See how easy that was?

Here’s the exercise: do this for yourself. Literally write down your “assessment” of yourself as a consumer, at least as it pertains to your book-buying and book-reading preferences. Don’t hold back! Write as much as you can, and be specific! Next, write out the same assessment in more general terms (“Male” or “Female,” “Country,” etc.).

2. Expand to “ideals.” 

Once you’ve got a clear idea of your “personal assessment,” it’s time to expand out a little bit into related territory.

Think about your “circle” of friends who enjoy similar activities, styles, and cultural activities as you. Maybe they read the exact same novels, but they’re slightly more interested in fan fiction. Describe them.

Think about your family — they often have closely aligned tastes (after all, they sort of made you!). Do they travel a lot more than you, but still enjoy a good read? Maybe you all go to the same movies? Describe them.

Your overall assessment should now include ranges rather than specific numbers, locations, etc.:

  • Male, between the ages of 25 and 40
  • English-speaking countries
  • Enjoy “Hollywood”-style movies
  • Educated with at least a few years of university

See what’s happening? You started with yourself, and extrapolated from that a more generic description of yourself, then “zoomed out” to include more people who fit these ideals.

You can even include religion, race, interest groups, etc., if your book might touch on one or more of those areas.

Here’s the exercise: Create a “target market ideals” list using the above information. Try to expand your horizons to related arenas, not just include the same areas as your personal assessment. 

3. Study your habits and activities. 

This is the part of the equation I’m most interested in, for two reasons: 1. I get to see my own habits and have to be brutally honest with myself, and 2. I get to analyze these things and use them to market to others in my “target market” ranges.

I use an app on my MacBook Pro called RescueTime, a time-tracker for what I’m doing whenever I’m on my computer. At the end of each week I get a report with my overall productivity score and major areas I’ve spent time. However, what I’m most interested in is the online report, which shows a breakdown of every website, every program, and every minute of my days. They even do a pretty good job of guessing the category and productivity level of each of these things (e.g. “email” is not as productive as “WordPress”).

Taking this information, I can see where I’ve spent a lot of time. It turns out that I’m not much of a Facebook-er, but I do tweet a lot (for me, 2 hours a week on the actual Twitter website or Buffer translates into a lot of tweets, as they’re only 140 characters long!).

Do you see the value in this? I’m not going to drop a lot of money targeting Facebook users, but I might want to secure a few “paid tweets” from people I follow, or at least seek out some retweets.

…And that’s just the time on my computer. I also (try) to track what I’m doing offline — watching reruns of The Office (usually), reading nonfiction business books (often), or cooking (sometimes).

Here’s the exercise: Try to spend at least a week tracking your activity on and off the computer. See what you’re doing. Then start thinking like a marketer or advertiser trying to reach you. What channels/avenues/mediums would work best? What websites would you be most likely to be found on? Again, write a list. 

Put it all together. 

Your target market should now start taking very real shape. You’ve outlined yourself (the best chance you have at selling something to yourself, and people like you), and you’ve outlined a more general “ideals”-based market demographic. Then, you took the next step and found the areas that people like you will be spending the most time in.

The only thing you have left to do is actually use that information.

For that reason, I wrote a short guide called The Ultimate Self-Published Book Marketing Plan, available as a free download on my website. It’s not going to be a “perfect” fit for you and your needs, goals, and desires, but it’s probably a great place to start.

And it’s way better than nothing!

Put it to use, and try out this method of finding your target reader I’ve outlined above. I think you’ll find that the actual process of thinking purposefully about your marketing strategy will not only make you a better marketer for your work, it will make you a better writer — someone more in tune with your readers!

What do you think about all of this? Have you tried marketing your books before? Please leave a comment below, and let’s get discussing!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, marketer, and author who writes about self-publishing and selling books at www.LiveHacked.com.

He also has a free 20-week course on planning and writing a book.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Mark Barkaway

Joanna Penn :

View Comments (17)

  • This breaks the process down nicely. I always thought of writing the book I want to read, but now I can actually see how it might translate into readers, beyond my usual, "well if they like this they will like that... I hope."

  • A very timely article for me Nick! I spent the weekend trying to define my target market, and I never thought of starting with myself. A Doh! moment…! Thank you.

  • I am still doing the traditional highway looking for an exit to a source of income. But another blog pointed out that there are a billion people on the internal community of FACEBOOK. If I could get 100,000 readers to buy just one of my books, I would be happy. It is a small percentage of the registered users of FACEBOOK, but I would really be happy.

  • I truly appreciate this post. For the first time, an author tells me HOW to identify my target market> A million other writers have told me to identify my target market, without telling me how to do it.

    Thank you, Nick.

  • Reading this has been a great way to start getting my head around the whole marketing thing. Thanks so much!

  • I love the breakdown. I've been putting this step off because I wasn't sure how to go about it. All I could think was "I want to read it; I don't know who else..." But that's just me being ridiculous. I'll stop gnawing at my lip and get to it this evening when the kiddos are fast asleep. Thanks again, Nick.

  • I agree with Venkatesh, countless people say "define your target" but NEVER tell you how to go about doing that. You've done a great service to everyone to not only break it down into steps, but to wipe away the fear of not being able to do it right. LOL Thank you very much for this article.

  • Nice article. I never thought about starting with a self-assessment when figuring out my target market. It's a great starting point that I will be utilizing!

  • Thanks for this clarity. I have to laugh though since people are most likely to find me offline. :)

  • Very good article Nick and I'll definately loved at first glance your site. I'm eager to reda more stuff from yours. I have only one little remark: traditional publishers don't provide marketing either. By the way, have you written any fiction?