How long has it been since you identified your ideal target audience? Watch the video below or read this content below the video.
Your ideal reader is the person looking for precisely what you have just written. They are passionate about reading your work, devouring every page, identifying with one or more of the characters, and placing themselves into the setting you have created. They go even further than purchasing and reading your book; they tell their friends, write a review or help spread the word.
Your ideal reader cannot be painted with a broad brush. Your writing contains nuances, personality, a portrait of life on every page. Not every woman will identify with it. Not every man will. Not every person of any age. Not every person of every culture, nationality, belief or race. Readers are individuals.
You should identify your ideal reader periodically throughout your writing career. Sometimes it is obvious when you are reaching to a new audience, particularly if you write children’s books, young adult books, nonfiction and suspense. But often our audience changes in more subtle ways:
- When your writing becomes edgier, cozy mysteries may morph into harder suspense;
- If you begin adding characters from other cultures or nationalities;
- If you begin adding more romance, particularly if sex scenes become more graphic;
- If you change the setting;
- If you change the era;
- If you add elements not found in your other books—such as medical technology
If you don’t assess your audience with each book you write, you may be marketing to the wrong group. If your sales, for example, were higher when you first started than they are today, you should look first at the quality of your writing and second at your target market. It’s possible that by changing just one aspect of your writing, your writing left your previously defined ideal market—but your marketing did not.
An example is found with John Grisham’s A Painted House. This book was published in 2001 when Grisham’s suspense was extremely popular. Initial reviews were not kind because his following was expecting suspense. The book, however, was excellently written; inspired by Grisham’s childhood in rural Arkansas, it became my favorite of his work because I could identify with the Chandler family, having lived for a time in the Mississippi Delta. The reviews eventually caught up with the book’s excellence because the marketing campaign adjusted to reach audiences outside of Grisham’s suspense readers.
Other times, the changes in writing are spectacularly different. For example, an author that was once one of my favorites wrote a fabulous series set in Ireland that involved time travel similar to that experienced in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I was eagerly awaiting her next novel, telling all my friends and followers that they should read her work, only to discover that she had completely changed her focus to gay porn. I was no longer her target market, and neither were my friends and followers. She then segued into vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. With each new genre, she left her old audience behind and started with a new audience to varying degrees of success, eventually being dropped by her NY publisher and self-publishing. There is certainly nothing wrong with writing in a variety of genres, but it should be part of a concerted effort, a career choice carefully weighed. Everyone from the writer to the publisher to the marketing team should be aware of the shift.
If you have written in a variety of genres, you should establish a separate marketing plan for each genre, identifying each audience as a different set. The author name becomes a brand in which the audience expects certain things. Remember when Coca-Cola changed their formula, only to bring it back as Classic once consumers rebelled against the new formula? Unfortunately with writing, we may never know why our readers have turned away. When changing our writing, we should be prepared to replace those we lose with those we gain, and the gain should be substantially higher in order to justify the metamorphosis.
Who are you writing for? Has your audience changed over time?
If you’d like step-by-step instructions on how to find your ideal target audience (even if you don’t have a clue) check out my 52-Step Marketing Plan. It not only helps you find your target audience but also takes you through connecting with them on a variety of platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, blogging, email campaigns and even mailed campaigns. You can view a list of all the topics at this link.
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