The number one reason that authors don’t sell enough books is they fail to connect with their ideal audience. And the number one reason that occurs is because authors think their book is appealing to everybody.

What exactly is an ideal audience?

AudienceThe ideal audience is the reader most likely to be attracted to your book. Think of it this way: suppose some friends are hosting a Super Bowl party. It is halftime and everyone is watching the commercials (half the fun of a Super Bowl, right?) And it just so happens that one of the commercials is for your book.

Who in that room is interested? There might be children present, ranging from the infant cradled in Mom’s arms to the college kids home on break. In one corner a group of new mothers chat about the latest in toddler fashions. In another corner, hard-charging businessmen are conducting tips on dynamic new startups. A few couples have their homes on the market because they’re downsizing, moving into retirement communities. A group of college-age women are trading cosmetic tips. More than one has their eye on someone of the opposite sex. A couple of dogs and cats wander through; they’re the hosts’ pets and some people are repulsed by them while others can’t stop petting them. A few religious scholars are debating as they check out the buffet.

Which group is your target market?

PressIf you’re still clueless, here’s a great way to figure it out: check out your competition. But first, let’s redefine ‘competition’. We normally think of a competitor as someone who is competing for the same dollars that you are. But rarely does an avid reader hold up one book in one hand and another book in the other and choose between the two; they’re most likely to purchase both if they are equally appealing. So your competition is not necessarily the person who is competing against the same dollars, but the author that already has the audience that you want as your own.

Don’t think of the author you met at your last convention whose first book will be released sometime next year. Think instead of the author who has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list multiple times; the author that has millions of fans eagerly awaiting his or her next book.

Identify at least five authors that write in the same genre as you do; whose books could be compared to yours and who have topped the bestseller lists more than once. Then go to their websites. What do they have that your website does not?

Check out their blogs. What are they writing about? How often do they blog? Can you see the list of their followers? If so, click through on a few of them. What age group are they? Male or female? Do they have anything in common on their profiles?

Click through to the authors’ social media links. View their profiles in Twitter and Facebook and click on “Followers” to see who is following them. What do they have in common?

The pieces of the puzzle you’re looking for are:

Multiple Generations in Book StoreAge group


Location (regions or countries)

Movies or television shows mentioned

Other books mentioned




Family (single, married, children at home, empty-nesters, grandparents, etc.)

Get in front of them

Find MoneyOnce you’ve identified the people who are most likely to purchase your type of book, you need to make them aware of you. One method is to boost a Facebook post or create an ad for Facebook and/or Twitter. Try it for a three-day weekend when more people are likely to be unwinding from work and surfing their social media feeds. Enter the author names that you’ve identified as your competition and their following will see your ad or post in their feeds. Enter keywords that identify movies or television shows they might mention, hobbies, interests and careers. What you’re doing is weeding out all the people that are least likely to purchase so the only ones left in the room are the ones that will enthusiastically receive your advertisement.

You can also follow another author’s followers on Twitter or send them a Friend Invitation on Facebook. That won’t cost you any money but it can take much longer to get your name in front of all of them, especially if there are millions of followers.

Never buy followers; chances are you’ll get a group of people from a country where your book is not likely to sell and they won’t match the demographics that make someone your ideal reader. It is not about how many people are connected with you, but how many ideal readers are connected with you. You can have 100,000 followers and 100 might be interested; or you could have 1,000 followers in which all are interested. It’s all about connecting with the right market.

p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 21 books in several genres. Her first book was published in 1984 and she became a full-time writer in 2002. She has mentored authors for more than 15 years and is the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and the founder of the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. For more information, visit