Step Four: Know Your Audience
If you were taking a class in marketing, this is the process you'd go through in order to create a marketing plan. So once you "know yourself," "know your strengths and weaknesses," and "know your goal," the fourth step you'll need to complete is to know your target audience.
Who are your readers? What are they like? What is their age? Their sex? What are their interests? What do they like and dislike? What do they find interesting? If you could describe your readers, what words would you use? What do they all share in common? What you're trying to do here is to identify the similarities among those who will be interested in your book. Beginning writers tend to say, "Everyone will like my book! It appeals to young and old, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, religious and nonreligious…" Except marketing has proven that's not true. Groups of people tend to like a product, while other groups tend to ignore that same product. So who is your group? How would you describe them? As your grandma used to say, "Birds of a feather flock together." So… who is your flock?
And where are they? (Geography can have a lot to do with marketing your books.) Where do they congregate? If they tend to reside in the South, that dictates where you'll market. If they tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, that helps you know how best to market your work. If they tend to travel a lot, that says something about where you'll find them, and how you can reach out to them. So don't skip this part of the plan — spend time thinking through who your reader is, what he or she is like, and where they tend to go.
Think through the question, "What are their needs and wants?" Most fiction is written to entertain, so readers are looking for an entertainment that appeals to their interests. What do they want? They want a story that appeals — so if you know your readers, you'll know what they find appealing. Most nonfiction is written in a problem/solution format — that is, the potential reader has a problem ("My cholesterol is too high" or "I want to know how to communicate with my teenage daughter" or "I need to know how to save for retirement") and the author presents a solution. So with nonfiction, your potential reader comes into the store with a question in mind, looking for a book that presents an answer. (That's not always true — there are also memoirs and history books that are simply interesting reading, and in those cases the reader is looking to be entertained or educated, but the potential readers still approach the bookshelf with certain desires they want fulfilled.) Knowing what your reader wants, then providing it, is the key to nearly all marketing.
If you know your audience, you can determine where they'll be, so you can go stand in front of them. You'll also be able to best determine how to approach them and what to say. Answering all these questions will help you begin to make choices about what type of marketing you're going to do, where you'll do it, when you'll do it, and what you'll emphasize. So don't assume your book is for everyone, at all times. It's not — no book is. Instead, make some choices so you can begin to focus your marketing plan.