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by Patricia Fry

How to Determine The Target Audience for Your Book

In these competitive times, the promotions portion of one’s book proposal is among the most important aspects. A publisher wants to know that you have a grasp on your target audience and that you understand how to reach them.

Who is your target audience? Who are the primary readers for your book? What segment of the population did you have in mind when you conceived the idea for this book? Who did you want to help, educate, inform or entertain? And PLEASE do not say, “Everyone.” Say this to a publisher and you will definitely receive a rejection letter. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all book. Even the world’s best-selling book, the Bible, isn’t embraced by all of humanity. Tell a publisher that your audience is everyone and you’ve just blown your professional cover.

Now get real. Who is your target audience? Let’s say that you’re writing a book called Doggie Dress Up. Who would buy this book? Most likely, they are people who currently dress their dogs, people who sell canine clothing and people who would like to dress up their dogs, right? Throw in a few dog owners who are curious about such things and add them all up. There’s your potential target audience.

For a book on writing and publishing you could state the following statistic, “Nearly eighty-one percent of the population believe they have a book in them and there are around six million manuscripts circulating through publishing companies in any given year.” This certainly indicates a large enough audience to support a book on authorship. Of course, that is unless the market is already saturated with such books. But then, that’s another article.

When I prepared a book proposal for my book on youth mentoring, I informed the publisher that there are twenty-three million children who go to bed each night without a father in the home. I said that many of those children could use a mentor.

I stated that there are over two million mentors currently working with children and that those mentors could use a book that offers tips and activities for mentors. There are another fifteen million children who say they want a mentor. This establishes a need for a book that will encourage mentoring and, in fact, show men and women who want to help, how to participate.

Last year at a book festival, an author came to me asking for help promoting his book. It was a scientific view designed to disprove the concept of God. Putting my prejudices aside, I asked the author, “Who is your target audience?” He quickly responded, “Everyone.” I said, “Everyone will want to read this book?” And he said, “Everyone should read this book.”

I urged him to think again about who would want to read this book and where the author might find these readers. I suggested that people with the same views as his would be most likely to purchase this book. He agreed. I said, “Then, you will find readers for your book at the same places you frequent—the same Web sites, the same meetings and the same social circles. These people read the sort of magazines you read and subscribe to the same newsletters. That’s where you’ll find your audience.”

Of course, he dreamed of bookstore managers eagerly scooping up his book by the box load and stocking them front and center where every curiosity seeker would find them. And this is simply not going to happen unless the book is published by a mega, large or medium publisher. Bookstores generally won’t stock self-published or POD published books. I’ve even known of traditional royalty publishers who couldn’t get their books into bookstores.

Determine your target audience before you ever begin to write your book. In fact, the process of developing a book proposal might cause you to change your focus. One reason to shift gears is to attract a larger audience.

For example, a book designed to teach summer gardening techniques in Northern California would draw a larger audience if it were expanded to cover all of the seasons in the entire northwest. A book teaching senior citizens to fly would have a wider appeal if it included beginning pilots of all ages and a section on how to purchase your first plane.

Attract a more diverse readership by adding another dimension to your book. Create a character in your novel who has a disability or a chronic disease, who has overcome a serious addiction, has a learning disability or is autistic, for example. If you put the right focus on the book and promote it wisely, you could attract an additional segment of readers.

As you can see, determining and locating your potential target audience is sometimes as easy as turning inward. And expanding your audience may be just a matter of shifting the focus of your book or adding another aspect to it.


Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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