Aiming High and Aiming True: Finding Your Book’s Audience

by Allison Pottern Hoch

WHILE WORKING ON YOUR BOOK, you probably imagined your ideal reader. Maybe an eager young bookworm so drawn into your story they miss their stop on the subway. Or a retiree relaxing by a pool, cracking the spine on your newly minted tome. While this is a great tool for crafting your novel, when it comes to marketing, you need to think bigger. I guarantee you have other readers beyond that ideal, readers you may have not even thought about yet. The key, of course, is getting those readers to show up.

If you read my first post or attended one of my workshops, you’ll know how strongly I believe in preparation. When it comes to marketing yourself, it’s important to have both realistic expectations and a sound plan. Knowing your desired audience before you lift the phone to make a cold call is critical. “Readers” or “fans,” even “children” or “adults” isn’t sufficient. In pitching yourself to any venue or media outlet, they’ll want to know who is going to tune in and how many.

Audience is key to everything: it’ll help determine the best venue, event style, promotional partners, and event date and time. Most books have more than one audience; that’s representative of a rich and varied narrative, bravo! But trying to aim for all those different audiences at the same time, while not impossible, can stretch you thin. By identifying the key audience for an event or marketing strategy, you are focusing and amplifying your energy to reach those specific readers. You’re designing a program in which a consumer can easily see themselves and their interests. And if you know who you’re marketing to, your venues and media outlets will too.

So how do you determine your audience(s)? These three basic questions can get you started. Write down as many answers as you can for each:

  1. Where is it shelved? Where will readers find your book at their bookstore, library, or online retailer?
  2. What are the key themes/details? What will readers latch onto in your book? Does it have a distinctive setting or character(s) that speak to a theme?
  3. Who loves the people who will love your book? Consider your secondary audience: people who may buy or recommend your book for someone else.

Now that you have an idea of who will be reading your book, how do you reach them? By thinking deeply about a single audience, you have the space to get especially creative when it comes to venues and promotion.

  1. What do they like and where do they go? Where do these readers congregate? What kind of events might attract them?
  2. What do they buy? Where does your audience shop? Are there cross-promotional opportunities you can tap into?
  3. What do they tune in to? What media outlets does your audience read? How can you get your name/event in those media sources?

You should have a thorough list now. Hopefully it surprises you! You may find overlap among your audiences—that’s great. For each event or marketing campaign you plan, you should pick one of these audiences as your focus. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to appeal to others on the list, just remember that by having a primary audience for your event, you’ll be able to better prioritize your marketing and event design.

It’s important to consider not only how your audience will connect with your book but also how they connect with each other and the community at large. These points of intersection are where you’ll find your best ideas: interesting venues, creative promotional partnerships, inventive themes. First, meet your audience where they are. Because once your book is in the world, you don’t just want readers. You want to develop a fan base who, when they have a taste of your writing and personality, will come back for more.

Next month: Ask an Event Coordinator Q&A! What do YOU want to know about event planning or marketing? Drop your question in the comments or tweet me @apottern and you might see your question answered in next month’s column.

Allison Pottern HochAllison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She organized, hosted, and promoted over 150 events during her tenure, ranging in size from intimate workshops and lunches to multi-media events with over 700 attendees. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and book event coach. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea. http://events.pottern.com.

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