If you can define your target audience, I think it’s easier to write your books to satisfy them. Part of writing is writing what you are passionate about, and that’s where you start with finding your target audience. You want readers who are passionate about reading what you’re writing, and if you can get them excited about your books, you’re halfway there. The other half is to keep writing and publishing books to give them something to look forward to and more books to read. The saying, “You’re only as good as your next book” is true. You might sell well today, but that doesn’t mean your current book(s) will always be selling like it is now. Sales fluctuate. What you get one month isn’t what you might get the next, so that is why you need to keep your target audience aware that you have more books coming. That’s why a blog and/or website is great. You can keep them informed on what you’re working on and when you’ll have a new book out. I like the blog best for this because people can subscribe to it and receive updates in their inbox. I’m not a fan of mailing lists. I know they’re popular. I know we’re told to use them. But the problem is that I had about two people in the past who said they had issues with a couple of my books (after asking to be on the mailing list). I asked them if they wanted me to remove them from my mailing list, but they never answered. Then I wondered if they ever got my email, read it, or what. And if I still sent them the newsletter, would they want it or if I removed them from the list, would they be upset because while they didn’t like the two books, they liked everything else. It left too many questions I couldn’t resolve. I ended up removing them, and maybe that seems like a no-brainer, I don’t want to have to ask someone if they still want to be on a list or not. So I have a newsletter blog with a sign up option. If they want to subscribe, they can. If they want to unsubscribe, they can. And I don’t have to get involved. For me, it’s perfect.
But anyway, back to the topic. So the first part of attracting your target audience is to write what you’re passionate about and the other part is to keep publishing books. Don’t rush the writing or publishing, but I recommend getting on a schedule and setting aside time to write if you want to see significant progress because if you don’t have a plan for your time, it’ll slip from your fingers.
Now, how do you define your target audience? You need to know who your audience is. It makes no sense to make blog posts, tweets, facebook status updates, participate in forums (as a reader–not an author) to the wrong group of people. You’ll be wasting your time if you assume every single person 18-100 is going to enjoy your book. You shouldn’t be broadcasting your book to everyone. You should be using your efforts where they’ll make the biggest impact, and for the record, I’m not a fan of the “Buy my book!” or “I’m an author and this is my books” kind of posts or comments. I’m more into the “participate and engage with others and if they think I have something interesting to say, they’ll check me out” kind of person. Now if someone asks you about your book while you’re participating in a forum, then by all means, tell them about the book but I’d wait for an invitation from a stranger (not from a friend who is planted there to ask). Readers are getting skeptical of reviews and comments because some authors have been abusing the system by creating false identities or having a friend/family member contribute as if they don’t know the author.
So who is your target audience? I made a list of a couple questions to help you identify this group.
1. Women or men? Which group is more likely to be interested in your books? Whether society wants to admit it or not, men and women are different. They’re biologically different. Besides the obvious physical differences, did you know men see better at longer distances and women have better peripheral vision? The way they process information and react to things is different. For example, while men can shut down their minds, women can’t. Men are better at focusing on one task at a time while women excel in multi-tasking. These are all general rules. There are exceptions, but overall, these are things that apply. Another general stereotype that applies is that women are emotionally driven while men are driven by action. So what kind of book do you have? Do you appeal more to the emotions or to action? There’s a good reason why romance tend to attract female readers while thrillers tend to attract men. There’s a reason why men who write romances often take on female pen names and why female authors have been known to abbreviate their initials or take on male pen names. (Again, I speak in general terms. There are going to be men and women who defy these stereotypes, but there’s a good reason why these are stereotypes.) So, who are you writing for? Men or women?
2. What is the religious or non-religious affiliation of your target audience? What is the political affiliation of your target audience?
We all have something we believe in, and the spiritual place is a good one to start with. What are the values in your books? What are the underlying themes in your book? I’m not saying you can’t bring up religious ideas to a group who isn’t religious, but is your target audience going to be in line with what you are ultimately saying? Every book has values embedded into it. Even the idea that there is no right or wrong and that truth is all relative is a value. It’s similar with causes we believe in. These are things personal to readers, and if you’re going against the grain of what they hold dear, I don’t think they’ll enjoy your book, no matter how well you write it. So why would you market a book to a group who doesn’t share in the values that are paramount in your books? So think about if religion is or isn’t important to your audience, and if religion is, then what type of religious affiliation is important to them? And think about what political views are important to them. I don’t want to get into specifics since I’m not a fan of religious or political arguments, but you get my gist, right? If you’re having trouble coming up with the answers, then list down your own religious (or non-religious) values and political views. Chances are, you have embedded those right into your books to some degree because the only way to be passionate about your stories is to put some of yourself into them.
3. What age group is best for your book? Is this group primarily single, married, divorced, widowed, has kids, doesn’t have kids, part of a traditional or non-traditional family?
Stuff like that plays a part in who might be interested in your books. When I was single, my interests were different than they are as a married woman with four children. My point of reference has changed. I think the needs of a single person are different from that of a married person, and the needs of a divorced person is different from the other two groups. A person with kids has a different mindset than one who doesn’t. A person who doesn’t come from a traditional set-up will see things differently from someone who does. For example, when I was single and in college, these married women with young kids (the non-traditional student) would talk about Rugrats, a TV show about these babies and toddlers who got into all kinds of mischief. I remember thinking that the show sounded stupid. But then I had kids, and to be honest, if the kids like something, I leave it on the TV because the house is quiet for a short time. In the process of this, I got hooked on the show and saw the humor, but I needed the frame of reference only a parent could bring to it. Otherwise, it wasn’t as entertaining.
From all of this, you should be able to come to a broad conclusion about the demographics of your target audience. And when you do, you can better write stories more defined for them and get a better idea of what kind of posts to write and comments to post on social media sites. It’s not easy. It’ll take a while to get this worked out, but watch who is emailing you. Get a feel for their interests, what they like about your books, and basic facts about their lives (married, not, etc). Also get a feel for those who hate your books. Why do they hate them? Is there a difference (overall) between those who love your books and those who hate them? That will also help you know how to become a better writer. You are not writing for those outside your target audience. You are writing for those who are, and your next book is your most powerful marketing tool. So remember your audience when you’re writing. :D