I was talking to an author friend, and she’s working on a series that has been difficult for her to finish because she worries that people are going to think the books suck. I originally intended to write a post on confronting this horrible feeling (because I have it from time to time, too). I don’t think any writer is immune to worrying their book will not resonate with the right crowd.
But then I thought, “Who is the right crowd?” If we define who we’re writing for and craft our book directly to that group of people, I think we will have a book they will love reading. If we write for the wrong crowd, then they will not like our book. So today, I’m going to discuss how to find out who your target audience is. Once you have defined that, you can then take a look at character tropes and plot tropes that your audience loves and craft a story around those elements.
Not all audiences are the same. (Thankfully.)
There’s a saying that goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Fortunately, we live in a world where people have a wide range of interests. You aren’t stuck writing only to one group of people.
Your target audience are the people you are writing for. Take a look at books that are similar to the one you’re writing. What are the reviews like? Why do people love those books? Why do they hate them? For example, there is a group of romance readers who hate sex scenes. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to write a spicy romance, then that particular group is not in your target audience. If one happens to read your book, they will likely give it a negative review because the book did not meet their expectations.
Your goal as a writer is to find out what your audience’s expectations are and then write your story in a way that will meet those expectations.
Why do people love or hate your book?
Let’s say you already have a book or two out, and you don’t know why someone loves or hates your books. You want to know if you’re on the right track or if you need to change direction. It could be that you think you’re writing for one particular audience when in reality, you’re really writing for another one. The best way to find out is by gathering as much feedback as possible.
But how can you get feedback if no one is contacting you to let you know why they liked or didn’t like your book?
I used to say, “Don’t ever read your reviews.” But when I think about it, new writers often get feedback this way. They don’t often get emails, comments on blog posts, or messages on Facebook from people who like or don’t like their books. So one of the ways they’re going to find out who they’re pleasing and not pleasing is through reviews. The best way to get reviews if you’re new is by offering a free book. This can be on the retail site like Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, or Smashwords, or it can be on Wattpad.
Another great way of getting feedback is by getting beta readers who love books in the genre you’re writing for. (A thriller reader won’t read a romance the same way a romance reader will. Also, a Christian romance reader will not read an erotic romance the same way an erotic romance reader will. So when you look within the genre, narrow the search down even farther. The key is to find people in your target audience.)
If you offer your story for free and aren’t getting reviews or you can’t find beta readers, then I don’t know what to tell you except maybe hire a content editor who can look at the complete story and give you their opinion. Ideally, this content editor will be familiar with your genre and know the rules for the genre. (Every genre has a certain set of rules. Following those rules often means happy readers. Not following them will mean unhappy readers.)
There is value in good and bad feedback.
I admit that finding out why someone hates your book is never any fun. No one wants to hear why their book failed to make a good impression with the reader. But there is value in knowing why they didn’t because sometimes the very reason someone hated your book is the reason why someone else loved it.
I’ll give an example of how negative feedback actually helped me fine-tune my target audience. I once participated in a multi-author boxed set. We had quite a few reviews. There were some of the five-star reviews of “loved all the books” without specifying why. But guess what? Every time someone mentioned my book, they did not like it. After removing myself emotionally from the situation, I realized I wasn’t writing for the same audience that the other authors were. (These other authors, by the way, are awesome authors, and they sell way better than I do. So it was me that was “off” in the boxed set. I was the one who wasn’t writing the book that their particular audience wanted.) After analyzing all of the reviews, I realized everyone who hated my book didn’t like my hero because they saw him as being weak. Looking at why they loved the other books, I realized this particular audience preferred alpha heroes. I write beta heroes. So for readers looking for alpha heroes, I’m not going to please them. My book was not a good match for the other authors’ books. Those authors wrote what those readers were looking for, and I didn’t. Does that mean my book sucked? Not to the people who are my fans. They prefer beta heroes. How do I know my fans like beta heroes? They’ve told me. One of the compliments I get the most is that my heroes are sweethearts. So that is the group I’m aiming for.
There is a reason why we attract certain readers. This key is knowing WHY people love or hate your book. Your goal in narrowing down your target audience is to find out who you’re writing for. Once you have that figured out, you can tailer your cover, book description, characters, and your plot to that group of people. When you do that, hopefully, the interest and sales will go up.