How to Define Your Target Audience for Writers

Whether you’re trying to sell food or books, there are few skills more important than knowing how to define your target audience. It’s equally important for fiction and nonfiction–and even poetry, for that matter.

In this post, I’m going to share how to help your future agent, editor, bookstore, and reader know how to define your book and who it will help the most. Plus, it will help you build your writing platform. Seriously important stuff.

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Query With Confidence!

Writing a query letter and querying agents can be a frustrating experience for writers, but it’s actually a very simple process.

That’s why Writer’s Digest is offering the Query With Confidence: How to Craft an Eye-Catching Query and Land an Agent live webinar. In it, writers will learn the basic structure of the query letter, the query do’s and don’ts, how to choose appropriate agents, and so much more! Plus, all attendees are invited to submit a one-page query letter for a personalized critique by a literary agent.

Click to continue.

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How to Define Your Target Audience for Writers

  1. Choose a spot in the bookstore. If you go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore and try to find a book, you have to know which section to search. Want a science fiction novel? There’s a section for that. Want to find exotic recipes? Try the cooking/cookbook section. Step one of defining your target audience is figuring out where your book should be shelved (and/or categorized in Amazon).
  2. Define your typical reader. If you’re writing a novel and say that everyone who loves a good story, then you’re not narrowing down enough. Maybe it’s a book that appeals to people who like thrillers. Or romance. Or literary mind benders. Or (insert your novel’s spin here). For nonfiction (with the exception, perhaps, of memoir), this should be even more straightforward. Go beyond where it is shelved and define how your book fits in with its competition.
  3. Further define your reader. Even if you drill down to defining your reader as someone who enjoys mystery novels (as an example), there’s still a finer definition that could be had. Perhaps, your reader likes cozy mysteries. Or maybe murder mysteries–with a slice of thrilling tension. The more you can drill down to the bare bones of what your typical reader wants, the easier it becomes to appeal to them in the query, the copy on the dust jacket, in ads, direct marketing, etc.
  4. Consider secondary markets. Maybe your primary audience is parents for your book on raising healthy and happy children. But there may be a secondary market: grandparents, as well as friends and family of those parents. These are people who know their parent friends would love a good book on how to be the most successful parent they can be. Consider these secondary markets, including how and where to reach them.

Remember: The better you can focus your target audience the better others can visualize who will buy your book. If you can scrounge up numbers to quantify that audience, then you may be able to use that information to hook agents and editors even before digging into your manuscript.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. He edits the Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market books, writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, maintains the Poetic Asides blog, co-hosts a podcast for writers with Brian A. Klems, speaks at conferences, leads online webinars and tutorials, and so much more.

Robert is also the author of Solving the World’s Problems, a poetry collection published by Press 53. A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, he’s been a featured poet across the country at poetry events in Austin, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, and more.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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