Recently, I was discussing successful self-publishing careers with one of my freelance editing clients, and she made an astute observation: Successful authors know their audience. This is important for many writers, but especially for those who self-publish. If you plan to build a successful self-publishing career, it’s important to know who your audience is and what they want. Too often, I see writers trying to aim too broadly. Identifying your audience is a key part of writing, marketing, and selling books successfully.
But how do you identify your audience? Here are several questions to consider:
- What demographic is most likely to read your books?
Can you identify what gender and age range will most likely read your work? There are always exceptions, of course, but certain genres are more likely to be read by certain demographics. If you’re writing a romance, your audience will most likely be women. If you’re writing YA, your audience will most likely be teenage girls. Too often, I see self-published writers trying to market too broadly. Knowing the demographics of your audience will help you target your books more successfully.
- Do you want to write in more than one genre?
There are pros and cons to consider with both. A multi-genre author will have a broader readership, but having a narrower focus on one genre will likely help you build an audience faster. And if you do write in multiple genres, how will you manage it? Will you use a pen name? There’s no wrong answer here, but it’s good to consider what fits best with your goals and be deliberate about your choices.
- What expectations exist in your genre?
Each genre comes with its own expectations. Category romances almost always end in happily-ever-after, mystery readers expect a compelling puzzle to solve, fantasy readers expect a unique world or magic system, etc. Does your work fulfill those expectations or break them? The audience will be different for each. You’ll want to market a romance with a sad ending very differently than a romance with a happy one, for example.
- What popular authors write books similar to yours?
In traditional publishing, comparison titles are hugely important, and I think the same principles apply to self-publishing. When I’m considering a submitted manuscript for acquisition, comp titles are one of the first things I think about. Are there any titles similar to this book? Where does this fit in the marketplace? It’s important to think about comp titles not only from a marketing standpoint but also an editorial one. Before you’ve even finished revisions on your manuscript, it’s helpful to know where your book will fit and who it will appeal to. Is your book too similar to a popular title that’s already published? Is it too different to find a broad audience? To figure out who your audience is and how best to reach them, it’s important to look at the similarities between your book and others.
- What other media might have a similar audience?
Just as you want to consider which books are similar to yours, also consider what TV shows, movies, and other forms of media might have similar audiences. How might you reach them? Knowing similar stories across all forms of media can help you identify your audience.
How do you identify your audience? Are there any other questions to consider? Let me know in the comments!
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