Skip to main content

The Roundabout Blog

Redefining Your Audiences

One of the most important parts of a publishing process is to identify your targeted readers. Who are those members of the book reading public that would identify themselves as—what Stephen King calls—your “ideal readers”? Whether you think they are in your targeted group of readers isn’t as important or as relevant as whether or not they see themselves as part of your audience.

A writer’s belief that their book has broad appeal has little bearing on whether it will have any attraction for readers. It can be helpful to consider what percentage of 100 readers might be predisposed to pick up your book and even give it a chance. In fact, imagine yourself standing on the floor of a large arena—the Roman Coliseum, perhaps—with 100,000 people in the stands around you. How many of these 100,000 persons might choose your book?

Smart People Want My Book

Would you say that your book will appeal to high school graduates? Yes? Okay. Statistics show that 33% of high school graduates will never read another book after graduation. If your arena has 100,000 high school grads, your possible audience just shrank to about 66,000 people. As of 2012, about 87.65% of US students graduated high school. 66% of those people—the graduates—will read another book; not quite 58,000 people.

Would you say that your book will appeal better to college graduates? Great. Or is it? Statistics show that 42% of college graduates will never read another book after graduation. If your arena has 100,000 college graduate, that’s 58,000 folks. But as of 2012, about 40.58% of US students went on to graduate with either an associates or bachelor’s degree. From 100,000 folks in the arena, you’re left with just over a third of the stadium who will read at least one more book; 34,000 readers in a stadium of 100,000. Are they likely to pick yours?

Let’s assume—unlikely as it is—that each of these 100,000 arena attendees represent individual households. States show that 80% of US households will not purchase a book during the calendar year. That leaves you with 20,000 folks in the stands who will purchase at least one book during the next year. Let’s call these folks readers. They’re you’re most likely customers.

Selling to the Readers

But what will they buy? Will 20,000 people be members of your target audience? Probably not.

Of these 20,000 customers—when polled—32.5% like mysteries (that’s 6500 households). 21.2% said they like thrillers (4240 households). Health/Fitness/Self-improvement books are liked by 26.6% of the 20,000 (5320 households).

Business books are part of “other non-fiction” titles that are liked by 20% of readers (4,000 households).

Rays of Hope

Obviously, the best use of any author’s time is NOT to worry much about the 80% of the folks who are not likely readers. Focus your marketing energies on that smaller group of readers who read, and even more concerted efforts for those audiences who prefer your genre or who may have other connections to your book. Some of these connections are easy identified when you start looking for them.

Which of the following helps identify readers?
• Readers who liked Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will like my book.
• Those who have experienced a cancer scare will be impacted by my book.
• Conservative, politically-active business leaders will agree with my book.
• Those interested in a gluten-free diet will benefit from my book.
• Hobbyists who enjoy the evolution of European sports cars will want my book.
• Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers will be inspired by my team-related stories.

Notice that only the first bulleted group is identified as “readers”? The other groups are not identified as readers first. They have an interest in specific information or are predisposed to the story, message, or information shared in an author’s title. While you’ll always hope to sell your book to readers of your genre, sometimes the most successful marketing will come from reaching out to those who don’t readily identify themselves as “readers”. Reminding Jane and John Doe that a book is sometimes the best place to get the information or to be entertained can be a great way to tap into larger audiences. Folks who don’t read a lot, but discover your book, might be more likely to refer others to your book, simply because it’s the best thing they’ve read in years. (Everyone likes to be in the know.)

There’s Help Out There

The greatest factor in readers’ book choices is the “referral by a friend”. The second greatest factor: media—including social media referrals. If you can reach your targeted readers, those ideal readers that make up your audience, you have a great chance of reaching others and households who didn’t make it to the stadium. That includes folks who rarely read, haven’t bought a book in ages, or might have bought a book written by your competition.

These challenges and statistics make it all the more important to be ready to publish the best book you can and to promote them proactively to your targeted readers and audiences. You have to clearly plot your course to market to the right readers or you’re spinning wheels and the right people are not hearing about your book.

As you consider the arena that is the bookselling marketplace, will you be ready to win over your crowd of ideal readers? Or, like the victims in coliseums of old, might you be overcome by lions? Redbrush is armed to help you do battle and succeed with your book!