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6 Steps to Finding Your Target Market

For a tool even more powerful than target markets, check out Be Narrow-Minded: 11 Questions to Turn a Target Market into a Reader Profile.

Welcome to the keynote blog, if you will, of this week’s “Target Market” theme.

Here at Duolit, we are not just about helping our clients by providing information and services, we want to give you the tools to take matters in your own hands (after all, it is called self-publishing for a reason). Even if you decide to defer to us for help with your marketing, design and publishing needs, it’s still important to us to provide you with the power of knowledge. We are not the Great Oz, operating behind a velvet curtain. We are here to help not because you can’t do something, but because your time is often better spent doing what you do best — writing.

So far this week, we’ve told you about the Five Commandments of Target Markets, instructed you on how to avoid Book Design Fail #4: Forgetting Your Target Market, and shared personal stories of how hard this target market business can be. Now it’s time to shove aside the opening acts and get down to the main stage for the real show.

6 Steps to Finding Your Target Market

Your objective: As you progress through each step, your target market should get smaller and smaller, until eventually it goes from the population of the world to a manageable group of individuals with common characteristics and interests. Why? Because if you plan your marketing campaign well, this targeted group of people will buy enough copies of your book to make you successful (everyone else who happens to buy the book will just make you more successful).

Step 1: Break down your audience by country and/or region.

  • Try to stick with one or two countries at most.
  • Ask yourself if your subject matter is relevant to other cultures.
  • Take into account language and currency barriers.
  • If you’re targeting a large country,  you may want to break it down by region or province as well.

Step 2: Decide if your book will appeal more to urbanites, suburbanites or country folk.

  • Do you envision people reading your book at a sidewalk cafe in a bustling city, on the sidelines at a soccer game or under an apple tree in an orchard?
  • Understand that folks in the cities, suburbs and countrysides can all be avid readers. They all have access to Amazon.com and local bookstores, but the pace of their life dictates different tastes and interests in reading materials.

Step 3: Pick an Age Group or Generation

Step 4: Choose Your Side of the Gender Gap

  • Understand that at least 75% of the time, you will be targeting females. Period.
  • The few exceptions for targeting males: sports books, some crime/mystery thrillers, science fiction and occasional self-help books.
  • If you are a female author, it is going to be especially hard for you to target men (Nora Roberts had to change her entire persona down to her name [J.D. Robb] to target men, so did J.K. Rowling).

Step 5: Segment Your Market by Level of Education

  • Consider your writing style and lexicon and decide what level of education your average reader should possess.
  • Keep in mind that the average person in the U.S. reads at about an 8th grade level.
  • Subject matter can also be relevant or irrelevant to people of certain educational backgrounds.
  • Educational information also segues into occupational information which segues into financial information, which is critical. A person’s discretionary income to spend on things like books is a vital piece of knowledge in setting your price point and choosing what marketing mediums to use.

Step 6: Wrap it up with class.

  • If you determined in Step 5 that your target market is college educated, in this step you have to figure out if they were legacies at Princeton or night school honorees.
  • Don’t stop at middle class and upper class, consider blue collar and white collar, professional and managerial, etc.

If you go through these six steps carefully, you should be able to carve down your target population from an impossibly large chunk to a very manageable bite. Like we said in the Five Commandments, it’s not exact science and sometimes it does take a few tries to pick the right path (think of it like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel!), but this at least gives you a basic filtering system to get you pointed in the right direction.

You can also take it a step further, continuing to break down your target market by ethnicity, income, marital status, hobbies, and more. The more specifics you know about the people you’re reaching out to, the better!

Encore (Bonus tips!):

I hope this helps everyone and as always, if you have questions, feel free to jump in the discussion below or you can send us an e-mail or find us on Twitter (@duolit).

  • Judith K

    Thanks, guys! I just love following all your very informative tweets daily! I’ve bookmarked a lot of them. This is the best publishing aid site I’ve ever come across.
    I’m also planning to get myself to a bookstore soon and get a copy of Shannon’s novel!

    • Toni

      Hi Judith! Thanks so much for your support and kind words — it means so much to us. It’s comments like yours that keep us motivated to do what we do :-) I was on the phone with Shannon when I saw your comment and she was so happy to hear of your interest in her novel. Just FYI, we’re about to launch a redesign of her website — she’s planning some exciting announcements about her upcoming works, too!

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  • Reetta

    Thanks for the helpful insight on demographics. Personally I have found that psychographic factors (like interests, opinions, attitudes and values) define the hardcore fans better.

    For example. when you write to highly educated women in their 40s, the actual degree they have (a psychographic factor) really makes a difference. A male doctor and a female doctor share more likely similar values than the female doctor and a female lawyer.

    The themes of your book are something concrete that you can use to match a certain readership. Or you can write the book first and then see who it might touch a chord with. And if you’ve written more than one book, it’s likely that there are some similarities between the big questions of the books – and hence the readers too.

    John Locke, a recent self-publishing phenomenon, touched on the topic in his eBook guide about how he sold over million eBooks.

    I really hope you will cover the psychographic factors in your posts in the future :) I enjoy your writing and I would love to see your take on it.

    • In my opinion, interests are not the best way to determine author/target audience compatibility. Neither are things such as degrees or areas of study. Neither are demographic groups such as age, gender, etc. Those are concrete ways to segment populations but they don’t necessarily result in the deep connections that really matter when it comes to relationship building, which is what marketing really comes down to. I think there’s something else that’s much deeper and more constant that is a better way of determining who is most likely to resonate with you or your work. Just because two people share the same profession or area of training doesn’t mean they will click with each other. That’s to say that the male doctor and female doctor in your example might have a lot in common professionally but after work hours the female doctor prefers hanging out with the female lawyer than with her male counterpart from work. Why?

      Let me give an example. Let’s say I have an interest in kayaking. There are many other people out there with this same interest as well but though we share the same interest for kayaking it doesn’t mean we’ll click on a deeper level. However, I will click with the ones that embody certain values, attitudes, and opinions (which you mentioned) that resonate with me. But yet there are people with differing attitudes and opinions on issues that are important to me that I still click with and find them to be great company. Why? The constant out of those psycho-graphic factors you mentioned is values and personality.

      Why did I subscribe to this blog? It actually wasn’t because Toni and Shannon share the same interest in helping self-publishers that I do. That might have led me to the blog but it was not what caused me to eagerly subscribe to their newsletters. There are many other people out there who talk about the same things that I have not subscribed to. The reason I did subscribe is because this blog is ooozing with a personality that resonates with me: down-to-earth, friendly, humble, intelligent, resourceful, ambitious, practical, and creative. There’s even a touch of witty humor that I really appreciate. Those are traits that really resonate with me no matter who it’s coming from.

      And if you can tell from my avatar, I’m probably not the typical demographic for this blog and probably don’t share many interests in common (as far as I can tell) with Toni and Shannon. Personality transcends all of that though. This is why I think authors should include personality traits when they are crafting a picture of who it is they are trying to appeal to.

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  • Adrian Price

    Thank you for the tips! Extremely helpful info and especially for those of us who are just starting out! :)

  • Thanks so much for this post! What you have here is such a great help for writers, who sometimes can have trouble pinpointing their target audiences.

    Thanks again!

  • For myself, I try to widen my demographic by writing a wide variety of different types of fiction. It all falls under the wide umbrella of “sci-fi/fantasy”, but there’s an incredibly broad swath of sub-genres in there.

    People who are Trekkies may not like Fringe, those who like Ender’s Game may not like Harry Potter, etc.

    I also broaden the appeal (I hope) by mixing genres within a single piece of work wherever I can.

    So we end up with Weaver, which is a paranormal thriller mixed with a sci-fi novel mixed with a YA urban fantasy book, and The Antlerbury Tales, which is pure fantasy satire, and Atticus for the Undead (coming soon), a fantasy novel which should also appeal to the John Grisham loving crowd.

    Thus do I sidestep the “target market” issue.

  • I’m glad to see this series on target audience/market. It’s been dawning on me that I need to figure out my target demographic–but slowly. This is helping me speed myself along.

    Also, and I guess this is really not your point, it makes me feel a little better about having a particular segment in mind, rather than trying to appeal to everyone.


  • Good food for thought. Appreciate you sharing the info!

  • Mack

    I can safely say this is one of the most offensive blog article I’ve read pertaining to self publishing.

    You basically segregate and offend everyone!

    Either men or women read ANYTHING. As a man I read plenty of things other than sci-fi. I’ve never even OPENED a sports book. EVER. My wall of books show a variety all over the map.

    Additionally, it’s highly offensive to think that people not from the city won’t enjoy science fiction or the exact same styles as city raised people. Today people aren’t as isolated as they once were.

    I have friends that grew up on farms in the country and science was one of their favorites, as were mystery, fiction, horror and more. In fact those country folks are better educated and more intelligent that most city people I know. One (my girlfriend) is even a physics university graduate!

    Even your age discrimination is ridiculous. I read Lord of the Flies at 12. I know people who devoured Shakespeare at 14.

    It’s comments and postings like this that keep people segregated and prevents people from showing just how truly equal we all are.

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  • Jeb Harrison

    As a semi-retired marcom pro, I’ve spent a lot of time segmenting audiences. The question is, once you get the segmentation right, (I write literary fiction for college educated boomers and gen Xers) how do you pinpoint your outbound marcom?