This series has been expanded into a step-by-step eBook! Find out more about Building Your Fanbase: A From-Scratch Guide for Indie Authors.
Here’s the problem with target markets: They’re too big.
Hold on — keep that straight jacket away from me! I’m totally not crazy, I’m trying to help you, so give me a chance.
I know all of you have taken each of the six steps to finding your target market, thereby narrowing your audience to a demographically specific group of individuals to whom you can market your book. Right?
I’m going to assume you’re all nodding your heads and if you’re not, you’ll go check out that post and come back to this one later. I’ll wait…
Well, I’m here to tell you that those first six steps were just the start of your journey to becoming an indie pub marketing genius. You drilled down to the target, now we’ve got to get you to the center of the bullseye.
The next part of your trek begins today with 11 questions to defining your reader profile.
What the heck is a reader profile?
Your target market is a good place to start when figuring out who your readers are, but the large sample size tends to be impersonal, consequently making it difficult for you to connect with your readers one-on-one.
That’s where a reader profile comes in.
Imagine how much easier it would be to cater your writing style and marketing strategy to one person instead of a faceless group of statistics.
For example, this is what you might have come up with through your six steps to a target market:
– American, urban, ages 25-35, female, college educated, middle class
From that information, you could create the following reader profile:
– American, apartment in Queens, age 27, female, bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, makes $35,000 a year as a production assistant at NBC.
Give her a name, some hobbies, a few goals and suddenly your amorphous blob of 25 – 35 year olds in New York City has become a (sort of) real person. With that one person in mind, it becomes much easier to understand what kind of books she reads, where she finds her books, and how you can fulfill her reading needs.
Pretty cool, right?
Let’s dive in — don’t worry, I’ll go first!
Now that we know how much easier our marketing lives will be with a reader profile, let’s get to work! We have 11 questions that will help you narrow the target market data you created in our six step plan into an actual reader profile. I’m such a believer in this exercise that I’m going to go through it with you and provide my own answers so you can have a specific illustration of what we’re looking to create.
This my data from the target market exercise, which you should already have before you jump into the questions below:
Shannon’s target market: American, urban, 25 – 35, female, college educated, middle class
1. How old is your reader?
Forget that age bracket, pick a specific age for your target reader. This is especially critical for YA writers as a 13 year-old and a 16 year-old have a world of difference in their likes, dislikes, experiences and goals.
Shannon’s answer: 26 years old.
2. Where is your reader from and where does he/she live now?
If you answer this with a city, county or other generic geographical location you are missing the point. This is all about the details. You need to know your sample reader as well as you know your novel’s protagonist. It’s up to you exactly how detailed you get, but a happy medium is usually best.
Shannon’s answer: She is originally from the suburbs of Nashville, but post-grad she’s been living in a small apartment in Baltimore, Maryland.
3. Is he/she married or single? Have children?
Your reader’s immediate family dictates much of his/her lifestyle. You might be reaching out to a teenager at home with a house full of siblings, an adult with a small child or a single person looking for love.
Shannon’s answer: She is single and ready to mingle (with the right guy, of course).
4. What’s his/her educational background?
This is about more than just a high school or college diploma — we want to know what school your reader went to, what he or she majored in and what extra curricular activities he/she participated in.
Shannon’s answer: She went to Virginia Tech and majored in history. Her grades were good and she was a student-worker in the library her junior and senior years.
5. Is he/she employed? If yes, where and doing what?
Don’t say “public relations” and call it a day. Put some meat on the bones! Where does your sample reader worker and what is his/her job title? Is it an enjoyable job? What’s the salary?
Shannon’s answer: She is a freelance editor and substitute teacher. She finds her work rewarding on regrettably rare occasions and longs for something more permanent and structured. Between the two jobs she barely clears $28,000 a year.
6. What are his/her immediate goals?
For our purposes, let’s define immediate as within the next six months. What does your sample reader want to achieve in that time span?
Shannon’s answer: She wants to get a full-time job with benefits and meet some new people in her area.
7. What are his/her long term goals?
This is your sample reader’s five-year plan. It could be graduation, degree, first job; or maybe house, car, family; or middle management, debt free, European vacation.
Shannon’s answer: She would like to be married in the next five years, owning a condo or home with her spouse, out of credit card debt and possibly on the verge of starting a family.
8. What obstacles stand in the way of his/her goals?
As we are all well aware, life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. So what mountains, hurdles and pitfalls are obstructing your sample reader from achieving his/her short and long term goals?
Shannon’s answer: She’s being held back from her job desires by a tough economy (which is also contributing to that growing credit card debt). As for love, her shyness has held her back from meeting potential boyfriends. She’s also seen a lot of friends get their hearts broken, resulting in her hesitation to jump into the game.
9. What books are in his/her personal library?
Try to think of a handful of authors your sample reader might like. They don’t all have to be similar to your writing style, some people have varied taste in genres.
Shannon’s answer: Gone With the Wind, Crazy in Alabama, Prince of Tides, the Harry Potter series and a handful of Carl Hiaasen titles.
10. Where and when does he/she read most often?
Think about whether or not your sample reader is often reading on the go, at lunch, or at night before bed. Also consider, does he/she prefer a paperback or a Kindle?
Shannon’s answer: She usually reads on the bus (to avoid talking to people) and she uses a Kindle, but only because it’s so convenient. She wishes she had more time to read.
11. What’s his/her name?
This is the last step to giving your reader a personal touch, so you can envision exactly who it is that you are writing for and marketing to.
Shannon’s answer: Annie
So…who’s your sample reader? We want to know!
We’re really nosy, so naturally we want to know — who is your sample reader??? After you’ve gone through the exercise, share your results in the comments!
Do you have questions? Whether you’re unsure about the reader profile or still going over the tips for developing your reader centered book marketing, or just looking for general guidance, you can always reach out to us. Drop us an email and we’ll help point you in the right direction. That’s what we’re here for!
If you’re feeling our marketing vibes and hoping there’s more to come, take two seconds and sign up to receive (free) updates from us (for no charge). Following the conclusion of our marketing melee month, we will be launching our first super-rad book marketing workshop, but if you’re not on the newsletter mailing list (did we mention it’s completely free of charge? In a way, we actually pay you because just for signing up you get a free 35 page guide to self-publishing basics) then you’re probably not going to find out about it.
And that would make us sad.
Please don’t make us sad.