Not For Everyone: How to Identify Your Specific Target Audience

B&W Photo Old Cars in ParadeI once had a potential client tell me that his book–a coffee-table nonfiction guide focused on an obscure group of collectible items–was a book that would be read by everyone.

I asked him, “Why would anyone who isn’t interested in collecting these items pick it up?”

He had no answer for that, and for good reason: not everyone is interested in collectibles.

Likewise, not everyone will be interested in one author’s romantic historical, or another author’s YA fantasy, or another author’s memoir about growing up in Italy during WWII, or another author’s nonfiction book on leadership skills. Yes, there will be readers of each of those genres, but not all readers are interested in all books.

Most authors are passionate about their work, which is probably the reason that so many believe that their books are going to be sought-after and read by a lot of people. But this just isn’t the case. There is usually a very specific (and very narrow) group of people who will actually want to read the book you’ve written. And, believe it or not, this is a good thing. Why? Because having a specific target–a niche market, if you will–for your work allows you to zero in on those readers. The more specific the group is, the more it becomes definable, and the more easily authors can begin to target and reach their readers.

So How Do You Identify Your Target Audience?

One of the best ways to identify potential readers who would specifically like your book is to take a look in the mirror. Are you a reader of the type of book you’ve written? If so, especially if you’re passionate about and/or an expert on the topic, chances are your own personal description is a good reflection of the type of person who would buy and/or read your book.

But what if you’ve written a book for someone who isn’t like you? Then it’s up to you to identify your readers according to their personal makeup (demographics) and their interests and activities (psychographics).

In either case, the best way to identify your audience is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the readers of my book most likely to be male or female? Or would both genders like it?
  • How old are they?
  • How educated are they?
  • What are they approximately willing to pay for a book?
  • If they’re children who can’t buy books themselves, who would be buying books for them?
  • Are they likely to be a regional audience or worldwide?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What television shows do they watch?
  • What radio stations do they listen to?
  • What internet sites do they visit?
  • Are they library readers or book buyers?
  • And so on. The more you can define your readers, the more likely you’ll know where to find them, and where to spend your time and money promoting your work.

Even after you’ve identified your target audience, that doesn’t mean that all of those within your target group will buy. Some readers only read books by certain authors, while others only buy books in a series. Some buy from only one source, while others will look for certain specific types of books in the genre you’ve written. So, managing your expectations realistically becomes an important part of selling to your target audience. Most likely, you will be able to reach a certain percentage of your audience, and a certain percentage within that group will actually buy the book.

Even so, knowing who your audience is will help you decide where to promote the book. If your target audience is young and active online, then having an interactive website, an active blog, and promoting on social media sites may be the focus of your publicity efforts. A blog tour or articles and posts on targeted online sites may be the best way to reach this particular group.

If you write genre fiction, you’re lucky—there are often specific blog sites, library reading groups, conferences, etc., where your genre readers cluster. Seek out those venues, both online and in person, to introduce yourself to readers and let them know about your books.

Nonfiction authors will often find that there are specific outlets for their work depending on the topic they’ve written about. Self-help authors will often find readers in workshops, college classes, therapy groups, meetups, and other places where readers go to learn about the topics. Those venues provide good opportunities to meet with readers based on their interests. Sometimes, nonfiction topics lend themselves to presentations at professional organizations or conferences on the topic. There are also online opportunities to write articles and posts for online publications and blogs that allow guest posts. And an author’s own blog is a powerful tool to both develop a platform and market to readers who seek information on a particular nonfiction topic.

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at, at her website at, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications

Book Promotion – Make It a Labor of Love


When I told my husband I wanted to put a butterfly garden in our backyard last summer, he looked at me with his typical patient expression and said, “Sure, why not?”

Please realize that, at the time, neither of us knew jack about butterflies or what to plant in this type of garden. But when we finally removed a large strip of overgrown mock orange shrubs in our yard last year, we knew it was time to do our part for the planet and provide a safe space where threatened insects like monarch butterflies and bees could roam free of pesticides and predators.

We tilled the soil, read up on nectaring and host plants that butterflies like, listened to the experts at a local butterfly farm, planted, and then waited and watched as our first group of caterpillars emerged.

We learned a few things during that first summer: that monarch caterpillars will eat our milkweed plants to the ground, that most caterpillars don’t make it to the chrysalis stage, that even those that do make it are sometimes attacked by predators like tachinid flies, wasps, and lizards, and that when a single caterpillar makes it to the chrysalis stage, it’s something of a miracle.

Our first summer, we had a few butterflies visit our garden. None of our caterpillars survived.

But we didn’t give up. Instead, we lovingly tended our garden through the winter, nurturing the existing plants, replacing those that were too damaged or thinned out, getting additional advice from the experts at the butterfly farm, and adding new plants to make the garden more inviting to butterflies.

This summer, in our second year of butterfly gardening, we’ve had multiple butterflies visit the garden daily. Caterpillars have appeared on a regular basis, eating their way through our milkweed and fennel plants, and a few of them have already successfully transformed into beautiful butterflies.

If I’ve learned anything while putting this garden together, it’s that it doesn’t take a lot of initial knowledge to try something new. And with a little research, effort, patience, guidance, and love, we can be successful in our endeavors.

I like to remind my publicity clients, especially those who lament that they know nothing about promotion, that these same gardening values – research, effort, patience, guidance,  and, yes, love – can help them to be successful in their book marketing efforts. Initially, the first attempt at promoting may include a learning curve, where the response may not be great, readers may not come in droves, reviews may be thin or grudging, and sales may be slow to non-existent.

But the next time you promote a book, you’ve learned some things about yourself, your writing, and what works and what doesn’t when you promote. You make adjustments, adding new material, asking experts (like publicists!) for advice, considering new avenues for marketing, and learning more about the process.

And then, the next time you do it, everything changes – that first group of readers and reviewers remembers you and buys your new book, reviews start to come in a little quicker, speaking appearances are easier to book, bloggers offer you spots on their pages, opportunities for marketing begin to broaden, and promotion and publicity gets easier. If you are dedicated and take what you’ve learned to heart, the results can be astonishing.

Like creating a butterfly garden, promoting a book is a labor of love. The first time around may be disappointing. But when authors are willing to put in the hard work and be open to learning, to making adjustments, and to loving the process, the groundwork set during the first effort pays off.  With research, energy, patience, good guidance and a whole lot of love, your book publicity efforts will thrive.


Photo credit: Paula Margulies


Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at, at her website at, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications