3 Steps to Defining and Finding Your Book’s Ideal Reader

Don't believe the hype about the internet killing books. Research shows that book readers have stayed true to their favorite hobby.

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In 2018, 67%-80% of adults identified as book readers. So take that, social scrolling! 

The news of so many readers can be bittersweet. In some ways, it could feel like your possibilities as a self-published author are endless. At the same time, you may suffer from a feeling of audience-overwhelm.

You need your book to find the types of readers who are interested in its content. So how do you know how to stand out and avoid shouting into the void? 

Defining a target audience for your book is the cornerstone for any successful marketing strategy. Once you understand the types of people who will be interested in your story, you’ll be able to effectively strategize how to get it in front of them.

Read on to learn 3 simple steps to identify and target your book’s ideal audience so you can get it into the hands of eager fans.

1. Identify Your Genre

Does your book fall between the gaps of a specific genre? Is it a funny, scary, semi-auto-biographical novel?

If so, you may have to put a little extra work into understanding your book’s genre to reach its target market.

Defining a genre for your book helps you uphold give future readers a general idea of what to expect from your book’s genre. If you market your book like a sci-fi novel and it turns out to be more of a modern romance, it’s much more likely your book may disappoint its buyers.

Plus, categorizing your book into a genre makes it much easier to find your target audience

Genres exist to help a reader focus their search on books they may like, and sticking to one can improve your odds of making a sale. 

To help define your book’s genre, start by knowing your options. Most genres are as follows:

  • Action/Adventure: Typically involves a high-stake journey with a suspenseful climax
  • Western: Stories taking place in the U.S “Old West”
  • Mystery: Stories that involve solving a crime
  • Fantasy: Typically involving myths, magic, and imaginary worlds
  • Erotica: Sexual exploration
  • Horror: Fear-invoking stories
  • Literary Fiction: Stories that focus on stylization and narration more than the story arc
  • Thriller/Suspense: Stories for suspense that can involve actions and mystery
  • Sci-fi: Stories taking place in imaginary worlds involving technology, alien species or other science-related fantasy

Analyze your novel and write down keywords that will help you classify its genre. Where does it take place? What era? What’s the goal? Who can relate to the characters?

Finally, compare your book to others like it. Try to find 10 other books that you think readers of your book would enjoy. What genre are they? Where do its readers find these stories?

2.    Understand Your Current Audience

When it comes to identifying your book’s target market, sometimes the answer is right in front of you: in the form of your current author network.

Use these 2 methods to get some clarity on who may already be interested in your book:

1. Check your social media analytics

  • You can see demographics of the people who are engaged with your social media on Facebook by going to your author Facebook profile and clicking the “view insights” button on the menu under your cover photo, then clicking “People.” This provides aggregated data of anyone who follows you that provides their age and gender on their public profiles.  
  • On Twitter, you can view insights by clicking your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen, then clicking “Analytics” on the dropdown menu. 

2. Poll your audience

  • Use an online resource like easypolls to create a poll compatible with your website and social media. 
  • Ask your audience questions basic demographic don’t reveal, such as “Where did you buy the last book you read?” or “What’s your favorite quality in a novel?”

3.     Create a Persona Profile of Your Ideal Reader

Use the information you’ve gathered to create a reader profile that will help you define exactly who your ideal reader is. 

Creating a character representing your target demographic allows you to hone in on specific behaviors that can help you understand where they shop, what they’re looking for, and any barriers that may prevent them from buying your book.

If one audience persona is middle-aged mothers, and another is young women, you wouldn’t necessarily talk to both personas the same way when writing your paid social ads or email copy. 

Once you get to know your new book’s target persona, you’ll better understand how to address their needs and challenges as buyers. 


photo courtesy of BKMedia group

Start with key demographics:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Location

Identify How Your Book Can Help Them:

  • What issues or challenges does your book address for them?
  • What made them choose this genre?
  • What do they get out of your book?

Define Their Online Life:

  • What websites/apps do they use to connect with others?
  • What do they do in their free time?
  • What kind of content do they search for?

Give the personas a name to humanize them further. 

Now that you’ve gathered the data you needed and defined your ideal reader, you have the fuel to springboard into the next phase of your marketing strategy: building and communicating with your email list.

Take the next step to book exposure by creating an effective email campaign >

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

Leave a comment

robert meyer
12 months ago
1e6d0e0e876a3e1a37d4ab9f1770289f

interesting piece, Adam. i shall re-read it several times. in my case, "Sunrise Over San Antonio" seems to hit or at least glance off of all your categories of reader interest. That said, I do not seem to be scoring with any of them. Many of my marketing plans have died on the vine. Thank you for this piece. Does this mean you may be opening up some promotion capabilities? I would be delighted to hear. Hope all is well with you and yours. Best, Robert and Bonnie

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