Me: So, tell me about your target audience?
Author: Well, anyone really…
Your book is not for “anyone”. When publishers and agents are reading query letters, they want to know you’ve thought about audience. Why? Because they are going to be putting an enormous amount of effort and money into helping your book get into the hands of that audience, and they want that work to be rewarding.
Publishing is a business. The primary goal is always going to be selling books. Emphasis on “sell”. When it comes to acquisition, agents and editors are going to want to know if the book is going to sell and who is going to buy it. If you convey in your primary interactions with the industry (primarily in query letters and proposals for nonfiction projects) that you have done the work to identify your target audience, you will be one step closer to convincing a buyer that your project is a risk worth taking.
So, come up with your ideal reader. Think beyond gender and demographics. Think about the buying patterns and the media consumption of this reader. Before making an offer, your publisher is going to run numbers and use their knowledge of market trends to find out if that market exists. It’s up to you to put in your fair share of work to convince them to get to that point.
So how do you identify your audience? Here are some questions to think about. Try to answer them as specifically as possible. Even try crafting a specific person, just like you would a character in a novel, to help you get a sense of who your ideal reader really is.
- What does my ideal reader do in their free time?
- What do they care about?
- What do they spend their money on?
- Where do they shop?
- Where do they live?
- What other books have they read?
- How did they read those books and where did they buy them?
- What groups or organizations do they belong to?
- What other media are they consuming?
- What is their level of education?
- What do they do for a living?
- What themes and characters do they connect with?
Once you’ve gotten a good grip on who your book is for, be sure to convey the most important of these details in a sentence or two in your query letter.