Question: I have a self-published book that needs a marketing plan. What’s the number one, foolproof, best first step?



Two words – target audience.

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and Worldometer, there are well over 2 million books* published each year. That’s a lot of content competing for reader attention, and it’s easy for a book to get lost in the crowded marketplace.

So, how do you grab some of this attention for YOUR book? By knowing who your target audience is and focusing your marketing efforts on these specific readers.

Target Audience Defined

As much as we’d like it to be, your book is not for everyone. Some books may appeal to a broad audience, but most successful books appeal to a select or niche audience.

Your target audience includes readers who are most likely to notice, purchase, enjoy, and pass along the news of your book. This means connecting with the right readers, at the right time, at the right place. If you’re not tuned-in to your target readers and how to reach them, you risk investing in the wrong marketing activities and ultimately, not getting the book sales you desire. 

Identifying your target reader and where to find them will help you sell more books.
How to Identify Your Target Audience

Readers are choosy consumers that have likes, dislikes, and buying habits, just like you and me. While some readers enjoy books of all genres, most readers have particular genres they favor. The type of book you are writing will largely determine the group of readers you should target. For example, if you are writing inspirational romance novels, you are likely targeting middle-aged women looking for wholesome and uplifting love stories.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine who your target audience is:

•  Is your book meant to entertain, inspire, problem-solve, or educate?
•  What is your overall theme or message?
•  Who is most likely to benefit from reading your book?
•  Is there a specific age group that you are targeting?
•  Are there other books like yours on the market? What type of reader is buying these books?
•  What are the demographics of your target reader?

– Gender
– Marital status
– Education
– Income
– Ethnicity
– Religion
– Location/Residence

•  What are the psychographics?

– Attitudes
– Values
– Interests
– Hobbies

Once you know the answers to most (if not all) of these questions, write a one or two paragraph description of your target audience. You can even find photos of these readers in magazines and online for visual inspiration.

How to Reach Your Target Audience

It’s never too early to start engaging your target audience once you are down the path of writing a book. It’s also never too late. If you’ve already published a great book, you can still successfully reach the audience for which your book is intended. You just have to know where to find them.

Now that you have your target audience description, it’s time to figure out how to connect with them. Having the answers to these questions can get you started:

•  Which social media platforms do they use?
•  Which retailers do they frequent, both in-store and online?
•  What organizations or groups do they belong to?
•  Where do they get their news?
•  How are authors with similar books connecting with their readers?

The next step is create a marketing plan that focuses your efforts on this particular group. A targeted marketing strategy is much more likely to be successful because you are promoting your book to readers that are already interested in your genre, theme, or topic.

An integrated marketing plan is the best way to reach your target readers successfully.

A simple way to build a marketing plan that will take some of the mystery out of the process is my POEM Method of Book Marketing. Any good, integrated book marketing campaign has four key activities:

Publicity: Using traditional and online media to build awareness for your book.
Online: Using digital channels including social media and your website or blog to communicate.
Events: In-person interaction with potential readers and others in the industry such as signings and speaking.
Multimedia: Engaging readers through photos, videos, podcasts, and more.

The acronym, POEM, is an easy way to remember what you need to do and provides an effective strategy for marketing your book.

It is possible to have more than one target audience for your book, but it’s important to focus on your primary audience first. Once you’ve successfully connected with these readers, you can branch out and try some different marketing initiatives to reach other groups.