You pour your heart and soul into writing your memoir. It's not fiction, it's your life. And you want your message to be heard. As you are capturing key moments from your life, a persistent question may start ringing in your head…who will read my memoir, anyway? And where will I find readers for my memoir?
These are both good questions to ask early in the process of writing your memoir. Knowing your audience from the beginning can help you hone your message and start reaching potential readers in preparation for your book's publication. Let's consider how to define your target audience and find readers for your memoir.
Defining the target audience for your memoir answers the question, "who will read my memoir?" First-time authors often make the mistake of answering with one of these two responses: "everyone" or "no one."
First, not everyone will be interested your book—and that's okay. It's best to face this truth now, and focus on defining your audience.
Second, every memoir has an audience, so don't sell yourself short by telling yourself no one will want to read it. If you are taking the time to write your memoir, you can find an audience.
Now that we've eliminated those answers, let's find your audience.
First, ask yourself if you're writing only for friends and family, or a wider audience. This depends on your book's themes and focus, as well as how much work you are willing to put into editing and marketing the book. It's perfectly fine to write a memoir for the sole purpose of capturing your story and sharing it with a small group of friends and family. But if you wish to write a memoir for the commercial market, then you have to think more like a marketer, including identifying your niche audience and polishing your memoir to fit industry standards.
Once you've considered the size of your audience, next you must identify your niche audience—that's the select group of people who are likely to purchase your book based on a variety of your memoir's characteristics:
Location: People in your city and surrounding cities may be interested in your book since you're a local author. You can also target people in the location of the setting of your memoir, if it's different than your current residence. Additionally, you can reach out to people in similar cities. For instance if your book is written about small-town life, then people from other, comparable small towns could be included in your audience.
Topic: Identify the main topic in your book. The people who will read your book are those who share similar experiences or interests. Perhaps your memoir captures a time in history or a cultural movement. Maybe it focuses on a key time in your life, such as raising children or caring for aging parents, or, it's a memoir that focuses on a hobby or career. Whatever the topic, use it to find your niche audience.
Universal themes: A memoir can take the leap from reaching a niche audience to a wider audience when it also contains universal themes that many people can relate to, such as love, loss, betrayal, struggle for equality, and coming of age. First and foremost, focus on your niche audience, but also lay the foundation for success in a wider market, if that's your goal.
Once you know your audience for your memoir, the next step is to find members of this audience. There are several ways to find potential readers for your memoir:
Online groups: Search for Twitter chats, forums, Facebook groups, and support groups that your target audience uses. Doing a Google search and searching within Twitter and Facebook on your topic's keywords can turn up great results.
Thought-leaders: Find the people who are already established experts or thought-leaders of your memoir's topic. These people often have blogs or YouTube channels with many followers. Become a follower yourself and join in on the conversation.
Events: Depending on your topic, you can often find local events, seminars, workshops, or support groups related to your memoir. Consider asking the event or group leader if they need a guest speaker, if appropriate.
Publications: Look for websites and magazines that publish on the topics in your memoir. By publishing an article in a magazine your target audience reads, you can reach potential readers.
Subscribers/Mailing Lists: Establish a blog or YouTube channel and start collecting email addresses and subscribers. These people already like your content and are likely to be interested in your memoir.
In all of these opportunities, the key is to have an extremely soft sell of your memoir. It's important to focus on making connections, not blasting a marketing message in the face of your potential reader. By engaging readers, showing that you truly care, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field, the interest and connection are real and you earn the reader's loyalty.
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