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Target Markets: Why and How to Define Multiple Markets for Every Book

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Target Markets:

Why and How to Define Multiple Markets for Every Book

September 2012

by Dana Lynn Smith


One of the most critical steps in developing an effective book marketing plan is identifying target markets. Since no book is “for everyone,” it’s important to figure out exactly who a particular book’s likely readers are. Once you know that, you can design your marketing plan to reach those potential customers.

People who are already interested in the type of book or information that you’re selling are much more inclined to buy it, of course, so think in terms of niche markets rather than “the general reader.” Promoting to the general population in hopes of reaching the subset of people who are actually interested in a given book may sometimes work for very large houses, but it is not a good strategy for independent publishers.


Classifying Target Markets

Most books can be classified as either entertainment or information, although some fit both categories. Understanding a book’s type and its buyers’ motivation helps you understand your target markets and develop effective marketing strategies.

As you explore possibilities, bear in mind that most books do not have a target market; they have several target markets.

Here are four kinds of target markets that any book’s marketing plan should address:

Readers: people who buy the book because they want to read it. This group includes the primary audience (the ideal customer the book was written for) as well as secondary audiences who also have an interest in the topic, the genre, or the author.

Avid readers consume a lot of books, and they tend to be price sensitive because their reading habit can get expensive. Some avid readers focus on a particular type of book, while others have varied tastes.

Casual readers read a book occasionally, once a month or a few times a year. They read nonfiction when they need to learn something, or they may read fiction when someone recommends a good book or they are going on a trip.

Buyers: people who buy the book for someone else to read. For example, people often buy books as gifts; grandparents purchase books for children; women buy men’s health books; companies and organizations purchase books to give away as gifts and premiums. This category also includes schools and libraries.

Resellers: companies that buy books to sell to others. If you’re selling through physical bookstores or other retailers, you have the task of convincing those resellers that your book(s) will sell in their stores, and the task of convincing them that you will generate demand.

Influencers: individuals and organizations whose opinions matter to your target customers. Think about how much you can multiply your marketing efforts when people spread the word about a book to their own readers, members, customers, and networks. Bloggers are good examples of influencers.


Target Markets for How-To Nonfiction

Readers usually look to how-to nonfiction because they need or want to learn a skill and/or solve a problem. For example, readers might want to learn how to train a puppy, travel in Italy, or lose 20 pounds. Nonfiction readers with a relatively casual interest in a topic may, in a sense, read nonfiction for entertainment.

Here are some questions to consider when defining target markets for how-to nonfiction books:

● Who would benefit the most from the information in the book? (primary market)

● Who else may be interested in the topic or subject matter? (secondary markets)

● What problem do readers need solved; what need fulfilled; what goal attained?

● Who might buy the book for others to read?

● Who is willing to pay for the information in the book?

● What resellers would be a good fit for the book?

● Which individual and organizational influencers could spread the word to target audiences?


Target Markets for Fiction and Narrative Nonfiction

Fiction and narrative nonfiction (including categories such as biography, memoir, and history) are usually read for entertainment, inspiration, or escape.

Here are some things to think about when defining target markets for fiction and narrative nonfiction.

Genre and subgenre. What genre and subgenre(s) does the book fit into? Who typically reads books of that sort? And if the book fits into more than one subgenre, how might the readers for each differ?

Bestseller connections. If the book is reminiscent of some bestselling books or authors, it might appeal to fans of those books or authors. Where can you find those readers? Facebook fan pages and Goodreads groups are possibilities.

Character connections. Consider the profession, hobbies, or traits of the book’s main characters. Is the lead character a teacher, a senior citizen, an avid gardener, a member of an ethnic group, a cancer survivor, or a quilter? Are others who share those traits viable target markets?

Location connections. Where is the story set? The book should appeal to readers, media, and retailers in that area.

Storyline connections. Consider the challenges faced by the characters, life lessons learned, historical or real-life events portrayed. How can you use that material to define target markets and potential influencers?

Givers. Who might buy a book like this to give to others? For instance, would a 30-something woman be likely to buy the book to give to her sister, friend, or husband? Why?

Influencers. What organizations, blogs, and publications are associated with the characteristics you have identified? Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools for selling books, so people who have already read a particular book are an important category of influencers.

Retailers. What retailers—including but not limited to bookstores—might be a good fit for the book?


Target Markets for Children’s and Young Adult Books

Children’s books may be designed for entertainment or education, but they often contain elements of both. Books for younger children are usually purchased by adults, but teens often choose their own reading material. Young adult books, designed for teenagers, are often read by adults, many of them parents.

Target markets for children’s books may include parents, grandparents, other family and friends; teachers (public, private, religious, home school); public and school librarians; and organizations that work with kids (youth programs, summer camps, after-school programs, scout groups, church youth groups, and so on).

Here are some things to think about when you’re defining target markets for a specific children’s book or YA title:

● Is this book primarily entertainment or educational, or is it strong in both these categories?

● What marketing hooks do the characters and/or the storyline suggest? (See above.)

● Who would recommend or purchase books such as this for others?

● What resellers are a good fit for books for this age range?

● How can you partner with influencers and relevant organizations so they will spread the word or promote the book?


Drilling Down

Once you have made a list of target markets, think about the characteristics of each one in detail, and about how and where you can reach them.

Here are some questions to get you started:

● What are the demographics of each target market (gender, age, education, religion, ethnicity, location, family status, income range, profession, etc.)?

● Why do these people read (escape, enjoyment, relaxation, learning, problem-solving)?

● What trends and events are affecting them?

● Do they have preferences among print, e-book, and audiobook formats?

● Where do they hang out online and offline?

● What groups or organizations do they belong to?

● What events do they attend?

● What blogs and publications do they read?

● Which social media sites do they use?

● What other media do they watch and listen to?

● What other sorts of books do they read?

● Where do they shop?

● Where do they tend to acquire books (online, at retail stores, from friends, at libraries, other places)?

● Where can you make contact with each of these target customers?

One useful tool when you’re defining target markets is creating a persona for each one. Dream up the ideal reader for a particular book; describe that person, give the person a name, and list characteristics. You might even find a photograph that seems representative of the ideal reader and keep that handy as you work to get into the heads of potential customers so you can tailor your marketing to them.


Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach with 17 years of publishing experience. Her book marketing guidebooks and author training programs, including the Ultimate Book Marketing Plan Workshop, are available at SavvyBookMarketer.com.


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