Your Book is Not For Everyone

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Your Book is Not For Everyone

Okay, you’ve decided to write a book. Congratulations! Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re an author that would actually like others to read his book. If you fall into this category, then you’re going to want to spend a bit of time, before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), figuring out who your audience is beyond your family and six sympathetic friends who will gladly shell out $14.99 for your labor of love.

Why is this important? Simple. One of the biggest mistakes authors make is that they believe two things:

  1. Everyone is their audience.

  2. That their readers think and act just like them.

Neither are often the case. This mistake can lead to reader confusion, fractious marketing, or even worse: a book that doesn’t really speak to anyone. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

Imagine striking up a conversation with a nuclear physicist at a party about his job. He tells you that if you’d like to know more about his world that you should read his book about a relatively ‘straightforward concept’ (in his mind) in fissile material technology. Of course it’s likely way over your head (apologies to physicists reading this), simply because he thinks you think just like him, when really a picture book with huge illustrations would probably have done a much better job getting his point across, if you were his intended audience.

Even if your audience does think and act like you, you can still benefit from going through a few simple exercises to ensure you’re tailoring your content properly.

Here's the first one to follow to make sure your book is positioned correctly for your intended audience.

Develop a persona for your intended audience

I come from a world of product marketing and management, so personas are a big deal. They govern how we create, market and sell products. Demographics are a good start (i.e. gender, age, income, education, geography, etc.). So, take out a sheet of paper and think about your ideal reader. Are they male or female? Old or young? Middle income, low income or high income?  High school graduate or Masters level education? Married, divorced, single, widowed? Urban, suburban or rural? Interests, expertise? There are lots of areas you can explore here that will help shape your ideal reader. If you don’t think this is important, check out these two personas, who, in terms of gender and age, look the same, but are vastly different readers:

Persona 1

  • Male
  • 45 years old
  • Divorced
  • No kids
  • High school graduate
  • Lives in rural community (pop. 8,000)
  • Lower-middle class income
  • Conservative politics
  • Likes fishing, beer and Fox News

Persona 2

  • Male
  • 45 years old
  • Married (15 years)
  • 4 kids
  • MBA Graduate from Stanford
  • Lives in Los Angeles
  • High income earner
  • Liberal / progressive politics
  • Likes cycling, single malt scotch and reading biographies

Can you picture each guy? Can you get a feel for how different they are? Now imagine trying to sell them the same car. Ridiculous, right? But this happens all the time when authors think that their book is going to be a great read for anyone.

The more detailed you can be about your intended audience the better a guide it’s going to be for how you conceive of, write, design, illustrate (or not), market and sell your book. A key to remember is that a great brand (much like a well positioned book) will tell people who it’s not for, not just who it’s for. By being exclusive with your readership definition, you’ll have a much easier time not only writing your book, but selling it afterward.

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Rodger Banister is an award-winning copywriter, marketing executive and author of It's Not About You - How To Think Like An Employer and Get The Job You Really Want.


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