How to Know Your Book’s Audience
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Sometimes a book idea is born out of awareness of your reader’s need that you can meet. The audience is probably a lot like you, or your platform is developed around these folks.
But often, when I look at wannabe clients’ proposals, the writer can’t describe the intended audience. Or sees the audience as so broad as to be indescribable. Every writer needs to envision who the reader is to know how to connect the book to the reader in the most effective way.
That thought was brought home to me this week, as I was listening to a classical music station, and the radio host was reading from Mozart’s journal about the day Mozart attended a concert in the local park. It being a lovely spring day, he couldn’t resist enjoying some great music–especially since he was the composer of the symphony being performed.
I perked up my ears when Mozart recounted the experience of listening to the performance. He had predicted to himself the movement in the piece that would so sweep the listeners away into rapture that they would burst into spontaneous applause. That applause erupted at just the moment he thought it would.
What struck me about the journal entry was how well Mozart knew his audience. He could predict their emotional peak. That set my imagination reeling through visions of Mozart writing the symphony; when he jotted down those notes, I suspect he envisioned the response they would elicit.
Then my mind turned to writers. I wondered which ones are so attune to their readers that, as the writer taps out words, a smile comes to his or her lips as a segment of the book with emotional strength unfurls.
I’m talking about both fiction and nonfiction here because I believe, if a writer can emotionally connect with readers, that writer will be successful.
Even if you’re unpublished, you still need to have a reader in mind: a child curled up in a parent’s lap while the parent reads your picture book; a teen boy lounging on his bedroom floor as he enters into the adventure you’ve created for him; the man who longs to be freed from porn but can’t find his way out of that prison until he reads your book.
Sometimes we write our books not so much for the reader as for ourselves. A fiction idea occurs to you that makes you want to find out what happens next. Or you have a need yourself so you start to write a nonfiction book to discover the answer. Or you experience a heart-rending event and find God in the eye of the hurricane. Now you want to tell others about your story.
So who is your audience?
If you don’t really know, or if you think you know, but you aren’t sure, here are some ways you can find out:
1. Use SurveyMonkey to put together a questionnaire in which you ask subscribers to your enewsletter or your blog: their age, their sex, how they found out about you (or your books), what they enjoy reading, how often they read books, what they enjoy about your blog or newsletter, what they like best about the material you provide, how they would describe you or your writing (which helps you to understand your brand and whether your readers agree with you about what your brand is). If you’re writing in more than one category and think you need to choose between them, ask what your readers prefer. Whatever you wonder about your readers and how they perceive you or your writing, put it in the survey. Offer a little gift for one or a few winners to receive, if they fill out the survey. (A Starbuck’s card or a free book.)
2. Take an informal survey on the social media outlet you have the most connections to readers, such as Facebook or Twitter. With Twitter, create a link to the survey. On Facebook, you could ask one survey question every other day;you will have to skip such questions as age, sex, etc., but you certainly can ask what they like to read, how often they read a book, if they like your historical novels or your nonfiction. Getting a conversation going on Facebook can bring in more responses than asking people to fill out an entire survey, but you’re likely to gather less data.
3. Don’t assume you know. Let your readers tell you who they are. Keep an open mind; they might surprise you.
What methods have you used to get to know your audience? In what ways have you asked them how they perceive your brand? Do you really know your audience, or do you assume you know them?
How to know your book’s audience. Click to tweet.
Don’t assume you know your readers until you ask them. Click to tweet.