How to Zero In on Your Target Audience

BY ANDREA MORAN • May 22, 2024

How to Zero In on Your Target Audience

When you self-publish a book, it might seem like getting the thing written was the biggest hurdle you would have to face. In reality, that is only half the battle. The second part comes with getting people to read your book. And that is a whole other mountain to climb!

It is true that a lot of indie authors struggle to get the word out to a wider audience, but usually the real cause of their struggles can be traced back to simply not knowing their target audience. Like, really knowing them. Once you identify the right audience, it will become much easier to know how and where to market the book. But how do you figure it out?

Genres and Subgenres
It’s helpful to first gain a thorough understanding of self-published book genres that are already popular. Take a few minutes to dive into what audiences buy the most. Fantasy and romance (as well as their love child, known as romantasy), for example, are always hot sellers. For nonfiction, anything related to true crime is really big. Don’t sweat it if your book doesn’t fit neatly into a popular genre, though—this exercise is simply a research mission to see if and where your specific manuscript overlaps the most frequently purchased genres.

Once you familiarize yourself with what is most popular in the self-published world, it is time to move on to understanding the popular subgenres in self-publishing. These are the secondary topics that more specifically and accurately break down what your book is about. Fantasy, for example, is a huge genre (and that is putting it very mildly). But once you break it down into subgenres—think romantic, urban, historical, steampunk, paranormal—it becomes a lot less overwhelming and you start to get a picture of where your book fits into the overarching genre, as well as a picture of the people who will most likely want to read it.

Now that you feel comfortable with genres and subgenres, it’s time to ask yourself specific questions about your book. Take the time to really sit with it, trying to look at it from a reader’s standpoint instead of a writer’s. (I know; it’s hard!) Some questions to get you started:

  • What is my book mainly about?
  • What is the main point that my book is trying to get across?
  • What kind of emotions do I want readers to feel when they read my book?
  • What will my readers walk away with after reading my book?

Book Audience
Based on your rapidly growing knowledge of genres and subgenres, as well as a close analysis of your own book, it’s time to start thinking about the book audience that is most likely to want to read your manuscript. Everything from the front cover (despite the enduring advice to the contrary) and writing style to the number of pages and font (yes, really) can influence a person to read a book.

With all that in mind, what kind of people are reading books in your exact genre and subgenre? Look closely at reviews of books you feel are similar to yours in theme and tone, and try to get a sense of who is reading and reviewing them. Factors to consider are things like the age, gender, education level, cultural background, and interests of your potential readers. Be careful not to stereotype, however—the more you can narrow down the kinds of people who would enjoy your book, the more specifically you can market to them down the road.

Now that you’ve identified who is the most likely audience for your book, it is time to expand it. This is where you consider what is called your book’s secondary market. This includes those who are not your main draw but who would nevertheless have interest in your book for various reasons.

One clear example of this is if you have written a children’s book. While obviously kids within a certain age range are the main target for your book, you should also consider the people buying that book as your secondary market. This could include parents, grandparents, librarians, and teachers. Based on the actual content of the children’s book, an author could also branch out even further with their secondary markets. If the book covers particularly emotional topics, adolescent counselors might be a secondary market. If the topics include issues such as adoption, social workers could be considered. If the book touches on bodily health or other scientific concepts, perhaps a pediatrician’s office is an option.

Identifying these secondary markets is just as important as figuring out your main one, since they all work in tandem to create excitement and word-of-mouth buzz for your book.

If zeroing in on your target reading audience seems overwhelming, it might prove helpful for you to start with a general idea and then keep whittling it down. Eventually, if you have a firm grasp on your genre and subgenre, you will hit on all the highlights of who will want to read your book. The more you tailor your marketing plan to a specific group, the more they will feel as though your book was written just for them. And if someone feels truly heard or seen by reading your book? Well, that is how loyal fans are born.


Andrea Moran lives outside of Nashville with her husband and two kids. She’s a professional copywriter and editor who loves all things books. Find her on LinkedIn.

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