Most authors write a book, then think about how to sell it. But it's much more effective to think about marketing from the very beginning, so that you can tailor your book to its intended audience and begin to build a following before publication. In today's guest post, Jan Bear, author of Target Marketing for Authors, talks about the importance of keeping your target audience in mind as you write. Jan's tips focus on nonfiction, but novelists and children's authors should also consider their audiences as they develop their stories.
If you've ever gotten stuck writing your book -- overwhelmed with too much research, confused about what to put in and what to leave out, going through so many drafts that the book begins to lose its sparkle even for you -- I may have a simple way to cut through the fog and help you get your book written and written well.
Let me give you two words that can revolutionize your writing: Target audience.
Now, I hear some writers saying, "That's about marketing. I'm not ready to market, because I don't have my book written yet." If that’s you, I ask you to hear me out.
If you know your target audience, the way you know a close friend, you can transform your writing experience.
- You'll know what fits into your book and what doesn't.
- You'll know when you've done enough research.
- You'll reduce the number of drafts it takes to get it right.
- You'll instinctively know the voice and tone that you need to use.
What Goes In, What Goes Out
Your target audience will tell you what they need to know and what they don’t. Let’s say you’re writing a book about how to remodel a kitchen. It makes a big difference if your reader lives in an urban multi-family setting or a ramshackle 1920s farmhouse. Having a clear vision of your readers’ needs and wants will make it easy not to get caught up in providing information that’s not helpful to them.
Even if you do want to provide information for both kinds of home-owners (and others), in the new world of digital publishing, it might make sense to write several smaller books, each addressed to one audience, rather than one big one that tries to be everything to everybody.
To provide real value in informational nonfiction, you really only need to be one step ahead of your audience. You can write the first draft of the book based on what you already know and then go back and fill in the holes you find when you reread it. Just keep in mind where your ideal reader is in the learning journey.
If you're writing financial advice, are you writing for people just starting out in their careers or for people nearing retirement? For financial newbies or professional investment advisors?
Beginners need step-by-step instructions with enough theory that the steps make sense. Advanced readers are more interested in controversies, so you can leave out the steps. It’s a lot of extra work for you and no value for your audience if you include information they don’t need or want.
The Right Voice and Tone
Some people enjoy it when you spice up your writing with four-letter words; others find profanity a complete put-off. Some people are struggling to learn your language; others want you to speak their local dialect and local slang to show you’re “one of us.” Beginners need you to explain the jargon; advanced readers want you to use the jargon so that they have confidence that you’re up to date on the subject.
If you understand your reader, you don’t need to “decide” how to communicate, any more than you “decide” how to communicate with your mother. The communication is established by your relationship with your audience.
Keeping Revisions to a Minimum
Knowing your audience can bring your book into laser focus, because you're no longer trying to write for everyone. Instead, you're writing for the select audience who need and want what you have to offer.
If you know your audience before you write, you don’t have to pour in everything and then cut it out. You have purpose and direction from the beginning. You probably won’t be able to crank out a finished book in one draft, but your draft count will be lower than it would be otherwise.
Marketing Your Book
Your book marketing doesn’t begin after the book is finished. It begins with the selection of the topic and continues through every page of the writing. By taking the time to determine your audience as soon as you can, you eliminate false steps and extra work at every step along the way.
About the Author
Jan Bear helps writers establish a web presence so that they can connect with their audience, build a following, and sell more books, even if they’re new to the web. She is the author of a new book, Target Marketing for Authors: How to Find and Captivate Your Book’s Target Audience.