Some writers launch into their book based on a great story idea or a nonfiction idea that they believe needs to be written about without ever seriously considering who will actually buy their book. Before you ever start to write–anything–it’s critical that you have identified, then catered to, your target market.

How to identify your target market

Identifying your target market may not always be that easy. If you’re writing chick lit, you could say your target market is women. But that’s not entirely accurate. Not all women are going to buy your book. Your job is to determine which women will most likely buy. What are their ages? What other interests do they have? Do they usually have families, or will your target market be predominantly single women? These are all legitimate questions that you’ll need to ask yourself before putting pen to paper.

When identifying your target market, start general, but don’t stay there. As a first step, place your potential readers into general categories of gender and age groups. From there, consider other groupings, such as social status, interests, religious affiliations, and so forth.

Do your market research

For the purposes of your proposal, you’ll want to share with the publisher what you’ve discovered about both the reader who will buy your book as well as the type of store that will sell your book.

Gather numerical statistics on the kind of reader who has purchased similar books, attended workshops or seminars on your topic, watched television shows or movies on your subject, or who is affiliated with related organizations. If you’re book is about fitness, find out how much money people spent in the last year on fitness-related products or gym memberships; research the age groups with the highest number of purchasers; and find out what other interests or affiliations these people are typically interested in.

The whole point of this section of your proposal is to show that you have a specific, target audience in mind and that you have done your homework to prove that this target market is large enough to warrant the publisher buying your book. You can never accurately estimate how many people will ultimately buy your book, but you can estimate–based on real data–how many potential buyers there are.

Aside from gathering statistics on your readers, also determine what kind of places might sell your book other than the large bookstores or online avenues. What specialty outlets might cater to your target market? Your fitness book might be a good fit for a health food store or a sporting goods store. As you research your target market, you’ll likely discover some interesting places that your reader can be found hanging out on a regular basis.

Targeting a niche market

If your book will not have broad universal appeal, like a cookbook might, you’ll have to convince the publisher that your specific niche market is still large enough for book sales. To do so, research every possible avenue, affiliation, or interest group that your audience might be connected with. Find out how many members each of these organizations has, if there is a growth trend in this particular field, and what the vehicles are through which you could sell books within this niche. The tighter the niche, the harder you’ll have to work to prove the numbers will be there when it comes time to sell.

If you have a fiction book that also has a niche market, you can look to competitive titles in that genre or perhaps movies or television shows to prove that you are writing a story that will garner a lot of interest. A perfect example of this is the vampire craze that began a few years ago but is now beginning to fade.

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, or even children’s books, much of the research you’ll need to support your case for potential buyers can be found through internet searches or through government agencies or private organizations (such as the Nielsen Group) that make it their job to compile statistics on buying trends. Use these figures to support your case for how you’ve identified your target market and why that market is large enough for the publisher to buy your book.

During my next post, I’ll cover the various things that should be included in the sections of Book Specifications, Back Matter, and Special Features.

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