Dear Indie Authors, Please Identify Your Target Audience in 2021


Entrepreneurship has been the talk of 2020. With the COVID-19 virus sweeping the world, many new businesses have been born. It is a delight to see people take something as detrimental as a deadly global pandemic and use it as the catalyst for stepping outside their comfort zones. Every day someone is beaming about their new business endeavor, and I am here for it.

Self-Publishing a book is a business, too, so if you published a book this year, congratulations! This is a fantastic accomplishment that deserves recognition and celebration.

But Self-Publishing a book is not a business for every author.

There are two kinds of authors. We must identify them before going into it:

  • Authors who publish books for themselves
  • Authors who publish books for an audience

If you publish a book for yourself, you are not necessarily interested in creating a writing business from the book or making money. You might have published this book as a primary teaching tool to awaken the lost sheep, or you may have published this book as a lifetime goal you always wanted to achieve. You might want to print a few copies for family and friends, but you aren’t interested in creating a business out of it.

You are doing this for yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that, but also, in this case, you don’t have to continue to read this post.

You probably should though. Ya know, in case you change your mind.

If you are Self-Publishing a book that’s important to you AND appeals to a particular audience, you want to keep reading this post.

The Problem.

You write a book for yourself and then try to sell it to everyone.

“Most self-published books are vanity projects, which means, the author paid for the privilege of having them published, and spent money getting professionals to help them edit, design and produce it, but they earn less than they cost.” -Derek Murphy

The mistake is you wrote this book and did not think about who you want to read it so you try to appeal to everyone.

 

“It’s easy to fall into the habit of writing what you love or writing to impress your peers or your editor. That might make for good writing… but it won’t necessarily attract readers. To do that, you have to write for, well, readers.” – Writer’s Digest

The Problem.

Who are these readers? Hint: They are not everyone you know.

Dear Indie Authors, Please Identify Your Target Audience in 2021.

Identifying your target audience means identifying your customer demographics and then figuring out which tools will best attract them.

Rather than targeting everyone, you are focusing on the ideal customer for your business. “That means, stop beggingasking for help and support. Stop desperate, useless marketing tactics like spamming Facebook or blasting Twitter.” (Murphy)

You are not only identifying the ideal reader, you are thinking about real, actual people who would like to read your book.

“A lot of writing advice encourages you to define this ideal reader… but forgets to mention they need to be actual readers. If your ideal reader isn’t real, no one will read what you write. Instead of deciding what to write and defining a reader for it, start by defining your reader and writing for them.” – Dana Sitar

When you know your target audience it makes it easier to find your tribe. Your focus is on the people who are there instead of those who aren’t because you know you can’t please everyone.

But that’s what selling to everyone is like: trying to please everyone.

Instead of saying your book is for women, think about who these women are in more specific terms.

“My book targets women history buffs, aged 25-45, who love black history but are tired of the same white male-dominated narratives.”

Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for? What real people do I know would read a book like this? Maybe there is a black woman I know who is always talking about Ta-Nehisi Coates and happens to be reading Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. She might enjoy my Stella Trilogy.

Not so Good Example:

“My book targets women 20-70, suffering, that want to feel better.”

This one is too broad. Every woman you know is suffering from something and want to feel better, and it will be hard to market a book to this wide of an age group. You got millennials and senior citizens in the same club.

Why Does It Matter?

Once you know your target audience and what they want, you can give it to them by being of authentic service to your tribe, which means offering exceptional value consistently. Consistency builds trust, and people buy from brands they trust.

Understanding our target audience doesn’t mean our family and friends won’t support us. It means we are not targeting them in our marketing. To target is to direct an action or message to someone or something. Pookie and Ray-Ray may know you, but are you trying to direct your message to them?

How many family members have bought your book?

I’ll wait.

But this doesn’t only apply to Self-Publishers but entrepreneurs in general, especially in the age of social media. Most people have not even done the basic work of securing a website. You appear out of nowhere with something to sell. You then tell people to cash app you the money and expect them to trust you enough to do it. You can have all the faith in the world, but it still doesn’t exempt you from following a basic business practice.

It’s easy to become frustrated and exhausted about the lack of support for a company without much to show for your efforts when you are trying to appeal to the broadest possible audience. If you start a business and then spam all your Facebook and Instagram friends hoping they will support you, your message may seem inauthentic and doesn’t really resonate with anyone in particular. – Tucker Max, How to Write For and Target the Right Audience for Your Book

Another benefit to knowing your target audience is knowing you don’t have to be everywhere to be seen. If your audience does not hang out on Facebook, you do not have to be on Facebook. If they are not on Instagram, you do not have to be on Instagram. It is easier to be consistent when your attention is focused instead of divided. Go where your people are and build.

Indie Authors, and new entrepreneurs in general, would be a lot happier if we focused on serving our targeted audience instead of everyone we knew. Everyone does not care about you or your business, and it’s a waste of time, energy, and resources trying to appeal to everyone. No one is obligated to support you. People do not care about your product, book, or service. They only care about what it can do for them. Please understand this.

“If you aren’t writing for an audience and carefully considering the commercial viability of your project, if you aren’t expecting and planning to make more money than you spend, and learning exactly what it takes to achieve that, then you’re publishing for yourself, and it’s a big risk and gamble.”

Are You Building a Book Business or a Hustle?

Self-Publishing a book is expensive without a return on investment. As Murphy explains, it just becomes a gamble. I like to call it a hustle. When I think of that word hustle, I think of someone doing anything and everything to make it instead of aligning oneself with a strategic plan and purpose. If you are continually spending money to produce something that doesn’t give anything in return, it can quickly get frustrating.

Excellent cover design, editing, ISBN, and all that is basic; we should all know the importance of this in 2021. The self-publishing service providers, coaches, vanity presses, and assisted self-publishers rarely talk about how authors can make money from that book they just paid five thousand dollars to produce. Launching a #1 Amazon Best Seller is great, but that doesn’t mean the author is earning money. Being on the Amazon Best Sellers list is cool but what’s even more neat is having a faithful readership because a loyal audience will bring consistent book sales.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay to publish a high-quality product. It is to say that without an audience to buy it, it will feel like a waste of money.

Identifying a target audience is the key to any business’s success, and I mean success outside of personal gratification. In 2021, I hope we can all do better (myself included) in focusing on those who best fit the people we want to serve.

Looking for more Indie Author Basics? Click Here.


Don’t forget that if you have read My Soul is a Witness I am trying to reach 20 Book Reviews before this year closes and we are almost there! If you have the book (and have read it), do consider leaving an honest review on Amazon.

Why It Matters:

It’s a real challenge for Indie Authors to market books without Amazon reviews because reviews act as social proof and establish credibility and competence in the publishing marketplace. Are you an author? In need of reviews? Be sure you RSVP for my 2021 list. Click Here.

How to Review on Amazon:

Click this link. Scroll down to ‘Write a Customer Review,’ rate and leave your thoughts on the book.

Also, I am Soul is 99cents on Kindle for a limited time.

Why I Say “Thank You” (and why you should too)

Image Cred. Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

This post is longer than I would like, but I think the message is necessary.

If you’ve been following me online for any significant amount of time, you know I am always saying thank you or reintroducing myself to new readers. I do this because of my firm belief in the phrase, “people don’t have to support you.”

Let me tell you a story.

My husband was driving, and I was looking out the window of the passenger’s seat as we passed by the brick houses, mansions, and condos of downtown Atlanta. “This probably where most of the celebrities live,” I joked. We talked about how movies never show the city’s complete image by filming movies in less wealthy areas. Since we are both from Chicago, we talked about Chicago films where we didn’t recognize the city because it was on the side of town we have never lived.

As we drove, we passed by a fancy-looking hotel where a man stood. He leaned against his suitcase, a white sign on its top with black ink that read: “I lost everything.”

My smile faded, and my heart felt heavy as I realized he was homeless. He didn’t look like those fakes that try to scam people out of their money, either. Something about his vibe told me he was not joking. He had really lost everything.

The US economy was already bad, but since the COVID-19 Pandemic, things have gotten worse. People are out of jobs, out of money, out of homes, and out of hope. Any little they scrape together is reserved for only the most essential items. If someone spends money buying books or t-shirts, or anything that is not greatly essential (okay well, books are essential to me but I mean, like food), it means so much more to them, and they deserve a thank you.

Why EC?

Because they didn’t have to do it and sometimes, they couldn’t do it, but they invested in you.

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

Entrepreneurship has been on the rise a lot lately, and as an entrepreneur, I think that’s a good thing. I have always stood for the underdog and will still rally around the concept of Independence. There is a humility about small, independent businesses that I love. Plus, every large company started as a small business. And since the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the countless black deaths, it has encouraged more people to support black-owned businesses and independent businesses.

This awakening means that while many people are struggling, many people are also thriving even amid this Pandemic. However, I am disappointed to see a lot of bullying among entrepreneurs, both large and small. Some people are shaming people with 9-5s when truth be told, most entrepreneurs in this economy have 9-5s, and their business is the real side hustle. That or their spouses have 9-5s. There’s nothing wrong with this, but some people think there is. People also throw shame when they try to bully people into supporting them.

Bully others into supporting them?

It means making people feel small and insignificant for not buying your services or product. It means threatening to cut people off because they didn’t support your business. It means neglecting to consider all the other things people have going on in their lives right now and that maybe they don’t have the extra money to spend or perhaps don’t have the time.

Image Cred. Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash.

Ignore social media posts for a second and think about what someone may go through behind the scenes.

  • Maybe they cried their eyes out this morning.
  • Maybe they prayed on their knees, drowned in tears.
  • Maybe they were going to lose their home or apartment or children.
  • Maybe they lost their job, career.
  • Maybe a family member died.

Maybe people have other things on their mind that take precedence over buying your bar of soap.

And if you think someone’s being fake for wearing a smile through their storm, then you need not look passed the smile of Chadwick Boseman, who battled cancer while filming movies and never complained.

Image Cred: Creative Commons License | Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Black Panther”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. | Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, US

I watched my sister-in-law battle and eventually perished from cancer. My dad, too, so I know what Chadwick did was not easy from personal experience. And while everyone is praising his silence now, that is not how we treat the “regular everyday people,” we know in actual life who battle in private. We call them phony for not opening up as we think they should. Sometimes people don’t talk, not because they are being fake or secretive, but because it’s just none of your business. Let’s allow people to give their testimony in their own time.

My point in all of this is that no one is obligated to spend money with a business only because it exists. Anything that anyone chooses to give, including time and information, is a gift. I always say “thank you” because people don’t have to support me.

People support businesses that offer something they need, whose message or value system aligns with their own, helps them solve a problem and companies they trust. Someone might enjoy eating bread, and you may launch a bread business, but that bread lover is still not obligated to support you. Maybe over time, once you’ve gained their trust and they’ve sampled your product, they may try it and when they do, say thank you.

Why EC?

Because they didn’t have to do it, so show some gratitude.

To better conclude this point, I will again turn to Tyler Perry as an example.

For the record, this isn’t about Perry’s personal life. I will not comment on him dressing up as a woman, Madea, or his elite status because its none of my business. I am commenting on some basic business practices I see from him as an outsider looking in that many newer entrepreneurs can learn from. Everything else is for an entirely different conversation.

Image Cred. Creative Commons License | AMFM STUDIOS LLC | Filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry being interviewed in 2016.

From a business perspective, you see the same stories and the same actors in Tyler Perry’s films because Perry has a good understanding of his targeted audience. He knows the persona of the people who like his stuff, and he focuses on giving them what they want. Many beginner entrepreneurs can learn from this. Instead of guilt-tripping people into supporting your business and trying to sell to everyone, find your targeted audience or that specific group of people you want to reach based on shared interests and market and direct your attention to those groups.

This means that if only five people like your post, that’s a good thing because chances are those five people are genuinely interested in what you offer. Listen, I’m a damn good writer. I know this to be true. But I also know it to be true that everyone doesn’t want to read what I write, and that’s cool because I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me. I work to serve my audience no matter how small, and I appreciate all the support and time my people invest in my writing.

And for that, I say thank you.


My Soul is a Witness is Available

Check it out below. (thank you!

New Author Tip

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Blogging has greatly impacted my writing life. The knowledge and wisdom from my fellow bloggers is amazing. I love that we build each other up and alert one another to things that may seem fishy in the publishing industry. I love that we promote each other and help advance the other’s writing life. That said, my tip for new authors is this:

This is just a suggestion, but if you are about to publish for the first time and you’ve never published a book before (and people don’t know you as a writer, maybe as other things but not as a writer) consider starting a blog at least 6 months to a year of publishing your first book. Spend that time talking about your passions, networking with other writers, readers and getting a feel for the online community. Don’t just talk about your work, talk about yourself. Post funny pictures, inspiring quotes, short story excerpts, articles and anything that appeals to your target audience and that (most of all) showcases your personality. Let people get to know you better while also getting to know the writer you. Then, when you’re ready to publish your book, you have a platform and people who are interested outside of your immediate circle.

This tip is only for those who are close to publishing. If you are still writing your book, I would say to focus on that for now. If you are publishing soon however, you may want to try blogging to test the waters. It’s a better platform for networking (in my opinion) than Facebook and Twitter.

Self-Publishing: Target Markets

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Though it’s a lot of work, one of the many reasons I chose to Self-Publish is the control. One thing that I did not want is to be categorized. If for whatever reason I chose to include biblical text or any spirituality in my writing I did not want my work labeled Christian Fiction or anything unrelated to the kinds of books I represent even if it did contain biblical insight. I use this as an example to show that what I wanted was to produce books according to how I was being led and to not be held back by society’s precepts or interpretations. This does not, however, exclude me from the discipline this field requires, one of which is identifying target markets.

What is a Target Market?

A target market is a specific group of consumers at which a product or service is aimed. This group of people would also be referred to as your target audience. They are the group of people who your work is specifically targeted to. In this way, you can position yourself to be around this group of people off and online more so than any other group because they are the people who are interested in the kinds of books you write or rather, the kind of service you provide.

An example of Target Markets, according to an example given by Google is: “Schools are a key target for apps.” Why is this so? Education and how children learn is evolving just as quickly as technology. The aged old chalkboard is really not as effective in my opinion as interactive whiteboard systems. That said computers and teaching go hand in hand. In this way, schools are one of the major institutions who could support many of the learning apps available to be used in the classrooms. So for app developers, schools are a key target market meaning this is a group that they strive to appeal to in their promotions as the most likely to purchase their product. But to go further, they can break schools down into what kind of schools they are targeting. Public? Private? Magnet? Charter?

The easiest way to break down a Target Market without the confusion is to think about the kinds of readers who are interested in the kinds of books you write and to break these groups down into their smallest group. You can start broad but try to get it down to the most specific group possible: For example:

Women readers between the ages of 18 – 45. To define this further, I may choose to target online fiction readers of African American ancestry who are interested in history and short stories. This market can be broken down into two-three niches: online short story readers, historical fiction readers, and African American women readers. This example can also be broken down even further but I suppose we pretty much get the point. This does not exclude men from having a target market does not leave out everyone else, but it helps you to closely market your books to a group who, more so than others, will support it.

Everyone

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Although technically speaking anyone who desires to make a profit is targeting everyone, everyone is not a Target Market. It is very unlikely, especially as a Self-Publisher, that everyone will buy your books. That said you have to break reader groups down into the most specified group possible and that’s basically what a Target Market is if you strip it of all the technical language. You are pointing to certain consumers and saying “I choose to market my product to you because we share the same interest.”

While I am still striving to understand the business side of publishing myself, I do know that Indie Authors must realize that their goals should be directly related to their purpose, but that this does not exempt any of us from basic business knowledge and implementation. Meaning that despite passion we still have to target a specific group of people because they are going to be the ones to support our work. We have to do this more so than anyone else because of the stigmas that, though fading, still exists for Self-Publishers. To determine your Target Market, ask yourself:

  • Who are my current customers?
  • Why do they buy from me?
  • Which ones bring in most business?
  • What characteristics and interest do they share?