Identify Your Book’s Audience (And Write For Readers Interested In What You Have To Say)

book's audience

If you think your book is for everyone, you are setting yourself up for failure. Identify your book’s audience and set yourself up for success.

It’s essential to know your audience and your market before you begin writing your nonfiction book. Identifying your audience will help focus your message and shape your book throughout the writing process and increase your chances for better sales when it comes time to market and promote your nonfiction book. If you think your book will appeal to everyone, you are setting yourself up for failure. No matter how great your message, no matter how brilliant your content, your book simply will not appeal to every reader. Just like in any other endeavor, if you try to please everyone, you’ll stretch yourself too thin and create a bland final product. When you accurately identify your target audience, you can reach the people who will be most interested in your story.

Who do you want to reach?

Your nonfiction book has a purpose, You wouldn’t be writing it if you didn’t want to reach someone. So, who exactly is it you’re targeting? Many authors make a mistake in thinking their audience is just like them, but that’s not always the case. Your ideal audience may be very different from you, so take the time to think about who will be most impacted by your book. Are your readers women between the ages of 20-40? Are they college educated? It may seem counter-intuitive to narrow your target audience in an effort to increase your book’s appeal, but when you target a specific audience, you can increase your following within that niche and interest more people than if your audience is too broad.

Pick a genre

A genre is a general term that refers to a particular classification or type of book, and part of identifying your audience is identifying your book in correct genre. The most general genre delineation is fiction or nonfiction – so let’s say we already know your book is nonfiction. Where else does your book fit?

Keep in mind, bookstores (online and brick and mortar) categorize books by genre, so the genre you choose is of critical importance. What section of the bookstore will your ideal reader go to find the information your book offers? Make sure your book ends up on the right shelf — the one that best suits your ideal reader.

Your audience and your market: is there a difference?

Audiences and markets often overlap, but not always! Your audience is the people who will read and benefit from your book. Your market is the people who will actually purchase the book. Take a minute to picture your book buyers. Are they in your target market? One easy example is in children’s literature: your target reader (audience) is a child, but your market is probably the parents, the people who have the money to spend on the book. If yours is a textbook or educational resource, the student may be the audience, but perhaps teachers or school districts are your market.

Identify secondary markets

Many books will have a primary and secondary markets. Secondary markets are people, organizations, or institutions who will also benefit from your book. Secondary markets may include mental health practitioners if you are writing about depression or a particularly difficult time in your life, or educators if you are writing about children. If you are writing about money management, high school and university counselors could be a secondary market because they might recommend the book to their students. Think about every possibility! You should be able to identify several secondary markets, which means you must analyze which people, organizations, or groups could benefit from your book.

Start with an audience, finish with a successful book

Keep your book’s audience in mind every step of the way. Write for that audience, identify your markets, and speak to them with your solution!

This blog was originally published on The Book Professor Blog. Republished with permission.


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International book marketer, executive book coach, international speaker, and author advocate Nancy L. Erickson is known as The Book Professor because she helps everyday people write high-impact nonfiction books that will save lives, change lives, or transform society. Titles credited to her name include A Life in Parts, for which she received back-cover endorsements from Sir Paul McCartney and Cindy Crawford. Using a methodology she developed, Erickson leads her clients through the writing and publishing process, from initial concept to a draft manuscript, finished manuscript, professionally published product, and internationally marketed product. Erickson is the owner of Stonebrook Publishing, a small press she founded in 2009, and is the creator and owner of Bookarma, a book marketing platform where authors help authors market their books globally through shared social networks. She has presented her innovative ideas at BEA and the Frankfurt Book Fair, where she was a featured speaker.


  1. Thank you, Nancy. Your post was very helpful to me. It has inspired me to take an extra hour of time in writing my book today to reorganize some chapters that are simply not clear because of not knowing my customer.


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