Is What You Have to Say What People Want to Hear? Find Your Target Readers

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If you think your book doesn’t have competition, reevaluate the potential size of your market opportunity. But more than that, make sure your book offers value from the perspective of your target readers.

When an author completes his or her manuscript, they are proud of their work and have high hopes — this could be a blockbuster! It’s understandable, and they could be right, but in the final analysis, it is the reader — not the author — who defines the value of the content. It is valuable only if readers believe they are better off after reading it than before, particularly with nonfiction or self-help titles.

With this in mind, creating reader value is less likely to happen if the content is written from the perspective of what the author believes the reader needs to know. Invariably, that is based upon the author’s personal experience and not necessarily upon the perspective of those in the target market. Even more rarely is this based on analysis of competitive sources of information. A typical comment, and one that generally leads to failure, is, “There is no other book like mine out there.”

If authors would stop to answer these five questions, the chances of creating valuable content — i.e., valuable to the reader — would be greatly enhanced.

Who are my target readers?

Too many authors define their potential buyers as “everybody.” You need to do better than that. Start by defining your prospective buyers with the five “Ws.” Who are they demographically? If it is an older audience, you might consider a large-print version. You may define them as “women,” but that needs refinement. Are they mothers? Career women? In retirement?

Where do your readers buy books? That will tell you the places in which you need to have your books available for sale. When do they buy? Is your content of seasonal value? Might it be purchased as a gift? In what form do they want your content delivered? A printed book? An eBook? An audiobook?

Why (the fifth W) do they want (vs. need) your information?

Look past what people say they need to identify what they really want. Do they need to lose weight or want to be more attractive? Do they need more money or do they want to provide for their families, pay for their child’s college, or save for a secure retirement?

Keep asking yourself “Why?” until you get to the real issue. For example:

“Why do people need my cookbook?”
To be better cooks.

“Why is that important?”
To prepare tastier meals.

“Why is that important?”
So their families will eat well-rounded home-cooked meals.

“Why is that important?”
So they will be healthier.

“Why is that important?
To feel they are being a better parent.

Now you have the basic motive to which you can appeal.

What sources of information already address this desire?

In other words, what are you competing against? These days, you’re competing not only against other books, but against information that is readily available on the Internet — not to mention entertainment and other activities. Conduct a search on Amazon for books that address your message. Every book has competition, and if you think yours does not, reevaluate the potential size of your market opportunity. If nothing else you compete for shelf space, media space, and time — and a share of people’s attention. In corporate sales, you compete against coffee mugs, golf shirts, and other promotional items. Know the value of each relative to your content.

How is my content different from — and better than — what already exists?

You will not make news (or sales) if you have nothing new to say. Your stakeholders — prospective readers, buyers, retailers, distributors, librarians, and the media — do not want more of what already exists. Peruse the information currently available to see how it differs from what you have to say. They are looking for something different because what exists does not provide the results they want. Create content that is different and better, and give your readers a unique way to solve their problems.

How can I use the answers to those questions to create and market content that will provide value to readers?

Your responses to the first four questions make it significantly more likely that you will have the right product, delivered in the proper form where it is easily accessible by people who need the unique and valuable information you provide. Your promotion will engage prospective buyers because your message describes how they can get what they really want.

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