Who will be the audience for your books?
After deciding WHAT you’ll publish, you also need to consider the audience for your books. Who will buy them?
Here’s a common thing: someone contacts me to explain that they’ve published a book, but now they need to market the book. I’m sorry. You are way late to the question of marketing. Instead, before you even decide which manuscript to turn into a book, you need to nail the question of audience. As with deciding WHAT to publish, this answer may change and grow with you as you develop your business. But you should answer this to the best of your ability NOW. If you don’t, I can’t answer your question of how to market. Because no one—not me, not you, not any consultant—will have any idea of how to market to a vague BookReader.
The Dual Audience: Adults and Kids
For children’s books, there’s always a dual audience, the child and the adult who buys the books.
What age child will you write for? Each age level requires different sorts of books.
Baby - 0-12 months. Board books, short picture books. Wordless to 100 words long.
Toddlers - 1-4 years. Board books, short picture books. Wordless to 300 words long.
Preschool - 3-5 years. Picture books, wordless to 500 words long.
Early elementary - 5-8 years. Picture books, wordless to 500 words long.
Elementary - 6-12 years. Picture books, short chapter books, chapter books, novels.
Early readers - 6-9 years. Short chapter books, 2000-10,000 words.
Middle grade or chapter books - 8-12. 10-50,000 words.
YA or young adult or teen - 9-14. 40-120,000 words.
What else do you know about the child who’d want to read your books? The more demographic information, the better!
Interests & Genres. Are they interested in science nonfiction or multi-cultural books? Are there topics that fascinate them? Do they prefer graphic novels or browsable nonfiction or very long fantasy novels?
Reading Level. Do they read well or do they struggle to read? Are they just learning to read? Think about your ideal audience. One friend says she wants to write early chapter books because she wants to help kids over the hump of learning to read; she wants to take them from picture books to chapter books. What will your books do?
Each type of student will require a different book. The more you can narrow down their interests, reading levels, genres, etc. the easier it will be to reach them with your titles.
ADULT READER - BUYER
Who will buy this book and/or who will read this book to the child? Parents, educators, school librarians, or other professionals? Each group will have different reasons for choosing a particular book. Parents want to both entertain and teach, and they are the real audience for bedtime stories. Educators, librarians and professionals often have a curriculum or specific goal in mind for a book. That may be for the child to enjoy a book! But there’s often a secondary goal.
Overlapping the idea of audience is the question of education curriculums. Most fiction books and some nonfiction don’t refer to curriculums at all. That’s fine. But adding a curriculum tie-in expands the audience. In particular, it changes the marketing from entertainment to educational goals, from a book that I want to a book that I need. It’s a stronger marketing position.
The easiest books to market are those which are designed to fit the needs of a particular audience, a niche market. Publishing to a niche market means fitting the book to the needs of a small, well-defined audience which has a clearly defined communications channel. You may think that limits your marketing, but instead, it focuses the marketing.
Remember my story in an earlier chapter about selling quilting pattern books? The audience for quilting books clearly defined audience and easy to reach. Likewise, educators are a niche audience that’s clearly defined and easy to reach.
Sometimes, children’s authors complain about the stratification of titles across ages. But it’s a logical division based on the developmental need of children. Of course, a book for a three year old is different from that of a seven year old. But that means this is a niche audience.
Filling the needs of educators is another perfect example of a great niche market. It’s a smaller market, but the buyers are more motivated. Teacher organizations make it easy to target the right audience. Award programs are a venue to allow your books to stand out in “today’s crowded market.”
Nonfiction texts are often designed to fit a particular curriculum need. Notice that word: need. It implies that your book fills a specific goal for a curriculum. For example, my 2020 book, EROSION: How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl targets the NGSS science standards for 2nd and 4th grades, where they are specifically directed to study erosion. To accompany their lessons, teachers need books on the topic of erosion.
For my books, I study the needs of the NextGen Science Standards. I “get” them. The result is five NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books. However, I don’t “get” the Social Studies standards in the same way. Although I’ve tried, those awards elude me.
What curriculum interests you? Where could you focus your efforts to find a curriculum fit?
Here are the major options, with some awards listed. Use the award lists from previous years to study what these subject area teachers value
NCTE - Language arts, nonfiction texts
Of course, school children must read books! Fiction is typically the stuff of English literature classes. For indie publishers, it’s harder to target educators for literature classes, though. They are dominated by classic titles, making it hard for contemporary works to break through.
Think about it from the point of view of a teacher. If you want to teach fifth grade reading, it’s helpful to have easily available discussion guides, ancillary research project, fun art projects, and other teaching materials. Classics have a plethora of choices for any one title.
Plus, just creating the reading list for a year is a chore. Once you have an acceptable list, which book will you bump off the list to create space for a new title? Removing a title that’s in the canon of children’s literature for an indie published book is very difficult and rare.
If you write fiction, then, the education market is great for school visits where you’ll have back-of-the-room sales. Another possible way in is through book clubs run by teachers. Often, these are extra-curricular, and thus, are more open for new titles.
Who is YOUR Audience?
Think about it? Who is your main audience and who will buy the books you publish? Leave a comment with some of the things you think about as you decide.