Target Audience

As many of you know, I have been researching the mystical and magical world of marketing.  What I have found so far is there are some things in life that are just ‘beyond the call.’  For me, this is one of them.  I spent my career in Computer Science.  I was often mildly amused at people who couldn’t even do the simplest things with a computer.  Not any more, I have full empathy with all of you and I apologize to everyone I ever shook my head at over the years.

So far, in my quest to learn this dark art, I have read a half-dozen books and spoken to as many people, all with the misguided intention of understanding what the words mean.  After weeks of intense full-time study, I still have no idea what marketing is or even why it takes up valuable space in the world.  Surely all this money spent on something so elusive could have been spent on something, I don’t know, like feeding hungry children or even filling in the potholes on my street?

Every book I’ve read and every conversation I’ve had on this subject begins with the same question, ‘What is your target audience?’  Honest to God, the next person that asks me that is NOT going to be invited to Sunday brunch ever again!  The conversation usually goes something like this.

“Good morning.  I’ve read your book and I really liked it.  It was tender, poignant, and eloquent all at the same time.  A nice read.”

“Thanks.”

“I see from the Prologue that you wrote the book to your children, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, if these stories are written to your children, why are they in a book?  Why not just give them the stories and go on with your life?”

“It really wasn’t my idea.  I wrote the stories on my blog and my growing readership loved them.  Before long, everyone agreed that my stories should be published so everyone could enjoy them.”

“And how large is your readership?”

“There are about 2500 followers and about 23,000 reads.”

“That’s pretty good.  What kind of people are they?  I mean, do they generally fall in any particular category?  Are they young, old, married, single, parents, grandparents, have children, have no children?

“Yes.”

“You’re not being very helpful.”

“Perhaps, but nonetheless, the answer to your question is yes.  The only thing that my readers really have in common is that they are all interested in the literary arts and they all seem to love what I write.  I have become friendly with many of them but I wouldn’t say that I really know them very well.”

“Hmm, I think we need to narrow this down somehow.”

“Why?”

“Well, I can’t market your book to the entire 1.4 billion English speaking people in the world.  It just doesn’t work like that.  We need to find your target audience and put together a marketing plan for them.  Who did you have in mind as your audience when you were actually writing these stories?”

“My two children.”

“That’s it?”

“Yup.”

 “OK, so let’s go through the book and see f we can identify who that audience might be.  I see that the first few chapters are about you growing up.  Those stories might be interesting to 20-something new parents.

“Yes, but most of the positive feedback I’ve received for that section has been from baby-boomers who remember growing up in that same era.”

“Hmm, OK, let’s put them down as well.  Now, the middle of the book deals with your parent’s divorce, adolescent problems, education problems, and then your own divorce.  These stories might be targeted to young adults who have experienced similar problems.”

“OK, but I don’t think very many young adults have read my stories, so I don’t have any data on that.  Most of the positive feedback I got on the middle section was from middle-aged people who wished their parents had written something like this.”

“Let’s put them both down anyway.  Then the last third of the book deals with the events that ultimately led to the happy life that you currently enjoy.  Hmm.” 

“Hmm?”

“I think you should target young adults.  To me, that group will have the most to identify in your book.  I can put together ………”

The next marketing professional and I would have a similar conversation except for the result.

“I think you should target the baby-boomer generation.  To me, that group will have the most to identify …”

And the next marketing professional …

I think you should target the 20-something new parents.  To me they will have the most to identify …”

You get the idea.  I think that every marketing professional I spoke to was experienced and competent.  They just had different experiences and different opinions.  That doesn’t make one better than the other necessarily, just different.  However, I’m just an old country storyteller.  I know enough about this stuff to know that I need to do something.  But it’s truly not helpful to be faced with such wildly differing opinions on the next course of action.

And so I empathize with those people in my past who couldn’t buy a laptop computer without the help of a professional.  Some of you ended up with a Mac and some with a PC.  What you bought was really only the product of the experiences of the person who was helping you.  I get it.  At the same time, faced with so many varying opinions, I end up doing nothing.  And that is the worst thing any of us can do.  Most of us, as new authors, are facing this same situation.

I feel badly that I’ve been talking to people about all of you without giving you the opportunity to speak for yourselves.  Now is your chance, what do you think?

© J T Weaver

Similar Posts:    So You Want To Publish

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About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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56 Responses to Target Audience

  1. Noony says:

    I am terrible at self-promotion of any type. I had a few sales jobs back in the college days, and I couldn’t get people to buy socks during winter. I really hated fundraising too. My thinking is, “well, they don’t need that right now and can’t spare the money so leave them alone.” Never understood the concept of marketing…are you convincing people to buy something they wouldn’t normally buy? Anyway, if I ever publish, I think I’d have really low sales but at least my loved ones would appreciate it.

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    • J T Weaver says:

      I think, not really sure, but I think marketing is the selling of an idea, not a product. For example, when it rains you get wet and you don’t like that. You’re used to it and you really don’t mind. Then a marketing campaign makes you wish there was some way you could NOT get wet on a rainy day. Then someone shows you an umbrella and you can’t wait to buy one. If someone had tried to sell you an umbrella before you thought you needed it, you wouldn’t have even considered it.

      But like you, I couldn’t sell water in a desert. Luckily there are people who can.

      Like

  2. I think you’ve summed up what’s on a lot of our minds. There seems to be no logic as to why a project ‘takes off’ and it’s always a risk to ‘put yourself out there.’ I’m just pleased with every email, tweet or positive comment on facebook and sometimes its about celebrating these and getting others to share the ‘feel good factor.’ You could reach out to parenting websites for example and offer to write guest posts….anything to reach a wider, suitable audience. If it’s a keep sake had you thought of putting a paperback version on Createspace…once it’;s formatted you can upload it for free too. A great Christmas gift too. All the best

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    • J T Weaver says:

      I have thought of doing a paperback on Amazon. I’m exclusive on Amazon so I can’t (for now) go to Createspace. I have printed versions here for the kids for course, but a ‘keepsake’ version would be nice for them. Thanks, great idea Diana.

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      • Createspace is Amazon JT. Exclusivity for an e book on Kindle does not exclude you from launching a paperback with them too on Createspace. They are very helpful. Email me if you’d like more information

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        • J T Weaver says:

          haha, you see, that’s how little I know. I’ll look into it, thanks.

          Like

        • epsnider says:

          I originally self published using the services of a publishing company. It was expensive, and i will probably never recover the full costs. However, I have sold many many more copies of the print version of “Why Me? a memoir than Amazon has sold of the kindle version. As a bonus I printed additional copies to give to my children and each grandchild . Most are too young to appreciate it now ,but hopefully one day they will read it and pass it along to their own children.
          I sold out of my original publication and needed additional copies. Another author told me about Createspace. It is affordable and there is no minimum order . You can order as few or as many as you need, when you need them. Createspace supplies Amazon and will also deliver direct to the writer.

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  3. Benmo says:

    Found it in less than 2 seconds! Ta-da! “Uphill Both Ways” It’s only $2.99 for the Kindle edition. I bought it and shared that fact on my FB page!
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E0228F4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il?ie=UTF8&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=B00E0228F4&link_code=as3&tag=jtwe-20
    TO AID YOU IN YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE PROFILING, I’m female, age 56, married to the same man for 36 years. I have an adult daughter and son-in-law and a one-year-old grandson whom I adore. I live in a small town on the space coast of Florida. I’m a faithful Catholic, I vote conservatively in all elections and I believe in upholding the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I love to read, I’m college-educated, self-employed, and pro-life. I prefer not to divulge my annual income and admit I don’t answer my home phone–I let the answering machine pick up. I volunteer. I pray daily. I read the Bible. I own my home and have two cars in the driveway and two cats underfoot. I drink alcoholic beverages less than 4 times a month; I prefer to indulge with chocolate. I exercise daily and eat fruits and vegetables as well as meat products. I have an interest in genealogy; I’m an inactive member of the DAR and NSDAC (Nat’l Society of the Daughters of the American Colonists). Whew! Anything else you want to know, just ask the NSA, CIA or FBI… I understand they keep tabs on all Americans these days and know everything about us….
    Hope this helps you narrow down your “target audience!”

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Thank you very much for finding and buying the book, I hope you enjoy it. Please help others by giving your opinions of it on the Amazon page.

      Surprisingly (maybe not) you are part of a very large group of my readers. The information helps, thank you.

      Like

  4. Benmo says:

    The name of your book and the link to buy it should be accessible somewhere in the comment section… without too much clicking. Your followers would be happy to help you by including it for a day in their signature line in emails, I bet! In the meantime, I’ll click back to your blog site to see if I can spot the name of your book within 5 seconds…. 🙂 Good luck!

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  5. To the target audience question I tend to say that my book is written to appeal to people who like to read the same kind of books I do. That’s not seen as sufficiently specific unfortunately.

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  6. Day's Lee says:

    Have you read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell? He talks about why and what makes things go viral and the type of people who make it happen. It’s fascinating. Marketing is a crapshoot. You hope that the message gets to the right people. I say that you did great! You finished your book and put it out there for readers to discover. Now you have to work on your next book for your fans.

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    • J T Weaver says:

      I use the term ‘marketing’ in the most general and uninformed sense. I haven’t read ‘The Tipping Point’ but it sounds like I should. Wait, am I helping to make that book viral? [screech!]
      Thank you very much but I’ll continue to write as things come to me but another book? [cringe] Here’s the problem with saying I’ll do another book: As soon as I say that, I’m now under some artificial schedule/deadline/pressure. Months/years go by and people start asking when I’m going to finish it. [ugh] No thanks. I’ll continue writing and maybe it will be another book and maybe it won’t. My memoir was never supposed to be published and it was easy to write. I don’t want to make the writing difficult.

      Just my take on it.

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      • Day's Lee says:

        The book went viral 3 years ago; it was a New York Times Bestseller like most of Gladwell’s books. It’s great that you have a good approach to writing and publishing. Many talented people get frustrated by what comes after the book is written and give up. I’m in the process of marketing my book and have decided to do whatever I feel I have to do and just have fun with it. Having already gone through the traditional publishing route, I’m enjoying being a self-publisher.

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        • J T Weaver says:

          I will have to admit I’m having some fun with this. Not nearly as much fun as the writing is, but I like to keep learning things and since I’m starting out at basically zero … Also, it’s become a “I just want to see if I can do it” thing.

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        • Tom Heuerman says:

          Great stream of comments. I enjoy reading them. I am retired from consulting and write as an avocation. I published my first ebook and will soon publish my second. I call them my “legacy books” as more than anything I wanted to put my work somewhere where it would endure. I most want to just write as I love to do it and my blogs is perfect for short pieces as I don’t want to write more books (I have several others that I may or may not self-publish). I do about 15 minutes of marketing a day via the Internet. That’s all I will ever do.

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          • J T Weaver says:

            Is your marketing particularly successful Tom? Are there things that you do that result in people buying books vs maybe some other things that don’t?

            I would have to say that I don’t do any marketing at all. Of course, if I had a clue what marketing was I might have a better estimate. I play with this blog, answer questions, interact with people, do interviews, your know, generally just have fun. But being retired sure does lessen the urgency of it all. If I had the pressure that I wouldn’t eat unless I sold 100 books, … I don’t know how people can function like that.

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            • Tom Heuerman says:

              JT: I’ve never been much of a marketer–not in the newspaper business nor in business for myself as a consultant for 13 years. As a consultant, I did all the typical stuff and none of it did much for me. I made a decent living over those years and got my business via referrals for the most part and occasionally via my writing. I wrote essays (I called them Pamphlets) for 15 years and grew a large mailing list (via email). I had about 3,500 subscribers (Pamphlets were free) with considerable pass-a-long. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

              When I published the ebook, I sent a note to all my old subscribers, to about 700 contacts on LinkedIn, to other contacts, old clients, etc. I did an interview with “Sage Companion Project” and that got me some exposure. I will continue to do some writing for them. I setup my blog (Tom’s Thoughts) and am slowly growing a following again. But I care more about writing pieces that I like than about getting followers although I like them too! Retired, I’m not looking for work just satisfaction. I turned down an interview for a Podcast because I just wasn’t interested.

              I am experimenting with Twitter (@THeuerman). That’s my 15 minutes a day of marketing. I’ll continue with this for about six months and then assess if it is worth my time. I did my first 5 free days and gave away about 500 books.

              I can’t say that anything I’ve done has mattered much more than anything else to date. I sold a bunch initially and slowly since. I do think that I priced it too high. I did so because the 43 essays had been popular with my Pamphlet readers and I thought the book was worth it. I have lowered the price and probably will do so again down the road. My second ebook is a different kind of book, and I will price it low to begin with.

              I have an ego too and would like to “catch fire.” It is easy to get caught up in the selling books mode. Some have to do it; I don’t and I don’t like marketing myself much. I focus on writing as well as I can and writing what I want for myself and let the rest take care of itself, which can be frustrating and hard to do–I don’t want to come off that I am not affected by how many or how few books I sell, I am but I try to stay focused on what really matters to me.

              By the way, the statistics on book sales are dismal for all books, print and digital. The average business book sells less than 1000 copies in its lifetime. Send me your email and I can send you some more data from a major book publisher. If you wish, I can post the data as a comment.

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  7. As writers we often get caught up in the way to do things…Recently I read on an agent’s blog that query letters must not only share a synopsis of your book, but also the way you plan to market it and to whom, which totally overwhelmed me. But ultimately I feel if you have written from your heart (and you have!) you will reach the right people, whether that number is few or many. Your success here validates that what you write touches people, JT. To me, that means you have achieved success. Trust your instincts, trust the writing and the words. The rest will follow. 🙂

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    • J T Weaver says:

      Thank you very much. I do try to have a “Field of Dreams” attitude about all of this. There are 1.4 billion people out there that read English so certainly a few of them will take a chance. I just get a little antsy when I feel the project is going to die. Then I get some wine and I feel better. I appreciate your opinions.

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  8. Colleen says:

    Sometimes when I can’t decide what I want, I decide what I don’t want. Personally, I find it very annoying that everything has to have a label, but I guess people need to know what shelf to put it on. Might I suggest you eliminate all that it is not and then see, of what is left, what is the best fit. For example, if you had trouble with the genre: it’s not fantasy or sci fi or romance or murder mystery…. Do this with your demographics. Which target groups does it not fit. Then rank the ones that are left in order of most appropriate. Ignore that you originally wrote for your children for this exercise in frustration. And just because it is marketed to one demographic doesn’t mean there can’t be cross over after. Some of my favorite books are children’s books and I am 53. That didn’t stop me from reading Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia. Nothing will stop me from reading a good book. Good Luck!

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    • J T Weaver says:

      Ah, a Sherlock Holmes fan, love it. I agree with your assessment. But there are two problems here, the first is what audience and the second is what to do with it once you’ve decided. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it. PS: I liked Harry Potter as well, for no better reason than ‘just because.’

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      • Colleen says:

        Yes, I do love Sherlock. Why not make a wish that the right audience will find your book and then walk a way for awhile. Your “publishing post” you seemed stressed over the blog. There seems to be a lot of stress over other people: book audience, blog readers, you wrote the book for you kids… what about you? Are you having fun? Why not just write something that brings you joy and post that? You’ve really already met your first two goals: you wrote the book for your kids and people have read it. Give yourself some time to celebrate and savor that. 🙂 Have a happy night.

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        • J T Weaver says:

          Yes, I’m actually having a great time. For the first time I’m doing something creative and not completely left-brained. I’ve written a dozen or so posts, since the launch of the book, that are totally unrelated to anything about the book and that’s been fun as well. I’ve discovered “guest posting” and have hosted 10 guest posts so far from some wonderful writers with more on the way. Lastly, since the book launch I’ve been doing interviews and feature spots and that’s been a real kick for me. So, yes I’ve recognized that there is still a lot of un out there to be had. Thanks Coleen. 🙂

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  9. merrysusanna says:

    Here is what I think: (free of charge, haha!). If you did not set out to write a book and you did it for your children, then why not let it be? At this point, are you looking to recoup an investment in what you may have spent already or make money? If not, just see where the readers take you, just like the blogs did. Leave the marketers and their mumbo jumbo to themselves and enjoy the ride! Don’t let pressure to do more take away your pleasure in your writing.

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    • J T Weaver says:

      There is a lot to be said for that. I wrote my stories on my blog initially because I wanted them to be read. I felt they could have some value to people in a variety of situations. But then when I published them, I had to take them down (Amazon rules). Before I published the stories got 2000 reads a month, now they get nothing. So, yes, they were written for the children initially, but I now just want people to enjoy them.

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  10. laphillips52 says:

    I really enjoyed this post. As a marketer unless the target audience is obvious I never ask. I think a book like yours is written from the heart and meant to share with certain people…in this case your children. Rest assured though that it can be marketed (read promoted) without losing the intended loving gift or the joy you feel sharing it. By the way, thanks for letting the rest of us share these wonderful stories.

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  11. I agree with Lynne….
    However, my weighing in brings you no closer to resolving this audience issue.
    Do not despair, if everything is not okay in the end, then it is not the end. 🙂

    Like

  12. Tom Heuerman says:

    Best advice I’ve heard: “Attract rather than promote.” Came from AA.

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Thanks Tom, but what does that mean exactly? And how is it accomplished?

      Like

      • Tom Heuerman says:

        Now, that’s the million dollar question!

        In AA I imagine it meant that if the program worked for people, others would be attracted to it. As a consultant, I tried to “attract” by doing good work and then getting referrals from happy clients. In 13 years, I never got a client via traditional marketing methods. I got almost all clients via referrals. But not always as many as I would have liked!

        As a writer, I would guess it means, “Write well and put it out there for people to react to.” In 20 years of writing, I’ve found that slow and one reader at a time.

        I read your ebook and thoroughly enjoyed it. I know as a parent of grown children, stepchildren, and grandchildren who are growing up, I like stories like yours.

        After I published my ebook, “Learning to Live: Essays on Life and Leadership” last June (I just marketed it by mentioning it.), I got caught up in trying to “market” the book. Mostly I got frustrated. I had to remind myself that I wrote because I love to write, and I published because I wanted a place to put my work that would save it for posterity and maybe be helpful to someone along the way. I’m not selling more books but I am happier when I keep my priorities straight.

        I too would love to hear what other people think about writing and marketing and what their priorities are.

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        • J T Weaver says:

          I absolutely agree Tom. Your philosophy, one reader at a time, has always been attractive to me. I do get worried that the book will die somehow so I get antsy about it. Your insights, as always, are valuable to me and I thank you very much.

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          • Tom Heuerman says:

            I know the fear of the book dying, but I remind myself that I put mine on the Internet so it could live and be there for someone who wanted it a long time from now. Stories are timeless as is good thinking. I can do my little bits of marketing for as long as I want to. In my field of leadership and transformational change, some of the best reading I did for my Ph.D. work was written decades ago.

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  13. raloki says:

    Ha – the joys of the inexact sciences. Well almost. Put 10 economists or marketing professionals in a room and ask them the same question relative to their field of expertise and you would get 10 different answers. As you say everyone is guided by their own experiences. Another well written article that this mother, grandmother, female, baby boomer and probably a few other labels enjoyed. I think your writing appeals to a wide range of people because different stories will appeal to different people.

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  14. Lynne says:

    In my humble opinion, your writing appeals to a large age range from “young adult” to “seniors.” There is a lot to learn~ life lessons from your writings~ from perseverance, to resilience, hope, heartache, opportunities and dreams, that can resonate with a large age range. Ultimately, yours is a story about love and respect for oneself and others, something that the “world” and families need more of (in my humble opinion). Personally, I find the life stories of the “everyday” man or woman much more inspiring than any celebrity’s memoir. Best wishes!

    Like

  15. Great post! This is what we are all going through.

    Like

  16. leotoribio says:

    J.T.,

    The question to be asked is “Cui bono?” Who will benefit from reading your book, how will they benefit and why? To properly brand your work, those are the most essential questions. But there is also a universal, ready-made marketplace in the form of online book clubs. If I wanted to market a book, I would begin there.

    Leo Toribio
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Oh, I didn’t even get into the “who will benefit” questions. I thought I would save those for another post. But you’re right of course. What the marketing people want to find is a way to somehow distinguish the book within that ready-made marketplace. Thanks for stopping by Leo, I really appreciate it.

      Like

  17. Good luck targeting the target audience. On my blog which has grown word of mouth it seems, most of my subscribers are women from various walks of life in the 50+ range. No target – it just worked out that way. Another grouping is people of Christian faith and I suppose they just appreciate my wholesome and unoffensive humor and simple art.

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Well, I bring that up and I get weird looks. “What do you mean it just worked out that way?” It’s like the natural progression of things is somehow anti-marketing. Funny stuff. Thanks Carl, I appreciate you stopping by.

      Like

  18. Karen Wan says:

    I wish you luck with the whole target audience business. It’s a question that I’m working with myself, and haven’t answered. I’m new to your community, and just beginning to read your blog, so I don’t know what kind of target audience makes sense for you. Look forward to seeing your journey with this. Karen

    Like

  19. Saunved says:

    Haha…I loved this post! I guess your writing is so competent that people of all age groups can relate to it 😉
    This was one of your first posts which I have read, and I’m glad I did! Thanks 🙂

    Like

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