*Updated December 24, 2017 after the F.C.C. repealed Title II.
This post will help you to define your ideal reader by asking you to identify your book’s highest level of contribution, who wants to hear what you have to say, and where those readers go to find the type of information your book provides.
NOTE: The best time to do this is before you finish writing your book. If you plan to pitch your manuscript to a literary agent, this information must be part of your book proposal. The answers to these questions should guide your approach to writing your book and marketing material and building your author platform.
Who Is Your Ideal Reader?
Ideal readers are the people most likely to purchase your book. They are not the people who need the information you provide in your book: Need and want are different things.
An ideal reader needs and wants the information in your book. Ideal readers must also be able to afford your book and be willing to pay for it.
For an ideal reader to need, want, and be willing to pay for your book, your book must be discoverable. If your ideal reader doesn’t know about your book, they cannot choose it.
Ideal Reader vs. Ideal Audience
It’s imperative that authors understand how their audience searches for, discovers, and consumes information because ideal readers are readers.
If the people most likely to need, want, and actively seek the information contained in your book prefer to consume information on the go in the form of video content or podcasts, getting your book in front of them and convincing them to buy (and read) a book may be a challenge. Those people may be your ideal audience, but they are not your ideal reader.
The distinction may seem minor, but understanding it will help you develop strategies to better position yourself as an authority in your market and reveal opportunities for creating streams of income related to your book and its topic but not dependent upon it. (This is a topic for another time but one to be aware of.)
Identify the Benefits of Your Book
Identifying the benefits of your book is the first step on the path to developing a book marketing strategy and setting realistic book sales goals because it points to the people most likely to buy your book.
To do that, it’s helpful to ask a series of questions:
What’s your point?
What is the purpose of your book—its premise, its take away?
How does your ideal reader know that they need the information in your book? What negative things are they experiencing because of the problem(s) you address in your book?
What benefit(s) will they receive from reading your book?
These are the types of people who care about what you have to say.
It's not enough to identify the benefits of your book. You must also identify why and how your book adds to the conversation about the topic and why a reader should choose your book over other similar books. For that, you must know who you're competing against.
Who’s Your Competition?
When I ask this question, I typically get one of two answers: “I don’t know,” or “No one.” Neither is likely. If you don’t know your competition, you won’t be able to articulate your unique selling proposition (USP)—the thing that sets you and your book apart. If your ideal reader knows more about your competition than you do, you’ve compromised your position as an authority and a problem solver.
Who else is writing books about the same or similar topic(s) and has a similar approach to yours?
What are the titles of other books you might find in the offices, homes, and briefcases of your ideal reader?
How do your book and approach differ from other authors’ approaches and books, and why is yours better?
What’s your competition?
What platforms compete for potential readers’ attention (television and/or YouTube for example)?
If given the choice between several books on your topic, why are you more qualified to speak on the topic than the other authors? Why should your reader trust and choose you?
Ideal Reader Demographics
What does your ideal reader do for a living? In what stage of their career are they?
What is their level of education?
What is their yearly income?
What are their likes, dislikes, interests, and hobbies?
Is it helpful to identify their age, personality type, political and/or religious affiliation, gender identity, and/or parental status?
What other unique characteristics or affiliations might your ideal reader have?
It's not enough to have a great book. If no one knows about it, no one will buy it.
So, so how will your ideal reader find you?
Where does your ideal reader go to find answers to their questions?
Which search engines do they use (Google, Amazon, YouTube)?
What keywords and phrases are they using in their searches?
What visibility do you currently have within your ideal reader/peer community?
What are you already doing to expand your platform (i.e. get in front of), establish your authority, and connect with your ideal reader?
How the F.C.C. Repeal of Title II (Net Neutrality) May Affect Authors
Email marketing is the undisputed ruler when it comes to ROI. (We're talking about real money made for the time and money invested, not false positives like open and click rates.)
It's all about the email list. Ideal readers discover authors in many ways, but social media and keyword internet searches are the most common. The goal is to bring ideal readers to our sites so they opt-in to our mailing list (subscribe).
The repeal of Title II may not mean that internet service providers block sites, but equal access is no longer protected. Priority can now be given--in the form of higher speed access--to companies willing to pay. While not blocking, the reality is that this will severely limit the number of site visitors to non-paying URLs. Here's why: (Slow) Speed Is a Killer.
New and Aspiring Authors
If you do not currently have a large email list and if your site visitors clicking away from your site before it finishes loading, they in effect opt-out of your content and access to your emails.
Established authors with large email lists and footprints on Amazon and other book sales sites will fare better because they have direct access to ideal readers and will benefit from being on platforms run by companies that will pay for priority access to the internet.
So, what assets do you currently own, which do you need access to, and how will you overcome the challenges presented by changes to how authors have been connecting with readers?
Develop Your Ideal Reader Profile and Revised Marketing Strategy ASAP!
By finding answers to the questions above, your marketing message will be more precise, your promotional efforts more efficient, and your results better than if you haphazardly approach writing, marketing, and sales.