Here’s What You Must Know About Finding Your Target Reader

Just what is “discovery” in book publishing?

Simply put, it’s exposure for your book. Many in the industry, including both publishers and authors, believe this exposure automatically equals sales. The bottom line is that gaining exposure isn’t that hard, but doesn’t guarantee it will sell books. A book can get discovered countless times, but getting people to buy it becomes much more difficult. We worked with an author once who spent all of her book marketing money to purchase ads in advance of a film release, but ultimately the needle never moved on the sales chart. Her efforts didn’t yield a single sale.

So the challenge is not discovery. The problem concerning book sales and selling more copies become much more apparent later on. Let me explain.

Authors will frequently tell me that they’re running numerous ads in the hope of gaining that discovery from new readers. However, as they run these ads, it quickly becomes obvious that their book sales aren’t increasing. Much like the author with the movie theater ad, their book sales have flat-lined. What’s the reason for this method not panning out? I mean, aren’t ads a good book marketing idea?

The answer is: it depends.

Who Exactly Is Your Target Reader?

When was the last time you spent time trying to figure out who your ideal reader is? When I speak to authors about this, in the majority of the cases they tell me they haven’t focused on their ideal reader. They’ll dive right into their book marketing campaign doing things that seem practical, yet it still may not reach your reader. What ultimately occurs is that you waste your book marketing money on things that aren’t successful. You end up discouraged and, maybe (sadly) giving up.

The process of boosting your sales doesn’t have to be so challenging, and actually, it can be a whole lot easier than what you’ve been doing to date.

Why You Must Create a Book for your Specific Reader and Genre

A critical mistake some authors make isn’t reading books in the genres they’re writing, which in turn, means they’re writing books that readers don’t want. Why? Each genre has a specific set of guidelines and reader expectations,  and this is true for every book genre out there.

Let me give you an example. I was teaching a class recently, and one of the students asked me about his book, which he said was his version of the life of Jesus Christ. Now, this gets complicated, because “his version” could get some questionable feedback if he pitches it the incorrect way or to the wrong people. I later found out the book was actually historical fiction, which presented a completely different market for him, and one he hadn’t considered. His focus had been going after Christian readers to try and sell them on his ideas about what really happened. His book marketing efforts went nowhere, so I suggested to him that he change his marketing focus, pitch it as historical, religious fiction, and laser focus on that market.

Don’t Sell a Puppy to a Cat Person

So what is the most crucial error you’re doing in book marketing? Well, this is it: trying to sell a puppy to a cat person.

Getting someone to finish your book is difficult enough, but you’ll gain an edge if you have some information about specific genres. Romance readers have the highest read-through, meaning they are more likely to finish your book. Business book readers often stop at chapter five or so, figuring they’ve learned enough. If you’ve written a book for a male reader, you should know that they are far less patient with reading than women are. Women are more likely to continue a book, but men might be more inclined to abandon it.

The point of it all is that you should be well-versed regarding the specifics about your market to get people to finish reading your book. Half of the readers who buy books never finish them. Why? There are a few possibilities, like the book wasn’t written for the market, you pitched it to the wrong type of audience, or they didn’t like it.

Catering to all readers is one of the most common traps that authors fall into when marketing a book. Although authors want to gain as many readers as possible, they shouldn’t rush to capture such a wide audience right from the gate.  All of your book marketing efforts, tweets, Facebook posts, and pitching should ALL be focused on your core reader since they’re the ones that will help you sell more books. How? Well, read on!

How Readers Buy Books

Back in early 2017, I was at Digital Book World in New York, and one of the speakers brought with him a set of slides and some fascinating statistics. One of which talked about how books are sold. What I learned was that very few sales result from ads, but most books, an incredible 95% of them, are sold via word of mouth. So, readers telling readers.

I know, I was amazed as well. Analyzing that percentage gives real insight into the type of marketing you should be focusing on—reaching the specific reader for your book. Anything less will be a waste of time and resources.

So that’s what will gain the results you are looking for, the precise marketing to target the exact reader who will not only become interested but will also tell their friends about it. But where do you start? Time to delve in deeper.

Misunderstanding Who Your Reader Is and Finding Ways to Market to Them

So, why did you write your book? Maybe you felt you had a story to tell. Perhaps you wanted to help someone do something better, or teach your reader a new skill. Or maybe you wrote a romance novel to entertain, or a true crime book to enlighten. Whatever your reason, writing a book is an impressive accomplishment,  but that was the easy part. Getting people to buy it is where the labor begins.

The first step is identifying who your exact right reader is. Let’s say that you’ve written a book about how to be a good step-parent. So you might automatically think: “Oh, my book should be in the divorce section!” This most likely won’t be the first place a step-parent will turn their attention to, but rather for family and parenting books, and this is where you should begin.

Taking The First Step Towards Finding Your Reader

So, using this as our model, what should you consider?

The first place this author would concentrate their efforts on would be parenting bloggers, but be aware not every one of them will be interested in the step-parent aspect. Some may only target new mothers, and that’s alright because there are plenty of these blogs available.

The author would probably want to start a blog, posting once or twice a week about issues related to step-parenting and navigating the complicated world of parenting someone’s else’s kids.

The following step would be strategically using Amazon keywords and categories to match step-parenting topics. What about the topic of divorce? It should be next and also integrate with her message and focus. So she’ll target divorce blogs, and keep attention on the parenting element. This method will assist in determining the blogs most receptive to her specific subject, as opposed to ones that simply do not cover the divorce aspect.

Your book marketing should never include anything that involves trying to convince the reader that they need your book. Which means stay away from the lure of a broader market and keep your initial focus niche, instead.

Your Amazon Book Page Should Sell Your Book (to the right reader)

I’m going to circle back to the mistake authors make of trying to cater to everyone, and this includes the book description on their book page.  Your book description should be focused on your core reader only, and tightly written. You should reduce the number of flowery descriptions that will bog down the reader, with the exception only if it enhances your overall book description.

The other piece of this is your keywords and categories. Again, remember: be mind-numbingly specific about everything. Always remember that your core reader is the single most important focus of your campaign. So, for example, I talked to an author who wrote a romance novel that had elements of time travel in it and a hint of paranormal. Now, paranormal readers are wildly specific about what they want in their books. Having “elements” of it won’t satisfy this reader, so I advised her to stay away from that. As it turned out, time travel had a more integral part in the story, and since this happens to be a separate category and keyword on Amazon, I told her to focus it there. Yes, time travel could be considered paranormal, but if you read a lot of paranormal romance, you’ll understand why it’s not exactly right for that genre. Having an in-depth knowledge of your genre will dramatically help your efforts; otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark.

Your Amazon book page will have a ton of other products on it that they’re trying to sell. To keep your reader interested and to avoid having them click on similar items, you must make sure that your lead in the book description not only keeps them interested but is concise about what they’ll react to best. Reviewing book copy on similar book pages is an excellent way to start.

Why Your Book Back Matter is Important

There’s no shortage of methods and techniques I can reflect on about marketing your book for additional exposure, but the main takeaway here is that once you have concrete knowledge about your genre and reader, what they’re looking for and how to best to hook them, the rest will surely follow.

You want the whole world to know about your book. What about reaching more readers and that statistic I revealed that 95% of books are sold word of mouth? Want to know the best way to make that happen? Well here’s how: your back matter.

So you’ve gotten them to finish your book—that’s  awesome! Now, what will you do with your reader? Several years ago Goodreads did a study and found that the number one thing that readers want to do when they get to the end of a book is to engage with the author. Be strategic about the back matter of your book. An author bio is okay, but won’t do anything to drive reader engagement.

How to Tell Your Readers What You Want Them To Do

There’s a marketing term called CTA, which means a call to action. I firmly believe that every book should have a CTA in the back, and this can be in the form of a letter to readers to ask them for a review and to get in touch with you. Other options can be asking them what they thought of your book and to email their thoughts, or to remain in contact, or offer them some freebie to get in touch with you. Why? It provides a fantastic opportunity to build your contact list and converse with your readers directly, elevating their loyalty and offer them to share your book with people they know. Remember the power of word of mouth promotion, and these techniques are excellent ways to get the ball rolling.

How to Turn Readers into Super Fans

Book marketing is no easy task, and you may find yourself weighed down by its challenges. The first step in the right direction is to recognize that your approach is incorrect. If you want to sell more books, you need to get specific and maybe even change your genre. Despite seeming out of reach, with the assistance of only a few core devoted readers, it can be possible to discover hundreds of thousands of readers. They’re called Super Fans, and they’re engaged, excited, and always happy to spread the word about your book. (Read here to learn more about Super Fans.)

The back matter in your book is vital because it presents the opportunity for readers to connect with you and when that happens, you can show your appreciation for their support and start a faithful fan base. The thing about super fans is that you don’t need a lot of engaged and loyal readers to create momentum for your book. One reader has the potential to reach ten or more other possible readers. So if you have 50 people on your mailing list, that’s potentially five hundred new readers. See what I mean?

As I mentioned earlier, expensive ads don’t always guarantee increased sales, but utilizing your book marketing efforts with precise, sound strategies will produce more successful results. Paying close attention to your readers and what they’ll most respond to, determining which social media and websites fits best for you, and creating a loyal following relieves a lot of pressure and guesswork in the book marketing process.


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and her company, visit