"But, I don't think anyone will buy my book," they say. "Who do you think will buy it?"
It’s a common enough question from new or would-be writers of business books. The immediate, gut-knotting worry about the sales and readers, and that scene they have in their mind of having a book signing where they're standing there with their new, wonderful book in their hands, staring out at an audience of....one. Because,yes, of course, Mom or best friend or significant other will attend, even when no one else will.
Here's the thing, that second question they ask me, "Who do you think will buy it?" is a clear giveaway they've been true to the idea of their book, but they haven't explored the process of becoming an author.
The better question, from my point of view as a book coach, is, "Are you writing for the right audience? Isn't your message for them, not for you?"
Let’s challenge the idea of writing a book because you can't wait to see your name on the cover - sure, being identified as the "author of" enhances expertise and gains you immediate respect - but I advise you to first understand who your reader is. Because, unless you're already famous, your name is not the part of the book that will attract readers. They want the title, the sub-title, and the back cover. And it needs to identify a problem they need solved.
Here are 7 People Your Reader is Not:
- Everyone you've ever met who exclaimed, "You should write a book!" Unless it was me.
- Women. Big group.
- Men. Also a big group.
- Folks you met at a conference. Not as big a group as women or men, but big.
- Folks who follow you on Pinterest.
- Folks who follow you on Instagram.
- Folks who follow you on LinkedIn.
The list could go on and on. Yes, I know your book could be appealing to all of the groups mentioned in the list, but if you go into the project expecting all of those people to buy your book, because one or two of them expressed an interest, you will likely be disappointed.
Learning to understand your audience requires a drill down into who is this book for? And, it's not for you.
Your book may be appropriate and interesting to:
- Everyone in the known universe. I suppose that could happen.
- Members of your networking groups. I will expect that you have chosen said groups because their purpose compliments your purpose.
- A woman or women in general. However, when you say, “My book is for women,” while you give me that squinty-eyed stare as if I'm being unreasonable to expect you to understand that women are a diverse group of people. Not all of them want or need what you are selling. (Oh, yes, by the way, a book is a sales tool.)
- Men, because, well, it's for men. The book may be interesting to them but attempting to write something to please all members of any group, men, women, or otherwise, is an exercise in futility.
All of the above applies to children and parents, also. Your book is not for all the eyeballs in the Universe, nor is it for all parents or children or known readers in the world. Remember, we are talking business books here, not fiction.
Who, then, are the people in this mysterious audience? The one you plan on selling to?
To start with, your audience must be me, or someone like me, or whomever you choose to speak to, as you write. One person that you have identified as the right person for your content. You need to understand her, or him, and you must create an avatar describing this person.
For instance, let’s say you’re writing a book for women about the glass ceiling and how women can ignore that by becoming their own boss in their own small business. Let’s focus then on the one woman you can keep in mind, as you share your knowledge and expertise throughout your book.
- Your audience is Kim Bancroft.
- Kim lives in Pittsford, NY, a suburb of Rochester, NY.
- Kim is 29 years old and beginning to feel the usual angst at the approach of that big number 30.
- Kim is married. Her husband works at a print shop. Or her wife works at a print shop, be that specific.
- Kim is a talented event organizer. She volunteers at several non-profits.
- Kim works part-time at the local library. She loves to read! She mostly reads fiction, but she’s been toying with starting her own business, so she has recently checked out a number of business books on being an entrepreneur.
- Kim has one child, three-year-old Matthew, who seems hyper-active, but is intelligent and full of laughter. He goes to daycare when she works.
- Kim is slender. Brown hair with red highlights. A warm smile. Pretty green eyes.
- Kim graduated from her local community college just last year. She took business courses. She dreams of opening a woman’s boutique selling classic jewelry, clothing, and shoes.
There is more we could learn about Kim, if we were to complete the task of designing her life in this blog post. We are not going to do that, however. The goal here is to give you the building blocks of understanding your audience by developing a test subject. You are welcome to create three test subjects, but don't try to invent a whole neighborhood.
After you know Kim very well, write down why Kim would buy your book. Be specific.
Friends and Family and More, Oh My!
Understand that your test subjects do not live in a vacuum. They have friends and family, and many of those friends and family will be similar enough to the test subjects to be interested in your book. It's all about who cares. Who cares about your message? Kim, and many of her friends and family, I submit.
People read to be either entertained, educated, or inspired. It is possible to be all three, in one book. Talented people are able to write books that entertain, inspire, and educate, without much trouble at all. It’s all in the storytelling.
Once you have your test subjects developed, and you have identified why those test subjects will buy your book, you have an audience for your book. These are your readers. These are the people you will promote your book to, as it's being written and when it launches.
Don’t forget to learn how your test subjects want the content delivered. Not everyone reads print books, anymore. Explore ebooks, print on demand publishing, and ways to deliver the content of the book in other ways. I have a book about that. It's called, The Smart Woman's Path to Taking Her Story On the Road.
Writing for the right audience is easy, once you know who the right audience is. If you need further guidance, help keeping that message alive for your audience, I'm available. I've been doing this for close to 20 years, so I know of what I speak.