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How to Define your Target Reader (and why you need to)

Whenever a new business owner comes to me about ghostwriting a new book for them, there are two questions that always throw them: what is the book about and who is the book for?

Who is their audience?

Believe it or not, your ideal reader for your book is not always going to be the same ideal client you have for your business.

Sometimes they will be, but chances are your ideal reader is going to need to be much, much more specific.

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Learning to Define your Target Reader Starts with Defining your Audience

Once I start asking about a target reader, most business owners start to get hesitant. They don’t like to niche down or narrow down their audience to a single target. So, I end up receiving a lot of replies like “oh, anyone who wants to own a business is going to want to read this book.”

Really?

Anyone?

Are you sure about that?

“Anyone who wants to own a business” is a demographic – not an audience. Heck, even “men who want to own a business” or “women who want to own a business” are demographics.

An audience is more targeted: a woman who owns and runs a business out of her house and needs help managing her time.

And a target reader is even more specific than that: my ideal reader is a woman named Wanda who owns and runs a business out of her house with three kids and very little help. She feels overwhelmed with all that she has to do but can’t hire anyone and needs help managing her time so she can improve her work-life balance and be more attentive with her children rather than fighting against the clock to run her business.

So, how do you get there? First, stop thinking about the target. The most important part of “target reader” is the reader – the person who is buying your book.

In fact, the target isn’t even the right tool for defining your audience at all.

Shooting Through the Audience Funnel

Part of the reason authors don’t like trying to sit down and define their target reader is because they feel like doing so will automatically exclude anyone who is not their target. Kind of like shooting at a target:

Illustration hitting the bullseye when choosing your target reader.

Even if you hit the bullseye, you miss anything else that might be close to it. And business owners really, really don’t like to miss anything. Especially if they think that someone just outside of that target zone might have actually been a target.

But if you stop thinking of it as shooting at a target and start thinking of it as shooting into a funnel, you get a much better idea about how defining your target reader works:

Shooting through the Audience Funnel

Once you can see the Audience funnel, you realize that you aren’t aiming for a bullseye and missing everyone else. On the contrary, you have to go through everyone else in order to get to your target (which is at the very bottom of the funnel).

And you’re going to bring people along with you on the way as you pass through.

Breaking down the Audience Funnel as You Define your Target Reader

Ideal Reader:

Your ideal reader is the person your book is meant to help with a specific problem or need they are having right now and, not only that, but they don’t want the same help from anyone else. This is your super fan: the person who not only buys your book but memorizes every word.

This is your person because you know exactly how to talk to him or her. You know where they hang out, what their problems are and how to solve them, and how to present yourself in a way that they will receive positively.

Wanda is a woman who owns and runs a business out of her house with three kids and very little help. She feels overwhelmed with all that she has to do but can’t hire anyone and needs help managing her time so she can improve her work-life balance and be more attentive with her children rather than fighting against the clock to run her business.

Primary Audience:

Your primary audience is a group of people who have the same need as your ideal reader.

Really, the only difference between a member of your primary audience and your ideal reader is the superfan status: members of your primary audience may still seek help and resources from others and may not memorize your every word. But they will cling to any value your book gave them and they will share it with their audience.

Your primary audience and your ideal reader are essential to your book’s success. Your marketing has to be on pointe to reach these two levels of the funnel because if you miss here, your book will be doomed to sit ignored.

A woman who owns and runs a business out of her house and needs help managing her time.

Secondary Audience:

People in your secondary audience may match many of the same demographics as your primary audience, but they don’t have the same need your book solves.

Still, they might be interested, especially if they are trying to plan ahead to prevent that problem or need from arising or if they have a similar need that they haven’t found the solution to yet. And, even if not interested right now, they may become interested should that need come up later.

Working women looking for better work-life balance.

Outliers / Demographics:

People in your outliers / demographics group are barely an audience. These are people so far removed from your audience that they are probably not ever going to be interested in your book.

But, there may be those weird, unforeseen cases, such as someone who’s brother or sister suddenly comes across the problem your book solves. Or a book collector who enjoys boasting that they’ve “read every book on the subject.” Or even just someone who happened across it on a fluke.

Business owners.

General Public:

The general public is just what it sounds like: billions of people on the planet, most of whom have never heard of you and will probably never be interested in your book.

But, again, there may be that off-chance that someone comes across your book as a fluke and it draws their attention. Or maybe it’s given to them as a gift because their spouse wants them to find inspiration and start a business.

Or maybe they just add it to their cart because it’s the exact $4.99 they’re short to secure free shipping.

Everyone on the planet.

Why is it Important to Define your Target Reader?

As I mentioned earlier, you know your target reader inside and out. You know exactly what they need and how to tell them about it in a way that makes them want to buy. You know what problems they’re having and how to solve them.

And chances are, you used to be this person. Which is why you know them so well.

It’s also why you know the path so well – exactly how to get them from where they’re stuck now to the other side by you.

If you choose not to define your target reader, you run the risk of seeing your message get lost. As Jonathan Fields states: “the moment you speak to the world, you speak to no one.”

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