Have you nailed down what makes your non-fiction book unique? Awesome! That will be Selling Point #1 to potential readers, and to agents should you go the traditional publishing route.
People don’t want to read another The Tipping Point or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and agents aren’t interested in what’s been done before. Reinventing the wheel is a fool’s errand, and copycatting is, well, ill-advised from a legal standpoint, unethical from a moral one, and frankly, not at all rewarding. We should write because we have a message inside of us that is begging to run wild on the page, not because we covet riches and fame (both of which are a rarity in this business, if you didn’t know!).
We all want to read something that’s fresh and original, something that sheds new light on a fascinating topic or shows us an intriguing way to think, to work, to rest, and to organize our lives. Most of all, we’re all looking for solutions to our problems. Answering the “What Makes My Book Unique” question ensures that your message stands out and that you are the best person to transmit it. If you’re not sure your idea is up to snuff, please revisit last week’s post and then meet me back here!
Without further ado, Step #3 in our non-fiction-writing journey is answering this question:
Who’s My Target Audience?
As with last week’s question, “What Makes My Book Unique?” this question is one that will invariably pop up on the submission guidelines of just about every literary agency out there. Regardless of whether you plan to self-publish or seek an agent to represent you, devoting time to the analysis of your audience will serve you well.
A huge no-no in the literary world is to say that your book is “for everyone.” If you say your book was written for everyone, what those in the know will actually hear is, “My book isn’t for anyone.” We all know that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants wasn’t written for eight-year-old boys any more than 50 Shades of Grey was marketed toward evangelicals. Every book has its ideal readers, from hormonal teenaged girls (Twilight) to competitive Type A entrepreneurs (I Will Teach You to Be Rich), and yours should too.
Take out your handy dandy notebook (please forgive the Blue’s Clues reference – I was a ‘90s kid) or open up a Word document and write a detailed description of your target audience. Jot down their age, sex, socioeconomic status, what they struggle with most, what terms they search for on Google and Pinterest, what accounts they follow on Instagram, anything that paints a clear picture in your head of who your readers are and what they need.
I’ve heard some authors say that they create a totally fictitious person to embody their target audience. They give him or her a first and last name, an occupation, a favorite color, a worst fear, basically a full-blown biography. That way, when they sit down to write, they make it a point to write to that individual. This strategy helps them stay on track and maintain a conversational tone. There’s often a tendency when we write to try and sound like we recently graduated from an Ivy League school run by Shakespeare, Seneca, and Charlotte Brontë because we think it will lend us a certain heir of authority. In reality, it only lends us an air of verbosity and pretentiousness. Writing to an average Joe or Jane will keep our inner Ciceros and Tennysons reined in and prevent us from coming across like pedantic know-it-alls.
For my first few fitness books, my target audience looked something like this:
- American middle-class women, ages 18-35
- Followers of Christ who take their spiritual growth seriously
- Interested in exercise and healthy eating
- Curious to know how they can honor God with their bodies as the New Testament teaches (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
- In a slump of demotivation and/or frustration and eager to jumpstart their physical and spiritual wellbeing
- Fed up with our society’s backwards definitions of “beauty” and its obsession with the outward appearance
- Searching for reasons to work out and eat right that transcend merely looking a certain way or impressing certain people
- Busy and in need of workout routines that don’t require a lot of time
Now it’s your turn! This week, your homework assignment is to think about your target audience as specifically as possible. If you have any questions or would like some feedback, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or tweet me @dandersontyler. I would love to help and to hear from you!