Target Market Analysis for Your Nonfiction Book or Novel

11 Questions to Identify Your Ideal Reader
By Jan Bear

About Target Market or Target Audience
Your book marketing begins and ends with your target audience. Everything from the content of the book itself to your promotion efforts will depend on who you are speaking to. It can't be everybody — because, really, there is no such person. Instead "everybody" is a collection of unique persons with their own problems and aspirations. Speak to those per­ sons. Because of the rise of the internet, you have more opportunity to reach a small sliver of the general population than when we were confined to geography. You can cut across geograph ­ ical boundaries to find tribes bound by interests, concerns, health considerations, lifestyle choices and innumerable other factors. And, as a rule of thumb, the narrower the audience — the more specifically you identify the ideal reader for your book — the more passionate will be their interest and support. They will be so surprised and gratified that you speak so directly to their needs that they will talk up your work, refer it to their friends, and generally help you promote your work in ways that money can't buy. But how do you get a handle on who your target market really is? Here are 11 questions to ask yourself about your target audience. You don't have to answer all of them, but the more you answer, and the more specifically you answer them, the more successful your marketing efforts will be. Ideally at the end you will emerge with one person to keep in front of you as you write your book, write your promotional copy, plan your web­ site — all the communication you have with your audience is with this one person.

Target Market Analysis


The person can be real. Maybe you know someone who embodies all the traits of your target audience. Take that person out to coffee and ask about all her goals and dreams, and get her to tell you what she likes and dislikes about your book. Treasure her; she is an invaluable re­ source for you. Or the person may be a composite of people you know and people you compile from your research. You can still ask questions and observe. Identifying your target market is an act of imagination. What is it like to be that person? How does it feel to have that set of problems? What is the transformation he seeks? When you have your target audience in mind, I recommend giving him or her a name. Find a picture and connect the name to a face. Talk to that person as if he's your best friend, and your audience will feel the warmth of your feeling. So here are the questions. Print out these pages and write in the answers — or create a doc ­ ument and write a character study (and, novelists, you can use this technique to develop your characters as well).

2. Demographics
Just the facts, ma’am. Demographics are the data points that point to who a person is. Loc ­ ation, age, income, number in household. As a handy guide, you can download a sample US census questionnaire and fill it out for your ideal reader, your target audience. You can get get this information from the Standard Rate and Data Service, an extensive — and expensive — database available that you may be able to find at your local library. You can get an approximation of some of the information by finding an authority website that caters to your target market and putting the web address into the search box at, then click the “Audience” tab over the information window. Other than these two sources, you’ll find Google helpful, as well as your own knowledge and observation. If you already have loyal readers, you might find ways, such as surveys, ques­ tionnaires, and conversations, to ask for information as appropriate.

Target Market Analysis
The demographics will serve as the basis for the rest of the analysis of your target audience. Sex Age Number in household Family structure (married? children?) Household income Employment Education Religion Political party or leaning Hobbies Activities Other


Target Market Analysis 2. Location
Where people live, whether by birth or by choice, is a big part of who they are. Here are some characteristics of your target audience that you will capture as you think about their location: Language (French, Spanish, etc.)


Dialect (Southern US, Yorkshire English, Australian, etc.) ________________________________ Climate ___________________________________________________________________________ Activities Holidays and festivals Urban/rural/suburbs, etc. Where do members of your target audience live, and what does that tell you about who they are?

Target Market Analysis 3. Lifestyle


Lifestyle is how people put work, home, family, friends, and their other communities together to make a life for themselves. Family structure Work habits Recreation Entertainment Religious observance Volunteer activities How do your target audience spend their time?

Target Market Analysis 4. Life Stage
Life stage has to do with age, but not only age. A bachelor is different from a family man; a mom with toddlers from a mom with high-school kids, and both of those are different from parents whose post-college kids have moved home because of a tight job market or adults looking after ages parents. Where are members of your target audience on their life’s journey?


5. Beliefs
Beliefs are those religious, economic, political, or common sense “truths” (a belief doesn’t have to be objectively true to be powerful) that guide our decisions. It can be something transcendent, like a belief in God, or day-to-day, like “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Your target audience’s beliefs affect who they listen to, what they consider to be credible, and what they do. What do people in your target audience believe, and whom do they admire as the embodi ­ ment of those beliefs?

Target Market Analysis 6. Desires
What do your members of your target audience want? This is a bigger question than it appears, because we want things — food and shelter and gadgets and vacations — but more than that, we want the abstract benefits that the things represent — good health, comfort and security, temporary escape from problems, status in our communities.


To get at the deepest level of the reader’s motivation, take a want and ask “Why?” five times. For example, if a teenaged girl wants an iPhone, for example, the “why” might take you to staying in contact with friends. She wants to stay in contact with friends so that she will be aware of what’s happening in her school community. She wants to know what’s happening in the school community so that she’ll be perceived as popular. She wants to be perceived as popular so that she’ll gain the benefits of having high status in her community. It’s important not to confuse “need” with “want.” If someone feels a need, it becomes a want. If you know what someone needs and that person doesn’t want it, it will take persua­ sion to move the need into the “want” category, and with some people and some needs, it will be simply impossible. What does your audience really want?

Target Market Analysis 7. What is your theme, and who needs to know it?


What is the grand, overarching message of your book? You should be able to boil it down to one simple sentence, an aphorism or even a cliche that you will flesh out through the story. It might be “Love conquers all” or “Life stinks and then you die,” but it needs to be some­ thing. Now, who needs to know that? That’s your target audience.

8. What does your character’s story teach?
Every step of a story takes the reader into an adventure of “What happens if”? It’s another avenue into the theme, but it’s the question you’re asking. Who needs to understand that lesson? This question can take you to the problem, which can take you to the target audience.

Target Market Analysis 9. How Does Your Reader Relate to Your Protagonist?
Often — but not always — the reader identifies with a protagonist similar to him- or herself. Among the many exceptions are novels that draw the reader into an alien world (and that’s not necessarily SF or fantasy) and stories with children as protagonists. Tom Sawyer is a kids’ book; Huckleberry Finn really isn’t. A coming-of-age novel usually speaks to people who have already come of age and are at a stage in life that they want to reflect on it. At any rate, ponder the relationship between your target reader and your protagonist. The answer may not be simple, but it may be an entry point into target market.


9. What are the characters’ problems in the story?
Zoom out and look at the larger patterns. You reader doesn’t need to solve a murder mys ­ tery, but your reader may be looking for family wholeness in a way that the characters in the murder mystery are. This may take you back to theme, but then theme will take you back to target market.

Target Market Analysis 10. What are your qualifications?
What do you, as author, bring to the conversation? This may help you discern the need you’re addressing, which will take you directly to your audience.


Who is your target audience?
If you truly understand your target audience, you can make everything about your book and your site speak directly to them. The more specifically you can direct your communication to your target audience, the more loyalty those readers and visitors will feel. They will feel a connection to you that brings them back for book after book. A certain percentage of your target audience will become your passionate advocates and evangelists for your message. Some may even become your friends.

About the author
Jan Bear’s blog Market Your Book writers create an online platform to market their books and promote their writing. Get a free 10-part e-course, "Planning Your Writer's Website," detailing key decisions to make before you get online (or how to tweak your site for better traffic and more book sales). Click here to sign up today.