Most writing workshops and books will teach you to identify the target market for your book. You know women 35-45 with 1-3 school age kids, that sort of thing. But there is a problem with this approach. It’s based on the old school marketing theory of market share in a limited shelf space world. In the current non-fiction literary landscape writing for a target market instead of an ideal reader can spell death for your book.
In this episode you will learn:
- The critical difference between an ideal reader and a target market
- Why you THINK you can mush these two up — and why you can’t
- How to get into character as your reader and imagine the book from their perspective
- Why writing for a target market will KILL your book
- Tim Ferriss writing rule (2 glassesof wine to a friend into rilke relationship)
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Listen To The Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You’re listening to page up with Dr. Angela Lauria episode eight, ideal reader versus target market.
Welcome to page up a podcast for authors and transformation, featuring advice on the basic fundamentals of selecting a book topic and overcoming writer’s block to advance techniques for publishing and marketing nonfiction books. Now, get ready to press page up on your book with your host, best selling author and publisher, Dr. Angela Lauria.
Hey everyone, so episode eight, we are doing some good stuff today talking about your ideal reader versus the concept of a target market. So look, most people who are teaching writing workshops or book coaching or books that you read about how to write a book, they are going to teach you how to identify the target market for your book. You know what this sounds like? It’s like women in ages 35 to 45, with one to three school aged children living in a metropolitan area, that sort of thing. But there’s a problem with this approach. This approach is based on the old school marketing theory of market share what percentage of 35 to 45 year old women with one to three school aged children can you capture and that’s based on that old limited shelf space world back from before the internet. And it’s not that a target market is a bad thing to be aware of. I’m not against knowing your target market. But in the current literary landscape, especially as it relates to nonfiction. I’m writing for a target market instead of an ideal reader can really spell depth for your book.
And there are a few reasons I say this. So the first reason is there are so many more books now that there actually isn’t this, this world where you’re necessarily going to get a significant percentage of the market share. So let me give you a metaphor you might understand from TV. In the past, there were, let’s say, three to five network television channels. There were a certain number of people watching TV every night and they would need to pick from those five channels. And so you would get your market share. If you were Seinfeld maybe 30 or 40% of people turning on the TV, we’re watching your show. But as cable grew and especially now as YouTube has grown and other ways that people find entertainment, those edges have gone down significantly. And so really the metrics now that are much more interesting are metrics of engagement. So it’s not so much what percentage of the market you’re going to get. But how deeply Are you going to get the people who read your book engaged in your message. And that is why I teach my authors. Don’t worry so much about how big your market size is. But worry about how deeply engaged you can get those people who will find your book. Now, if you were writing about something super obscure that really only five people on the planet were interested in, maybe I would care about your target market, but that’s not the problem my writers have. The problem my writers have is they want to make their market bigger and bigger. So it’s not just women. 30-35 to 45 It’s women 25 to 55. And then they’ll tell me it’s not just women, it’s really men. And it really doesn’t matter if you have kids even though the message is about kids, it’s really if you love a child or book will apply. And they try and make the market bigger and bigger thinking, that’s what will sell more books. This book is for everyone. No, let me tell you something, a book for everyone will sell officially no copies unless you count the ones to your your mom and your siblings. And so the critical difference between an ideal reader and a target market is the depth of the relationship. And so what most people tell me is they’re going to write generically to this target audience.
I equate this to Wikipedia. So Wikipedia truly, genuinely is for everyone. And it’s written to be for everyone but As much as I love Wikipedia, and I use it every day, so I’m a fan girl here. As much as I love it, I can’t really say I’m engaged in it. I can’t really say I know who the authors are in Wikipedia and I look up who’s marking up the entries and seek them out to develop a relationship with them. So what happens when you try to write in this generic this book is for every one voice, it ends up being kind of for No. There’s an example I give my clients who are writing books with me and I tell them when I started in the publishing industry, if you wanted to write a book on back pain, your publisher and I should date myself here officially and say I started in the publishing industry in 1994. So pretty much pre internet for most of the world, although I was online, but it was still the publishing industry was definitely pre internet. So if you want To read a book on back pain, and you were going to an expert to help you craft a proposal, let’s say you had an agent, your agent would want you to write the big book of back pain. And they’d want a section on women and children and men and the elderly. And they would want to know about back pain that was genetic and back pain from car accidents. And they would really want you to talk about every aspect of back pain. And your target market for that would be huge, right? It would be everyone who might have back pain. But the reason they wanted this is because bookstores could only buy so many books somewhere around 350,000 on average for a bookstore. And so they had to make that shelf space as likely to convert as possible. That’s what the book buyers were experts in. How do we use this inventory? Well, and so as book buyers, what we learned to do is to buy These big books that were big sources of knowledge on a wide variety of angles on a particular topic.
Now, the problem with that is, as we’ve all gotten good at the Googles, we have learned that our preference is for content that is specific to us where we are right now. And in fact, we very often find other content that’s fantastic, based on referrals. And the other content might not easy something we’re looking for at all, but somebody said to us, oh, this is great. You’ll you’ll like this, even though you’re not, let’s say a mom of 123 children. This totally represents what’s happening in your business or in your relationship or with your nephew. And so the way that Content now is diffused, is through fans of specific content to them and recommendations. So you could think about Yelp or you could think about Goodreads. But the way that that content is found now it’s very different than it used to be. So if you were advising somebody now, in the era of unlimited shelf space, where most books are purchased online through a search on Google or Amazon, well you want to tell people now is don’t write that big book of back pain. Instead write 10 books, right back pain for kids and back pain for the for, you know, elderly with diabetes and back pain for second trimester high risk pregnancies. You would want to be as specific as possible because that is what people are searching. So in order to develop that credibility, even if you say all the same things that you would in that generic sort of Wikipedia book about back pain, the fact that you put it into a frame or a context of women in the second trimester of a high risk pregnancy makes me as the reader feel like oh, my goodness, this is totally for me, I have back pain and I’m in the second trimester of a high risk pregnancy. So that’s what you want from your reader is that recognition like, this is me This is exactly where I am. This is my exact problem right now. Now, how do you do this? The way that I teach the authors who publish with me is to profile a single ideal reader. And I will tell you my favorite story about how I came up with the concept of an ideal reader and a single ideal reader. It is based in a topic that I’m sure you’re intimately familiar with, which is 19th century Austrian military history. sure that’s true. That’s right on the top of your list, and it is the story of one of my favorite poets. Real QA is the poet’s name. And the book I’m referencing is Letters to a Young poet. Now, Rocha years before about a decade before he had published his first volume of poetry, which met with moderate critic critical success. He went to a Military College was very decorated came from a military family. And when he graduated, he had a very difficult decision to make. He could follow his head and become an officer in the Austrian military or he could follow his heart and become a poet. So a decade later, when for K fest followed in his footsteps. Frogs came from a military family, he went to the same school as real ca. And he realized his deepest heart’s desire was to be a poet. And yet he realized that was impractical. And if he was thinking logically and rationally, he should probably just become a military officer like everyone else in his family. And so he reached out to real God didn’t know him. But he reached out. He said, Look, we have similar stories. I’d really like your advice. I have a really tough situation. I don’t want to make the wrong decision. So I want to know what you would recommend. If you had to do it all over again. Would you go the poet route? Or do you wish that you were a military officer and what do you think I should do? And this conversation was a private conversation between cases and Roca that went on for several years over the course of eight letters. those letters were then published in Letters to a Young poet, which I believe is one of the best books of the last 200 or so years. And in this exchange, Kafka is much like a life coach, Alexa cafe I’m sorry. Roca is much like a life coach to cases. And he tells him that to find out the answer, he has to go inside, then no one else can tell him what to do, but he knows the answers. And wow, I’m guessing none of us have anything to do with the, with 19th century Austrian military history. We both would get a lot out of this book. But the book is really what I call a love letter. It’s a love letter between Rocha and Kayfis as they develop this friendship and bond over similar circumstances in life and because of that connection, Though that exchange went on to influence not only the rest of cases, his life, it was probably one of the key moments in his life.
But it has gone on to influence millions of people around the world over hundreds of years. And I would love that to happen for your book. And I believe the way to do that is to know your friends kyphosis. Who are you? And who is your ideal reader? And how can you have a one to one heart connection with them. So for for a heart connection, there really needs to be what I call a sender and a recipient. So you can’t really send a true love letter when you don’t know who, who you’re sending it to. And you can’t send a love letter when you don’t know who you are in this relationship. So with Kafka, it’s super clear who he is right? He’s the He is the older version of cases.
And I’m gonna guess for many of you,you are probably the older version of your ideal reader. That’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a client or a combination of clients. Sometimes it’s a has a profile of somebody different from you, but very often it’s a younger version of you like it was in the case of Roca. And what I recommend is that you create a profile for cases so that you could actually write the biopic of his life that you know where he’s from, what his clothes are, obviously, it can be a woman to just using this as an example. What are his worries what keeps him up at night? What’s on his iTunes playlist? What YouTube channels is he subscribed to? What is that? worrying about what are the questions he has in his words. And what I find over and over again, is that my authors want to put words in the mouth of their reader, which is not a terribly loving thing to do.
So real good did not write back to campus and say you shouldn’t be asking these questions or let me recommend these things. He really met cases where he was on his journey. And as that journey changed, then real quick changed.
And this is the journey I want you to go on with your ideal reader. So I’ll give you another example. I have a client who told me her book was about self care, self love and self forgiveness in dating, and it was really for women who were in codependent or dysfunctional relationships and she wanted to teach them how to not be codependent. So I asked her as she was doing her ideal reader profile. I asked her is your ideal reader calling herself codependent? is she saying what I really need are some self care and self love tools? And the answer was no. what she was doing is she was saying, Why won’t my boyfriend call me back? And she was saying, How come he’s so present in one moment and then as soon as we something great happens, then all of a sudden he disappears for a week and he pulls back. And so all of her ideal reader quiet readers questions were not questions she wanted to answer. She wanted to talk to her about loving herself and treating herself to you know, kindnesses and speaking lovingly to herself, but this girl didn’t want to speak lovingly to herself. She wants to know why her wife boyfriend was a nice to her and how she could get him to be nice. Sir. Now let me be clear, I am not saying to teach something other than what you want to teach or to write about something other than that which you believe in? Of course not. But what we do want to do is meet your reader where they are on their journey. So we have to be able to get into character as your ideal reader, and to read a chapter not as yourself, but as your ideal reader and really be able to ask yourself, if this makes sense, if you would keep reading or you’d be like, what is this bullshit, I have to get my, I have to get my boyfriend to buy me flowers, and please tell me the specific words and language I can use to get him to buy me flowers. So you have to keep them with you on your journey. And if you don’t do that, you will end up with this sort of Wikipedia A style book that no one will connect with, it won’t make a difference either on the level of quantity or quality, because people will not be able to find your book. And then if they did find it, they won’t connect with you in a way that they put your ideas into action. So they’re off the page, and they’re into your readers hearts and into their lives. When you can get into character and imagine the book from your readers perspective, it takes you on a very different journey of how you will tell this story how you will share this information with them. So if for instance, we’ll go back to the women who love too much author, if you really want them to know about self care and self love, the way that you get them to think about that is to put it into the context of what they want. So if you can tell a story about a woman who was yelling. Marianne Williamson does a great job of this. She’s actually talking about it. She’s talking about a man who’s having an affair. And his wife is telling her like, this is terrible. You were flirting with her. You were flirting with this woman at a dinner and these terrible things were happening. And you know, everyone can see. And Marianne Williamson talks about this from the perspective of the man and he’s thinking, Well, yeah, there’s this one woman who’s super nice to me and complimenting me and making me smile, and I’m laughing with her and then I have you screaming at me and dressing me down. So of course, who do I want to spend time with right now, that’s not to condone cheating, of course, or, I don’t know, flirting and appropriately, but that’s the relationship that you need to understand is happening with you and your reader. So if your reader is thinking about how do I get my boyfriend to send me flowers, you want to tell a story about person number one who yelled at her boyfriend for not sending flowers. And person number two, who began a ritual of sending herself flowers every Monday. And when her boyfriend would ask who they were from, she coyly said, someone who loves me very much. And of course that person was her. Well, now I can see how that self care might get me my outcome. And you can of course, finish that chapter that section by saying, When your boyfriend does send you flowers, you won’t care because you have been loving yourself so much that you don’t need that from him. But even if your reader doesn’t believe that they have now built up a trust with you because you understand their problem, and you’re not lecturing to them or coming from this ego self serving place of what you want to tell them. Instead you are coming to them from the place of no where their pain is and where their hurt is. So I encourage you right now to think about a book that changed your life. Maybe that taught you a skill, like thought work or a skill like meditation or mindfulness. And think about what brought you to that practice. So we have a book that we published called another kind of free. And it is about mindfulness. But the author found it in a suicidal state. So she was thinking about suicide, and was trying a bunch of things to lift herself from depression and sort of accidentally discovered mindfulness. She was absolutely not googling mindfulness practices. The only people googling mindfulness practices already know about mindfulness. They are not your people. Unless you’re teaching advanced mindfulness. So when you think about your ideal reader, let’s say you want to help somebody who lost a child, or let’s say you want to help somebody who desperately wants to lose weight, you might know in the bottom of your core, the solution to these problems because you have been there before, but what it is easy to lose sight of and so many authors lose sight of this not just at the beginning of the process of writing their book, but throughout the process. It is so easy to lose sight of where they are, where your reader is, and what they are saying the problem is. And when you think about a target market, let’s say women 25 to 35. There is not a single pain factor. You start broadening the pain and broadening the situation. And there is a No way to tap into that mindset of what you want. So unless you are in fact reaching people who don’t know, or maybe writing a book on a competitive topic, you’re not going to reach people who need your help and who need to go further with you even beyond the book.
So what I recommend to you is to find those books that changed your life, and to think about what the problems were in your life that brought you to them. So I talked about Nicole’s story with finding mindfulness in my book. I also talked about Jonathan fields, who’s an amazing author, some of you may know, and Jonathan fields also found mindfulness and in his case, it was because he had nearly paralyzing tinnitus or tinnitus for the, for the UK contingency there. And so on. You know, for me when I found Byron Katie, I was going through a particularly painful divorce. I was not looking for tools to change my thoughts that wouldn’t have even made any sense to me. I wouldn’t have known what that was. But what I was looking for was a way to deal with the pain of a divorce that I never expected. When I found real good Letters to a Young poet, I was going through a very difficult decision in my life. I had two part time jobs one working for New York Times bestselling author David wise, and one working for as a as a member of actors equity for theatre companies in washington dc in the evenings. And I was pretty much working around the clock. I would leave the theater at two or three in the morning and I would have to be into David’s office at nine o’clock in the morning and I got a job offer from the Washington Post that was on the overnight desk paid $19,000 a year. And but it would have meant away into the post and my dream of being a reporter for The Washington Post. But I would have had to give up theater. And I was really trying to decide, am I an artist? Or am I a journalist? And no, those aren’t mutually exclusive for the journalists among us, or the theater people but but for me, it was a really difficult decision of going the traditional career route. That seemed like the Sure thing, getting into the Washington Post, or sticking with the unknown of freelancing and theater, which was paying my bills, but I just didn’t know what the right thing to do was. So I certainly wasn’t looking for life coaching. I just had a friend who told me I needed to read that book. It was actually the director of a play that I was taking Managing. And he said, You need to read this book. And of course, when I read it, it spoke directly to me. And I put those ideas into action. And in fact, I continued to work for David and continue to work in theater for another two years after reading that book, because that book was so personal that was written for an ideal reader. Now, of course, I should say Rocha, never thought that that book was going to be published. But I encourage you to think the way he was thinking that this is a message for one person, and to see how that message for one person could in fact reach so many others. So I hope this has changed your thinking about a target market versus an ideal reader how to write your book as a love letter, and I would love to hear from you in the future. Comments. It how are you going to put this into practice? And tell me more about your ideal reader? And? And are you having a love affair with your ideal reader? Would you do anything to help them out of this pain? That is what I call writing with a servant’s heart. And that is the true message of a book that makes a difference. So I wish that for you and I look forward to hearing your comments, make sure that you review page up for us rate it and review it, and then go ahead and subscribe to book journeys. You will also find that on iTunes and you’ll hear interviews with authors who have been down this road and we talk about the experience of developing an ideal reader profile and I think it’ll help you to hear directly from authors about their journey. So sign up for our sister show book journeys radio and go ahead and Leave a comment, leave a review. And thank you for your support of page.
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