Warning: this is a mild rant. A rantlet, if you prefer.
I’m speaking as a fiction writer here. I know the situation is different for nonfiction. And yes, I have opined on this topic before. I just checked.
But I’m going to revisit it anyway. Here goes–
Writers are constantly advised to identify their reader demographic so they can direct their promotional efforts accurately.
What is a demographic, anyway? It’s a group defined by factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, education, geographic location, and interests.
For a writer, it’s the people who have bought your books and enjoyed them, with the assumption that they have other characteristics (age, sex, etc.) in common. But can you find out enough about the individuals who have ordered your book online or bought it in a bookstore to discern a demographic? Some (but not all) readers may leave a positive review at a site where you can track them down and find those details. Stalking, anyone?
Even an author who sells books in person at an event (not likely now!) can form only a limited idea of their “market.” Age and sex, that’s about all you can discern visually. And what if your buyers are both old and young, men and women? Is an author supposed to interview them as part of the sales transaction, to winkle out their occupations and interests? Salespeople in bookstores certainly never do that.
Or maybe you write books specifically intended to be bought, read, and enjoyed by a defined group — men aged between 30 and 59 who like golf, for example. How do you know if you succeed? What if people outside that group like your books more than the ones inside it? That golf-loving dude may be the ideal reader you imagined while writing, but what if young women who hate golf like your book? Is that failure on your part? Should you tailor your next book for the golf-hating young woman market?
Even if you manage to collect demographic information about some of your readers, I’m certain you won’t have complete details about every one of them. How does incomplete or inaccurate information help your marketing efforts?
I have to admit, this piece of advice, which I see often, mystifies and annoys me. The only way I know a specific person has bought, read, and liked one of my books is if they tell me, either in person, in a comment on my blog, or in a review. Even then, it’s not always possible to discern an individual behind an avatar or internet persona. Rightly or wrongly, I have only the vaguest idea of my reader demographic. (Hey — some of you folks reading this post are part of it!)
Yes, I know social media is somehow supposed to be the answer. But I just read a piece of advice saying authors should direct their social media efforts to their target market, which assumes we already know what it is.
At that point, I sat down and wrote this rant.
Maybe I’m missing something obvious. Has anyone identified their reader demographic in a useful way? Does anyone have a target market, apart from “children,” “teens,” or “adults?” How do you obtain the necessary data about your readers?
If you want to join my reader demographic, you may be interested in my latest book. It’s available at the pre-order price for only a few more days. And it’s now also available as a paperback.
Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
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Featured image by Kranich17 from Pixabay