Do You Know Your Target Audience?

Who is your target audience? I am continually surprised at how many authors have trouble answering this question. So many authors have a burning to write a book, yet they fail to identify whom they are writing their book for.

“Everyone” is not a target audience. Neither is “all Christians.” Your target audience is the group of people who will benefit the most from what you have to say. Maybe it’s those Christians who want to start seeing answers to their prayers. Maybe it’s single moms who are weary of fighting the parenting battle alone.

Knowing your target audience not only makes your writing stronger and clearer, it helps you market your book effectively to this group of people. When considering their target audience, authors and publishers should look at things like:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Economic status
  • Relationship status
  • Spiritual level or interest

If you are writing Christian books, then a subset of “Christians” is your primary target audience. A new study shines an interesting light on the ethnic diversity of this community in the United States.

A recent report by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) states “The American religious landscape has undergone dramatic changes in the last decade, and is more diverse today than at any time since modern sociological measurements began.” In fact, the organization’s 2016 American Values Atlas found that one-third of all Evangelical Protestants in America are people of color.

About a quarter of Americans (26%) self-identify as evangelical. Around two-thirds of these evangelicals are white (64%), while 19 percent are Black, and 10 percent are Hispanic, and the remaining 6 percent are Asian, mixed race, or other ethnicity.
Interestingly, the study found that half of evangelicals under 30 years old are nonwhite (50%). So, younger generations of evangelicals are even more ethnically diverse than the population taken as a whole.

What does this have to do with your target audience? It most likely means that your target audience is more ethnically diverse than you might have considered. Additionally, the younger the audience you are targeting, the more ethnically diverse it is.

Knowing your target audience allows you to promote your book to the group of people who have the most interest in your message. Knowing specifics about this target audience allows you to tailor your marketing messages and material to effectively speak to this group of people. If you want to be successful in promoting your books, then make sure your marketing materials are speaking to your target audience.

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Photo courtesy of Tamarcus Brown.

How to Gain More Readers for Your Books

All authors face the one same challenge: Finding readers for their books.

All sorts of gimmicks exist to lure customers to purchase products. Advertising experts even study which words and phrases work best for grabbing people’s attention. Tested Selling Institute and Word Laboratory Inc. looked at words and phrases salespeople could use to get customers to buy. They discovered a few magic words that tend to grab attention include:

  • New
  • Advice
  • At last
  • Truth
  • Love
  • Facts you should know

Advertising legend Robert Collier believed that writing advertising text was like a science. He used the studies done by Tested Selling Institute and Word Laboratory Inc. and applied their findings to printed advertising. Collier’s own research revealed that the word “how” in an advertising headline appeared to be the most useful word in improving the success of an advertising piece.

Each of these words reveals that people are searching for answers. People want practical solutions to their problems. They want to improve their lives.

I frequently say that marketing is simply letting people know that you have the answer to a need in their life. If you publish books, your book meets a need in someone’s life.

We all know that advertising is expensive and often does not have a very high return, especially for books. After all, people need to see and hear about a product multiple times before they decide to make a purchase (with the exception of impulse buys). So, what other marketing techniques can authors use to grab readers’ attention?

Enter content marketing. Content marketing is about sharing information that educates, inspires, and entertains readers. Content marketing allows an author to develop trust with an audience so that these people buy the author’s books.

If you are interested in learning more about content marketing and how you can use this powerful tool to grow the audience for your books, I encourage you to watch my new on-demand seminar Grow Your Audience with Content Marketing. This 40-minute seminar will walk you through six practical steps for sharing content on a regular basis to grow your audience.

As always, these on-demand seminars are free for Members of Christian Small Publishers Association. Other publishers and authors can access this seminar, Grow Your Audience with Content Marketing, for just $15 online at https://mcbuniversity.selz.com.

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An Important Element in Publishing Nonfiction

Experts say that most healthy teenagers and adults are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than about 20 minutes at a time—usually up to about an hour at most. However, overall, our attention spans are getting shorter. Recent research reveals:

1. People generally lose concentration after eight seconds.
The average attention span for a goldfish is nine seconds. A study by Microsoft Corporation found that since the year 2000 the average online attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.

2. The average time spent reading is on the decline.
A study by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, on average, Americans read only 19 minutes per day, down from 10 years ago. Young people spend even less time reading. On weekends, Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 read for just eight minutes a day on average. Older Americans read more. Those over 75 spend more than an hour a day reading over weekends and holidays.

3. Most people read only part of a nonfiction book.
In fact, a study by Kobo found that Religion books were the most abandoned of any genre. In North America, only a little over one-third of all religion books are read all the way to completion.

With decreased time spent reading, decreased attention span, and knowing that the majority of readers don’t read a Christian nonfiction book in its entirety, every author should pay attention to this important element for nonfiction books.

Keep it short.

Yep, you read that right. If your book is for the average Christian individual, keep it short. Unless you are marketing a reference book or a scholarly tomb to pastors, scholars, professors, or others in academia, shorter is better.

Many nonfiction authors have good and useful information. However, if a reader is not reading your entire book, some of your information is lost. To help readers glean more from your nonfiction books— in addition to writing compelling prose—make the following adjustments to your books:

  • Keep your nonfiction book under 200 pages, but closer to 120 to 150 pages.
  • Keep the chapters short. More chapters with fewer pages per chapter is better. People often read in soundbites.
  • If you have a long nonfiction book that is over 200 pages and not selling well, either reduce the size or turn it into two books.
  • Keep the price down. Since you are selling a shorter book, don’t price it as high as a book that is 200+ pages. Keep the price just a little lower so that readers perceive value for their money.

Our culture is changing and, if we want to be relevant and sell books, our books must accommodate these changes.

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Is Your Worldview Impacting Your Book Sales?

A worldview is the framework from which we view reality and make sense of life and the world. Sadly, studies reveal that less than 10% of Americans operate from a Biblical worldview. This means that many who call themselves “Christian” don’t follow Biblical principles in their daily lives.

As a Christian author or publisher, do you operate with a Biblical worldview? How you view readers (your customers and potential customers) is tied into your worldview. Ask yourself?

Am I in the business of producing and selling books?
—or—
Am I in the business of helping people grow into a deeper relationship with God?

Your worldview makes a huge difference in how you interact with people and conduct yourself.

When people and their needs are the center of your business mindset, you conduct yourself differently. When your worldview toward your business is God-focused and people-centric, you will:

  1. Create quality books that reflect God’s excellence and that you can market with passion.
  2. Develop and sustain warm, respectful relationships with readers and others in your network.
  3. Continue learning so you can share the best information available to help others.
  4. Recommend other authors’ books that will help your readers in ways your books don’t.
  5. Over deliver on your promises to your readers and audience.

When authors and publishers are in the business of helping people grow into a deeper relationship with God that will impact them for all eternity, temporal things are not as important. The number of books you sell, the number of five-star reviews you receive, how large your audience is, all become secondary to your primary purpose of serving God and helping his creation grow to know and love Him deeply.

Have you gotten off track? Has your pursuit of marketing and promoting your book caused you to drift from your original purpose?

I know that I have to check my compass regularly. I have to be reminded that it is not my kingdom, but God’s kingdom, and that he is growing his Kingdom for his glory and using me in the process.

A few of the things that help me stay on track include:

  1. Nourishing my soul and renewing my mind through regular reading of God’s word and praying.
  2. Being part of a Christian community where others hold me accountable and remind me of my place in God’s kingdom.
  3. Failures. They remind me on whom I depend.

I once heard an author say, “God gives you your platform, and God can take it away.” I think this is wise counsel. For in God we live and move and have our being. Apart from Him, we can do no good thing.

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Are You Staying True to Your Calling?

I have often heard it said that the church is one of the most segregated institutions in the United States. I sometimes wonder if the Christian publishing industry is helping or hurting this issue.

I recently met an author who wrote a Christian novel set in Africa. When she tried to pitch the idea to editors and literary agents for a traditional Christian publishing contract, they told her they did not think they could sell a novel set in Africa—that setting was not a popular read.

So, feeling called of God to produce the novel, the author independently published her story. Her cover art contained a picture of an African-American man and woman. This author then began showing the published book to other Christian publishing industry experts to talk about marketing the book. She got the same message from almost every expert.

She was told to not expect to sell many copies of her book due to the cover art including African-American people. The experts advised that she take off the images of the people on the cover to help the book sell better.

As this author relayed this story to me, it made me think that, for the most part, the traditional Christian publishing industry is not concerned about racial integration in the body of Christ. Rather, publishing houses are a business. As a business, their top priority is profit. The one question they ask when considering a book is, “How many copies can we sell?” If they don’t think it will sell enough copies to meet their financial requirements, they pass it up.

Traditional publishing’s mission is not about challenging the status quo and daring people to confront difficult issues within the body of Christ. After all, some of the largest Christian publishing houses are now owned by secular publishing conglomerates. Rather, traditional publishing houses are businesses. As such, they focus on the bottom line.

I am thankful for Indie publishing. While indie authors and publishers need to be wise in their publishing and marketing efforts, how many copies a book will sell does not need to be the foremost priority. Rather, indie authors and publishers can be led by their mission and what God is calling them to do.

Interestingly, a new study by the American Bible Society showed that African-Americans are more engaged with the Bible than any other group. Among this racial group, 71 percent are friendly toward or engaged with the Bible compared to just 58 percent of all Americans. If Christians of non-African heritage will be turned away by this author’s book’s cover, she may still have a vibrant audience in among African-American Christians.

What about you. Have you gotten off track? Has your attitude become one that mainly focuses on the number of books you can sell rather than on staying true to your mission and the calling that God has placed in your heart?

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