From the initial proposal to the promotional work after publication, your target audience will drive many of the decisions you make as an author, not to mention, most of the decisions your publisher will make.
An author who has a good handle on their audience will be able to better define the objectives of the book, their market analysis, promotional strategies, and why the book should or should not be on the market in the first place.
Some books will not make it to market because the audience base is too narrow or vague. This doesn’t necessarily mean the idea you have is dead though, there may be alternative outlets for the idea such as magazines, newspapers, or even electronic publishing.
For the scope of this article though, we are speaking about the non-fiction book market, so we’ll get back on track with that line of thought.
Audience. Who are they? Where do they live? How many people will potentially buy the book? How do you find them?
Begin by taking a look at your non-fiction book idea and answer the following questions:
1) Is my audience- Male, Female, or Both? If both, is one sex more likely to pursue this topic? Why?
2) What age category is this book best suited for? Be as specific as possible.
3) Will this book appeal to a particular ethnic group?
4) Is this book suitable for only an American audience or does it have foreign appeal?
5) Are there commonalities the readers will have, such as “they will all be dog owners or soon-to-be dog owners.” List as many commonalities you might think of.
6) What income range will the readers most likely be found in? For example: if you are writing a book on how to care for your luxury car, the prime audience will be those who would be in a higher income bracket. You may have readers at all income levels, but generally, there’s a niche of where you base readership exists. If you are uncertain, there are other resources to tap into for the information (see next question.)
7) What magazines do your readers read? What television shows might they be interested in? What stores might they shop at regularly? These are all good questions to ask from a promotional standpoint but also from a research one. You may be able to tap into the demographics offered by these outlets to help you determine gender, income, age category, and other factors about your target audience. Some of these resources list their demographic profiles right on their websites or will provide the information over the phone.
Once you have some of these base questions answered to the best of your ability, dig deeper. If you have determined an age category, find the census information on this group. For example: Are you writing a book geared towards teens? Find out how many 15-18 years old are there in the United States or around the world? Or if you are writing a book for new moms, find out how many babies are born per year.
The U.S. Census Bureau is a great place to begin http://www.census.gov/
You’ll find a wealth of other resources across the Internet and also in your local libraries too.
Get the nitty-gritty and detail as much as you are able to about your target audience. The key to writing a successful non-fiction book proposal, and book, is to know who it is you are writing for. This will also help you sell the concept to the publisher.
Point blank, books with specific audiences and books with larger, defined audiences will be looked at for publication first. The publisher has to have a good sense of why the book is needed and some assurance that the book will have an audience big enough to make it a profitable venture.
If there are only a handful of people interested in your topic, it may hinder your ability to bring the book to publication.
This is not to say it won’t or cannot see publication, it is to say it will be a harder sell and may be better information for you to target niche markets with such as small publishers, magazines, newspapers, websites, or electronic press.
Bottom line, take the time to get to know your audience; you’ll be glad you did!