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Not sure who your readers are? Keep It Simple, Scribes.
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Not sure who your readers are? Keep It Simple, Scribes.

Once you’ve nailed your response to the hardest question you’ll ever be asked (that’s “So what’s your book about?”, in case you missed my previous blog, and we talk about perfecting your elevator pitch here), it’s time to turn your attention to the next tricky topic you’ll need to address before you promote your masterpiece.

Writers: who are your readers?

The easy response is “Everyone”. How many times have you heard a writer exclaim “But there’s something in my book for everybody!”? That may be true. However, ‘everybody’ is not a useful category when it comes to trying to reach your readers. If you’re trying to tell everyone in the world about your book, where on earth do you start?

By defining your reader according to age, gender, location, interests and so on, you are more easily able to identify the media outlets who talk to them, resulting in a more highly targeted media list and a better chance of pitch success. Your time is much better spent pitching to these outlets; if their audience is a reasonable target for your book, they’ll likely be interested in covering it.

When it comes to defining your reader, remember the (slightly modified) KISS principle and Keep It Simple, Scribes.

Let’s say you’ve written a technothriller set in California about a secret government plot to control society via subconscious messages communicated through smartphones, and an army vet battling psychological demons and living on society’s fringe is the only man who can save the day. (… And that hackneyed plotline, dear readers, is the reason I don’t write fiction …)

Your top-line and most obvious readers are:

  • Men (not exclusively, but mostly)
  • Action thriller fans
  • General readers
  • The military.

Now you can start building a list of magazines, newspapers, radio and TV shows and blogs and websites along these lines:

  • Men’s interest
  • Genre review pages/sites specifically
  • Book review pages/sites generally
  • Military publications that talk about books.

It should be possible to put together a list of about 30-40 media opportunities in your country using these descriptors. Check out sites like magazines.com, newsstand.co.uk and magshop.com.au, which list magazines published in the US, UK and Australia respectively according to useful categories, one of which is ‘Men’s’. That’s a good starting point. A simple internet search for ‘thriller review sites’ produces a heap of results; ditto ‘military magazines’. Once you have a basic list, you obviously want to familiarise yourself with each outlet to get a sense of whether or not your book definitely fits their editorial brief, as well as their requirements (publishing lead times, review policies, preferred method of contact, and so on).

You can broaden your reader definitions beyond this initial list as long as you feel that it’s a justifiable reach. For example, perhaps there’s a subplot in our Frankenstein’s-Monster-of-a-novel about the disappearance of native species’ from the Californian coastline, based on your real-life observations of the area in the 30 years you’ve lived there combined with local anecdotes and press reports on the issue. Consider sending your book to ‘green’ or ecological publications containing a book review page. Sure, it’s a military action thriller on the surface but with an important underlying environmental message. Worth a try.

If you’re really not sure where to begin, here’s an easy cheat that I’m sure has occurred to you. Find a book of similar subject matter to yours. (Preferably not one written by a super-famous author. Celebrity breaks all the rules.) Where is it being reviewed, or the author being interviewed? Simply hit the same media targets. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

Happy pitching!

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