How to Identify Your Book’s Audience

If you ask many first-time authors who they imagine will be reading their book, you’re likely to get “There’s something in this for everyone” as an answer. Although this is a nice idea, it’s untrue. The old adage that trying to please everyone leads to pleasing no one is particularly relevant here. By trying to appeal to too broad an audience, you may undercut your book’s success.

One of the important components of writing a successful book is knowing who your book is ultimately going to be for and writing with that well-defined audience in mind. Identifying your audience will help you brainstorm content, focus your message, and increase your chances for better sales once your book is published. Here are some tips for identifying this vital component of your writing journey.

Define Your Genre

You may be used to thinking about genre in broad categories, like fiction or nonfiction. However, within these large categories there are smaller, more defined subject genres. In publishing, we use the BISAC genres, which will help determine where your book is placed in bookstores. Websites like Amazon often have their own genre classifications, which can be even more specific or targeted. Both types of genre determine who your competition—other books with the same audience—will be. 

Rather than thinking about your genre as simply “business,” you may find that your book fits into a more specialized category, such as “careers and job hunting.” Knowing this distinction can make it easier to think about your readers’ perspective. They may be coming to you specifically for your job-hunting advice instead of your general business knowledge. As a writer, this insight helps you prioritize different topics within your book.

Create a Reader Profile

Visualizing the person who will ultimately want to buy your book can help you figure out what information to include in your manuscript and what tone your voice should take. To create a reader profile, list characteristics of the person you imagine will most benefit from your book. How old are they? What kind of education do they have? What hobbies do they have? Be as specific as you can.

For instance, let’s say you decide “Chauncey” is going to buy your book. You imagine he lives in Austin, Texas, is twenty-six years old, and has a degree in business communications. He just graduated from college and is looking for a job. He likes to spend his time at the dog park with his two boxers, Willie and Matthew, and he enjoys the live music scene.

What are other specifics of Chauncey’s life that you can add to his profile? What does he look like? Is he in a relationship? Most important, what are his pain points?

As your write, keep this particular reader in mind. Will he be engaged? How can you make your manuscript more easily digestible and engaging specifically for him? If you’re not sure a chapter is useful, ask what Chauncey would get out of it, how it solves his problem.

Look at Your Network

Chances are you already know a lot of people who are potential members of your audience. If you are a speaker, who comes to your presentations? When you are at conferences or in the office, who comes to you for advice?

These people have identified you as a valuable subject-matter expert. There are likely other people in similar roles or industries who would also be interested in your insights. By researching these areas, you can identify reader pain points to address in your manuscript, and later, potential markets for your book.

While you are working on your book, keep these factors in mind. Your readers will thank you—by buying your book, subscribing to your newsletter, attending your speaking event, and so on—for considering their needs, speaking their language, and helping them ease their pain point. When your book is out in the world, you will be satisfied knowing that your writing has found the audience that needs it—which is precisely why you wrote it in the first place.

If you’d like more information about writing for your audience, check out other articles in Greenleaf’s Learning Center focusing on content creation. Would you like to discuss how to identify your audience with a Greenleaf editor? Tweet us @GreenleafBookGr. 

Are you ready to submit your manuscript and let one of our editors help you determine who your reader might be? Contact us at, or visit our submissions page.