Start small to get bigHave the following thoughts ever crossed your mind?

  • My book has a broad audience and could be enjoyed by anyone.
  • I don’t want to be pigeon holed—I want to attract all types of readers.
  • If my book could get promoted on [big-name TV show], everyone would see how widely appealing my work is.
  • When extra-terrestrials land, they’ll become a new audience for my book!

Okay, maybe not that last one. But new authors often believe their potential audience is very broad.

I don’t want to squelch anyone’s ambitions, but this attitude does not make for a workable marketing strategy.

You may have dreams of reaching millions, but to reach millions, you have to start with the people who are your target market or demographic. Or, you have to think like a marketer:

  1. Define your target market.
  2. Position your book for that market.
  3. Develop an appropriate marketing mix for that target market (marketing mix defines where you plan to be active in reaching your audience)

If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing at all.

Side note example: Professional marketers have long used the VALS psychographic segmentation to help them identify their target market and position their products. (Click here to take a survey and uncover how marketers stereotype you!) While I don’t think this is approach makes much sense for books and authors, seeing this tool should help get you in the right mindset to define your market. Plus, what I want you take away is this: Even mass-marketed brands and companies have a target market. They are trying to appeal to specific people with each campaign.

Some authors want to remain free of genre labels, or want to be open to many types of readers. That’s well and good—as well as a common and logical desire. But it’s also one that you have to fight against when it comes to marketing.

Paradoxically, a strong marketing strategy and communication, especially for new authors, is to target as narrowly as possible and establish that core readership. You want to talk to the MOST interested people first—your best prospects—to avoid wasting time and energy in the initial stages.

You gain a large audience by starting with a small core, then letting the ripples grow. Don’t try to go broad, then narrow. It usually works in reverse.

Photo credit: Flickr / Jackal of all trades

About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman is the co-founder of Scratch, a new quarterly magazine focused on the intersection of writing and money. Her day job is at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she leads online and digital content strategy; she also teaches digital publishing at the University of Virginia. Prior to joining VQR, Jane was the publisher of Writer’s Digest and an assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati. Find out more at Google+ or her website.