Finding Your Reader Tribe: Selling your book, not your soul

reader tribe selling your book

Who is your book aimed at? Too many new authors feel the answer should be “everyone”–but that really amounts to “no one”. As with archery, failing to take aim with a book pretty much guarantees you won’t be hitting any bullseyes. Here’s the truth: As tempting as it might be to believe your book is for everyone, that’s almost never the case. In fact, the more successful a book is, the more likely it was written for a niche audience. These books aren’t afraid to go narrow and deep in their message, which means they appeal to the people who most want to hear that message–their Reader Tribe.

Your reader tribe is made up of the people who need to hear what you’ve got to say. They might not even know who you are yet, but if they were given your book, they would be instant fans because it speaks directly to their personal interests and concerns. Your only duty as an author is to please your reader tribe. Get that right and you will always have a group of people eager to read your words.

The Niche Paradox: Broaden your audience and you’ll lose fans. Focus on your fans and you’ll grow your audience.

 

Your reader tribe won’t just show up at your door when your book is done. You have to find them. And in order to find them, you have to know who they are.

Some books have obvious reader tribes. What to Expect When You’re Expecting has a reader tribe of pregnant women. Other books’ reader tribes may not be so easy to identify. This post will help you find out what your readers are all about so you can stop shouting to the masses and start focusing on those actually listening.

Some of these characteristics will be easy to identify. Others may require you to think from outside the box, or more appropriately, from inside your reader tribe’s head. Of course, you’ll never be able to perfectly identify your readers. But this is one exercise where making generalizations is actually helpful. Go with your gut and don’t overthink it. Mark down what you sense will apply to “most” of your readers, not all.

At LifeTree, we use nine different areas to discover our authors’ reader tribes. This starts with gender, age and work status, but it doesn’t stop there. We also imagine their interests, preferences and values, and their attitudes. These questions can yield valuable insight into the ideas these readers most want to encounter.

Let’s go through those some of those areas now. Grab a notepad and pen–you’re going to need them. Take notes on who you think your readers are, and try to get a clear picture in your mind of an actual individual to represent them, whether that’s a real person in your life or a TV character. Nothing will empower your writing quite like having a clear picture of who you’re doing it for.


 

Gender

Is your audience primarily male or female, or is gender less of a distinguishing feature?

Age

How old are the members of your reader tribe likely to be? If you find it difficult to pinpoint an age group, perhaps you can rule out certain groups, like seniors, kids or teens. Now you know you’re aiming at adults in their 20s to 50s. Great!

Work status

Which of the following are your readers most likely to be?

  • In fulltime education
  • Working professionals
  • Working in trades
  • Entrepreneurs or executives
  • Stay-at-home parents
  • Retired

Interests

Which of the following are likely to be significant interests for most of your reader tribe? Watch for themes that emerge–and think about how you might use these interests to connect with them. Consider the following:

  • Healthy eating / exercise
  • Environment / sustainability
  • Literature / movies
  • Pop culture / celebrity gossip
  • Personal development / psychology and relationships
  • Spirituality / inspiration
  • Alternative medicine / Natural living
  • Sports
  • Women’s issues / feminism
  • Food and wine
  • DIY / home interiors
  • Technology / innovation
  • Personal finance / investing
  • Human rights issues / social causes

Preferences and values

What are some of the powerful underlying values of your reader tribe? What do they care about and gravitate to, whether consciously or subconsciously? This will help you strike the right tone with your readers, and create content that they will genuinely find appealing and worthy of sharing with their own social or professional contacts. Here are some examples:

  • Keeping informed
  • Making emotional connections
  • Having fun / humour
  • Achieving goals / maximizing productivity
  • Ethical living

Attitudes

How are most members of your reader tribe likely to view themselves? What attitudes do they value? Notice whether any of these attitudes are ones that you yourself share with them – if so, you should feel empowered to convey those attitudes with authenticity and conviction. Don’t hold back. Some examples:

  • Down to earth / unpretentious
  • Urban / hip / stylish
  • Smart / in the know
  • Positive
  • Ambitious
  • Emotionally open
  • Discerning

Authors can also go deeper with their exploration of their reader tribe by looking at their behaviours and online preferences as well as their personal qualities. This is something we do in our Online Author Marketing services.

Now that your mind-reading exercise is complete, you should have an idea of who that mysterious animal, your reader, really is. You’ll know which rock they’re hiding under when it comes time to tell the world about your book, and what you need to do to lure them out, whether that’s a humorous infographic or a serious analytical article.

Once you gather those first followers of your tribe, your job will be to wow them so that they’ll tell their friends. And who cares if you’re not everyone’s cup of tea? It’s better to be loved by some than ignored by all, and your readers need you.

Paris Spence-Lang

Paris Spence-Lang

Paris is the Publishing Coordinator of LifeTree Media. When not working on the next bestseller, he can often be found reading one.
Paris Spence-Lang

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