How Will You Find Your Book’s Niche Target Audience — By Design or By Chance?

by Karen Jonson

Authors Must Hone in on Their Book’s Potential Reader Niches — One Way or Another. A Personal Case Study.

Niche market bow and arrow and bullseye

Until you target your book’s ideal niche audiences, you won’t be able to focus your marketing time, money, and effort with precision. You can either target your potential readers through a reader assessment or through personal market research.

As a marketing writer, I use to write for a company that supplied consumer segmentation data to the business world. So I fully understand the power of identifying, segmenting, and targeting customers based on demographics, geography, and other details.

Yet, while I was writing my memoir, I found it challenging to envision my book’s potential readers, try as I might.

I was compelled to write my cautionary tale about my derailed spiritual journey, even if no one else ever read it. However, I still wanted readers.

I knew that the best way to target my book’s potential readers was to create detailed reader profiles of my niche target audiences. This way I could focus my marketing efforts with precision, versus just trying to market to the proverbial “everyone.”

So, I sat down and began profiling my book’s potential readers. I came up with two groups that I thought would likely be my new book’s best potential niche markets:

  1. Spiritual seekers. These were people who had an ongoing interest in pursuing a spiritual lifestyle. The problem with this group was that they tend to like uplifting stories and books with lofty spiritual promises. They aren’t as interested in the dark side of seeking spiritual enlightenment.
  2. Curiosity seekers. These are people who enjoy getting an insider’s view of unusual lifestyles, such as polygamist wives, ex-rock star groupies, or, in my case, a cult. The problem is that there is a lot of competition for this group of people, including a bunch of the reality television shows.

How Two Serendipitous Events Helped Me Re-Target My Book’s Audience

As luck would have it, two events occurred during my early book promotional activities that resulted in providing me with valuable market research about who my book’s two primary reader niches might actually be.

And neither was the audience I originally targeted.

The first thing that happened was a local newspaper reporter, who had followed the arrest and trial of my ex-guru, featured my book in an article in the local newspaper. One of the great results that media exposure was that a professor from the University of Texas asked me to speak to his graduate students.

It was my first time speaking to a group of people about my book. I was nervous, but the students were so interested and had so many questions that I calmed down and enjoyed myself.

My talk and Q&A session was supposed to last for one hour, but the students had so many questions that it lasted for an hour and a half. At the end of the talk, the professor said: “I think this is one of the most important books ever written about life inside of a cult.”

After such a great response, I realized that academia was a prime potential audience for my book.

Meeting My Potential Readers — One Person at a Time

The second even occurred last October. Out-of-the-blue, I was given the chance to display my book on a table at a local two-day book festival with almost 30 other self-published writers. I jumped at the opportunity.

Along with having our books on the table, we could also spend some time at the booth and talk to potential readers. I spent a couple of hours at the booth both days and talked to about a dozen people. Many people were interested, but a little apprehensive about (maybe even scared of) the subject matter of my book.

All except for one man. A psychiatrist.

We talked for about a half an hour about the circumstances that result in a person landing in a cult. He confirmed that it’s less about being “damaged,” and more about seeking higher ideals and underestimating the charismatic pull of spiritual con men.

After purchasing my book, he said he wanted to talk to me further on the topic after he read the book. He even emailed me that night to say he’d started my book, and was already pulled into the unique story.

“I have started your book and it is compelling. I knew it would be once I heard the basic story directly from you. I look forward to reading deeper, and do hope to have the chance to visit with you again in person after I have gone through more of your book.”

Through this experience, I realized that psychology professionals and the ideal niche target audience for my book.

Now, I’m working on creating marketing campaigns to reach out to these two promising market niches.

Whether by design or by chance, every author needs to find his or her book’s ideal niche market. The goal should be to visualize your book’s target readers in your mind clearly, including their ages, genders, education levels, locations, habits, hobbies, and more. This reader persona image will help you hone your marketing to greater precision.

What do you think? Have you found your book’s ideal niche audience yet? Please share your experience and thoughts on targeting book audiences.


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The Indie Book Marketing Community gives authors an essential book marketing education — including how to define and target your book’s reader niches. You’ll also learn how to build your platform, plan for success, set up a publicity program, and more. This Workshop is design specifically to give authors the marketing knowledge they need to promote like pros and sell more books.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Philippa Rees January 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm

A very interesting account of how to divert when opportunity knocks, and how ‘fixed’ one might be on possibly a simplistic assumption when a wider curiosity might in fact be the answer, or a search for professional reasons. The marketing gurus all suggest that you have to identify what people have to ‘gain’ by reading your book, and emphasize that.

Mine is on the Philosophy of Science/ religion. Any lateral thinkers who can see what I can’t?


Karen Jonson January 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Hi Philippa,

Thank you very much. I think my informal “market research” was extremely powerful. I would suggest that all writers get out there wherever they can with their new books to talk to people one-on-one. That’s a great way to learn who resonates best with your topic.

Yes, people want to know what the benefits are to reading your book. Make sure that’s included in your marketing message.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of your ideal target market. I would need to spend a lot more time studying it. But perhaps education, like mine.



Vicki M Taylor January 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Excellent advice. Something I’ve had to learn on my own. Wish this was written 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have struggled so hard. 🙂


Karen Jonson January 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Hi Vicki,

I’m happy to hear you found value in this information. I understand your perspective — it’s always challenging to learn on our own, and kind of re-invent the wheel.



Hope I Marston January 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Good food for thought, Karen. Thank you for sharing your narketing successes..


Karen Jonson January 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Hi Hope.

Your welcome. I enjoy sharing my experience with other authors, and learning from other authors. It both provides some good educational exchange and also makes you feel not so alone in this business of self-publishing.



Beth Ann Doerring January 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I am writing a book about my story of abuse – a common theme. It is written for those who have been abused and for those who know women who were abused as children. It will be an interlocking of my story, my spiritual journey, growth and journaling and what I can give to others from my experiences and healing.

This is my first book and I would like suggestions on how to market it and find it’s niche or audience. Thanks!


Karen Jonson January 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Hi Beth,

Congratulations on writing your book. Memoirs are one of the most courageous books to write. I know, because I wrote one too.

As for book marketing for self-published authors, that is exactly why I created the Indie Book Marketing Workshop — to give authors the knowledge, skills, and, most importantly, the understanding of marketing so they can learn to target their book’s potential readers, build a social media platform, use public relations appropriately, and many more marketing lessons.

Take a look at the Workshop described here on my blog and see if it looks like a fit for your needs. I would love to have you.



Monica Carter Tagore January 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I believe every author needs to have a primary audience in mind when writing the book. This can help in the crafting of the book, and of course, in the marketing. But I also believe it’s important to do the thing you did: Be flexible. We can’t have all the answers at the start of a journey, but if we are open to seeing the opportunities, we can find that our path gets way more interesting!

Being able to re-evaluate your marketing in light of the opportunities you saw allowed you to take your work to a new audience. This is a lesson every book writer can learn.


Karen Jonson January 27, 2013 at 9:56 am

Hi Monica,

Very well stated! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.



Pierre Trudel February 1, 2013 at 4:36 am

Hi Karen,
I have been working on my book for over 5 years and just can’t seem to get down to finishing the writing because of my fears of not talking to the right audience.
I write articles and continue my journey. Reading your tips help to keep me motivated.
I know that my work is important but my question to you is, “how do I know” that my interest group even exists?”.


Karen Jonson February 1, 2013 at 8:02 am

Hi Pierre,

Thank you for writing. I’m happy to hear my blog posts help you stay motivated. Finishing the book, those last stages, indeed, can be very challenging.

As for finding your book’s interest group, you have to do market research. Are there other books and genres out there already? Are there organizations related to what you are writing about?

You could also start, if you haven’t already, getting on social media and searching for your audience.

One of the lessons in the Indie Book Marketing Workshop deals with this issue in more detail. I think the course might be an additional motivator for you, if you are interested. I encourage authors to learn fundamental marketing skills, if not from me, than from somewhere.

I hope this helps — and I hope you get your book finished. It will give you an immense sense of satisfaction.



sibilant February 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I set out to write a science fiction novel with a literary feel, so in a sense, I already have a target audience. However, science fiction is a huge field and rather popular right now.

I want to build a platform for my writing through my blog and my Goodreads account, but I also feel I need to hone in a little more. “Fans of sci fi” is not exactly a niche target audience. 🙂

I’m trying to ensure the fictional science is solid enough that fans of Hard Sci Fi don’t poo-poo my book, but I also recognized that it may not appeal to people who want robots, guns, and lots of action.

I really think it is “survivalists” who will like my book the most. We’ll see!

The Driftless: A bioengineered, plant-like solar panel develops consciousness in a post-apocalyptic world, while the few remaining humans struggle to find each other and survive. Can plants and humans work together to stop the Drifting that is tearing the planet apart?


Karen Jonson February 4, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Sounds interesting, Sibilant.

If you are interested, the Indie Book Marketing Workshop teaches platform-building and audience-targeting techniques, along with several other critical book marketing topics.

Congratulations and good luck on your book.



Andrea December 19, 2013 at 4:41 am

Hi Karen!
Thank you for this article! Of course it was interesting and informative all the way through but when I saw the word ¨cult¨ my interest piqued even more. I am a lover of memoirs – they´re my favorite type of book to read. I am especially interested in memoirs related to cults and abusive relationships. I´ve read books like ¨Stolen Innocence ¨by Elissa Wall, ¨Beyond Belief¨ by Jenna Miscavige-Hill, ¨Escape¨ by Carolyn Jessop, ¨Not Without my Sister¨ by Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones, and Juliana Buhring (about the Children of God cult), and I´m reading ¨Heaven´s Harlots: My Fifteen Years in a Sex Cult¨ by Miriam Williams, all are about peoples´ experiences in cults.
Has it helped you to try to find people who have read these books or others that are similar?


Karen Jonson December 24, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hi Andrea,

Thank you for reading it and commenting!

I definitely think that some people are more attracted to cult stories than others. I’ve always been fascinated by cults — even before I was in one. Of course, I NEVER thought I would end up in one. During my years there, I assumed I was on “a special pure spiritual path.” Likely others in cults think some version of that too.

I’ve heard of all the books you mentioned, and I even heard Carolyn Jessop speak. I’ve read several others that I really enjoyed. It’s funny now, because I can see right through the scam.

I haven’t really looked for people who’ve read those books. I know that sounds counterproductive. But it’s a bit of a challenge to find that specific demographic. However, now that you’ve mentioned it, I think I’ll pursue the avenue a bit more.

One thing that I’ve found interesting with some ex-cult members is that they are mostly attracted to books about their own ex-cult, rather than all cults.

If you read my book, let me know what you think.

Best regards,


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