Attract Attention…(Part Three)


BP number one was “Be Professional.” Number two was “Be Passionate.” The third BP is one I like a lot: Be Plugged In. You need to be the expert on not just your book, but on the readers, the competition, and the craft. Doing that will enable you to equip your team! So…

  1. Know your audience

It’s rare to find a book–or an author–that will be read by everyone. You book should have an “ideal” reader, and the more you keep that person in mind, the stronger your book will be. Get to know your reader. Develop a description of him or her. Find out the following about your reader:

  • Age:
  • Gender:
  • Education:
  • Politics:
  • Denomination:
  • Culture (traditions, language, world view, view of opposite sex, etc):
  • Occupation:
  • Finances/Social Status:
  • Region:
  • Relational status:
  • Favorite books & music:
  • Family History:
  • Family Dynamics:
  • Social issues/concerns:
  • Emotional Issues/concerns:
  • Faith Issues/concerns:

I know authors who write with a description and even a photo of their “reader” next to their computers. All of the factors listed above influence our readers’ buying decisions. Know your reader well, so you can not only write to that person or group of people, but so you can help your team know them.

  1. Know your competition.

An author who knows the competition is a great asset for agents, editors, and marketers. Can you identify the top 3-5 books in your category and provide an analysis on them? If so, great! If not, you’ve got some work to do. Read books and authors similar to your book and your voice. Read those different so you can know what they do and don’t address, places where your message can fill the holes. Read books in the Christian market, but don’t forget to read and be informed on books in the general market. You need to be able to identify similarities between your book and each of your comp titles (to show there’s a market out there for what you’re doing), and then go on to say what your book does or will provide that each of these books doesn’t. For example:

“This book will appeal to those who love the quality of Oprah Club books, but are looking for hope rather than despair.”


{title} is similar to my book in that it speaks to the heart of women who long to be cherished. Where {title} and my book differ is that where the core message of {title} focuses on self-help, my book focuses on finding help, hope, and encouragement based on Scripture and an enduring faith in God. {title} tells the reader it’s up to you. My book tells the reader you’re not alone in this; God has your back.

These kinds of analyses are great ammo for your agent, and equally great information for publisher’s marketing and sales forces.

Next week we’ll discuss the final BP. Until then, have a great week!

14 Responses to Attract Attention…(Part Three)

  1. Ron Estrada July 17, 2013 at 4:20 am #

    Another great post, Karen. I have a question about finding your readers. I use Goodreads and Amazon to see who is reading the same books I do, and the books that fit closely with mine. It seems a small sample size (I’m an engineer, meaning I tend to overthink things). Is there another source to help us determine who might be our target audience?

  2. Henry McLaughlin July 17, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    Karen, thank you for this excellent post. It’s an encouraging reminder to be diligent in knowing my reader and not just settle for generalities that apply to everyone and, thus,no one. I really appreciate the tips in how to zone in on my reader and how to know who is writing in the genre.

  3. Heather Frey Blanton July 17, 2013 at 5:35 am #

    Great post, Karen, as always. I think I know my readers pretty well and have gone to great pains to meet them on facebook. I also go through my reviews on Amazon for tips on who they are. Talking about knowing the competition, do you think reading reviews on other books would be helpful, too? Or would time spent on Goodreads be a better investment?

  4. Anne Love July 17, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    Thanks for the written examples of how to compare and contrast. Reminds me of essay questions in college! :)

  5. Meghan Carver July 17, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    Thank you so much for the specifics, Karen. What are your thoughts on comparing our book to a bestselling author for voice or topic? (As humbly as possible, of course.)

  6. Kathryn Barker July 17, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Very helpful post Karen. I especially appreciate the detailed list for identifying a reader…and the idea of keeping the list and a photo near, as a reminder.

  7. Stephen Schwambach July 17, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Excellent stuff, Karen. You helped me identify a handful of gaps I need to fill. Thank you.

  8. Karen Ball July 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Ron, good question. In fact, you’ve given me an idea for a blog, so watch for that to come.

    Heather, I don’t think reviews are a good resource for this kind of thing.

    Meghan, when you do that kind of comparison, best to say that readers who enjoy XX’s book will also enjoy this book…but be certain that’s true. Find authors whose readers, tone, and genre are the same as what you’re doing.


  9. Voni Harris July 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Great post. Cleared up a lot for me as I think ahead to preparing a proposal. I’ve got questions on the “family history” and “family dynamics” portion of the audience questionnaire. They seem too particular to generalize into an audience. Am I understanding it wrong?

  10. Andrea Cox July 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Great points, Karen! I actually just used both of these while working up my first proposal ever. Talk about being nervous! Thankfully, I talked to God about every step before writing anything. He’s always so gracious and loving.


  11. Karen Ball July 18, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Voni, those two categories are to help you clarify your readers’ family issues, concerns, and needs. For example, if you’re writing to those who have suffered childhood abuse, you’d write down in family history such things as:
    * who was the abuser
    * what kind of abuse
    * was the abuser him or herself abused
    * did they move around a lot
    and so on.

    As for family dynamics:
    * where does your reader fall in the birth order
    * what role does your reader play in the family?
    * does your reader have siblings
    * what kind of relationship does your reader have with family members
    and so on.

    All of that helps you pinpoint and better understand your reader’s needs. Which helps you know how to speak to them.

    For example, as far as role in the family, I’m the middle child, the only girl. But I’m also, in some ways, the oldest child because my younger brother is 6 years younger than I, and my older brother is almost three years older than I. My older bro joined the Marines right out of high school, so that left my younger bro and me at home, making me the oldest. Being the only girl also affected my family role. As did being the only extrovert, not just among my siblings, but in my family!

    So as you can imagine, my concerns and needs–be it for parenting, marriage, relationships, work, whatever, are quite different from those of my brothers.

    Does that help…

    Or have I just muddied the waters even more?

  12. Julie Surface Johnson July 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Very useful! Thanks, Karen. I’m printing this list off.

  13. Pat Jaeger July 21, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Wow! This really helps and comes just when I’m working on the comparisons. The reader list helps to keep me focused, and I’ve had my target audience in my head and heart since I started writing. The list you shared helps me flesh out my “famly”, as I call my readers. Thanks for sharing!

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