October 1, 2018

Why You Must Constantly Identify Your Target Market

By p.m.terrell

Your target market consists of your ideal reader: the one that stays up all night turning the pages, writes glowing reviews, recommends your books to friends, family and groups and eagerly awaits your next release.

In a recent edition of Southern Writers Magazine, I provided tips to defining your ideal target market even if you have no idea who they are. This process should be performed with every title.

My first suspense, Kickback, was published in 2002. I worked with the publisher’s marketing department for several months to identify my ideal reader. This being my first suspense, I was starting at Ground Zero. We identified bestselling authors within the same genre, discovering the demographics through their reader reviews and social media. I then participated in extensive book tours, which brought me face to face with potential buyers, learning quickly which ones showed interest. I was also a spokesperson for the Virginia Crime Stoppers Association, which brought my titles in front of law enforcement officers. All told, my audience tended to be conservative, religious (particularly evangelical), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and older GenX (born 1965-1980).

Flash forward to 2012 when Vicki’s Key was released. My editor suggested I take the bedroom scene further; as she described it, I had become “an expert at taking the reader to the bedroom door”—now she wanted me to take them inside. After several rewrites, I detailed much more than I ever had before. Little did I know this one scene changed my demographics. My existing audience told me they wanted to be left at the door.

I also read declassified CIA documents for plot ideas (which I highly recommend: and I came upon materials on the remote viewer program, which continue within intelligence and defense agencies, including the United States, Russia and China. This was a character’s dream career, because I could take them around the world, involving them in a variety of plots. So the main character in Vicki’s Key became a remote viewer. The same demographic audience I had targeted for the previous ten years didn’t like Vicki’s job; one reader told me it was science fiction.

Despite great reviews, sales slumped compared to my earlier titles—until we adjusted the target market. It turned out that a liberal audience was more likely to believe in the work of remote viewers; even though it was based in fact, conservatives remained skeptical. Evangelicals were also less likely to believe in the metaphysical, unless they were depicted as angels. Older audiences did not like more graphic love scenes, though Millennials thought I could have taken it even further. Rural audiences were less likely to enjoy quantum physics (which remote viewing is based upon) or more graphic love scenes; urban audiences were more open-minded. Once we adjusted the target market to urban progressives, Millennials, and identified key words and phrases associated with quantum physics and psychic phenomena, we connected with the right audience and sales skyrocketed.

Lesson learned: with every book I have written since, I have taken the time to identify the correct audience.
p.m.terrellis the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 21 suspense, historical and non-fiction titles. She is also the founder of Book 'Em North Carolina ( and The Novel Business (, designed to help authors increase their sales. Social Links: Website:

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