There are many reasons someone might gravitate towards a book. Take a debut mystery, for example. A reader might pick it up because they are a die-hard fan of the genre. They check out any new mystery title recommended by their favorite BookTokkers. There are readers who gravitate towards a book because of its themes, or because the characters look, speak, or behave like they do. Then there are the readers we have yet to discover, who didn’t expect to fall in love with a title and can become the book’s greatest evangelists.
When promoting a book, marketers ask themselves: Who is this book for? Every title has the potential to reach returning and new readers alike. Audience development in the context of multicultural marketing is the process of identifying and reaching new readers.
Marketers often identify their primary and secondary audiences at the outset of any campaign. The primary audience, or target audience, includes readers who might naturally gravitate towards your book based on genre, comp titles, and author. Most marketing efforts tend to be focused on this group. The secondary audience includes opportunity audiences, readers who may be a part of a specific niche community. Opportunity audiences are where marketers see the greatest potential for growth. These readers include multicultural communities and benefit from tailored, intentional messaging and outreach. Here are three steps to take when developing audiences:
The first step to reaching opportunity audiences is identifying whom we want to reach and why. We start by looking first at the book and the author. What are the identities of the main characters? What themes and subthemes in the story might readers connect with? It’s important to remember that identity is intersectional, so it’s not enough to say that a character is biracial. Is the character queer, a parent, a millennial, a gamer? Next, we create two or three audience profiles with specific demographics and psychographics to create a picture of who our consumers are and where we might reach them.
For example, we created the following audience profile for a title about engaging in important conversations around antiracism:
Women of color interested in literature on anti-Blackness: Women, 22 to 40, Latinx, biracial, and Asian American, college educated, living in NY, LA, DC, & other large metropolitan areas, active on Twitter, vote progressive, follow AOC + “The Squad,” listen to Code Switch from NPR and similar podcasts.
After we’ve identified our audience, we consider what we know and don’t know about them. Where does the target audience live? Is the target audience a population that is dispersed throughout the United States or concentrated in specific states or zip codes? What kind of media does our audience consume? Where might our target audience gather: college campuses, online forums, religious congregations?
Finally, multilayered strategies are the most successful when reaching multicultural audiences. We employ advertising strategies, social targeting, influencer outreach, and partnerships. What ad vendors are best suited to layer in multicultural sites? What keywords can we use when creating social ads? Which influencers and cultural organizations have garnered a significant following with our audience? What partnerships can we develop with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ owned bookstores, book clubs, and other organizations?
Now that you’ve learned how we approach multicultural audience development, here are a few tips and tricks on how to grow your own visibility and community during your publishing journey.
Think about your personal brand. A personal brand is a widely recognized impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, interests, actions, and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large. As an author, your brand or voice might include the genre you publish in, recurring thematic material in your stories, and your presence on social media.
Define your purpose and become clear about what your competitive advantages are. What is your writing about? What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?
Describe your personality and emphasize what makes you and your characters unique. What parts of yourself do you feel comfortable sharing? What is the inspiration behind your writing? How do you want to be seen?
Understand your marketplace and identify which audiences you are trying to reach. Which platforms are best suited for reaching your audiences? What type of content can you create to build your profile?
Prioritize your efforts and fine-tune your personal brand with your core audience in mind. Is your website updated, user-friendly, and engaging? Are your headshots up to date? How much time do you have to work on building your voice and brand? What type of community or reader engagement will be sustainable for you and on which platforms?
Build your community and be an entrepreneur by connecting with like-minded folks in the industry, authors you admire, or influencers who can boost your book. Staying engaged with others whose mission and work you admire is a surefire path to organic growth and authentic community.
Carolina Meurkens is the Manager of Multicultural Marketing at Penguin Publishing Group.