Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What is a target audience?

I am a veterinarian and author in California. I am also a member of Sisters In Crime and Sisters In Crime Guppies. (GOOD!! All crime writers should be members of SiC)

I am getting ready to query agents for my debut cozy/traditional/whodunit mystery titled Murder At Lake Tahoe. One of the agents that I am going to query requests that authors submit their Target Audience information.

I have searched everywhere online looking for the demographics of readers of cozy mysteries. All I have been able to find out is that cozy mystery readers are largely women over 40. I would like more specifics and more detail than this.

Do you know where I can find current information detailing the demographics of cozy mystery readers?

I could, but that's not what the agent is asking for.
She's asking what kinds of READERS want to read your book, and the best way to find them is to tell her about other books your target audience has read and loved.

In other words, comps.

But remember,  most readers like many kinds of books.
So cast the widest net possible. (If you have horses in your book, I'm in!)

The target audience for my book are readers who love books with horses. They've read all of Dick Francis and have strong opinions about books published after Mary Francis ascended to the Great Library in the Sky.

Additionally, the setting is almost a character in my book, so readers who enjoy reading about California and Nevada, and even the Great West will resonate with my book.
Spend some time on this, and craft carefully so you don't make the mistake of "everyone will love this book" because everyone won't. I know you think they should, but sadly, it doesn't work that way.

Even I, the paragon of great taste in all things book, had to stop reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Skim the comments section of that blog post for some eye-opening info about what other readers of taste and discernment (they read this blog!) have also not finished/liked/resonated with.
All this to say, be restrained but not self-effacing.
If you were going to write a shelf talker saying "If you like this, you'll love Murder at Lake Tahoe" which five books would you put those shelf talkers on? And what would you say that would draw in the reader of those books?

Don't know what a shelf-talker is?
Don't feel dumb, we hear terms for the first time.

Shelf talkers are comments about book content on the shelf


nightsmusic said...

I have never seen shelf talkers. What a great idea.

I have nothing else to add.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

what nightsmusic said

Lisa Bodenheim said...

That's what those things are called! Have some creative fun with creating this paragraph or two, OP.

This example is so helpful. Janet, is this something other genre writers could put in their queries, even if the agent/publisher does not ask for it? Or is that just wasting precious real estate for the story itself?

Steve Forti said...

Just wanna echo the recommendation for "Six Wakes" from the picture. Read it over the summer. I dug it. Will give her next book a shot based off enjoying this one.

LynnRodz said...

I've never seen a shelf talker, but now I'll be on the lookout for one. And thanks, Janet, for the info about setting being almost a character, I think I'll include that in my query.

Colin Smith said...

The closest thing I've seen to a "shelf talker" is the Staff Recommendation card I sometimes see on B&N shelves. It's a good idea. After all, I don't know about you, but many of the books I have read over the years have been the result of personal recommendations.

All the best with your querying, OP!

And finally, I posted this in the comments late last night relative to yesterday's article. Just as a reminder to everyone:

Before searching Janet's extensive archives, PLEASE CHECK THE TREASURE CHEST!!! There's even a page of "Gems"--links to a selection of Janet's blog articles grouped by topic ("Agents & Agenting", "Conferences", "Querying"...). I'm glad to maintain this, but I don't do it for my own health you know! And if there's an article missing you think should be linked here, PLEASE let me know!;)

Claire Bobrow said...

That's a very helpful explanation of what the agent is looking for. Thank you, Janet, and good luck, OP!

I didn't know those rec cards were called "Shelf Talkers," but I've bought a lot of good books because of them. My local indie has an entire case of books plastered with them as you enter, and that's basically been my reading list for the last few years. They've steered me to some major favorites, like Last Night At the Lobster and Dear Committee Members. All hail the Shelf Talker!

Luralee said...

Shelf talkers??? I love this idea! I wonder does one need to be a bookstore employee to put them up or shall I descend upon my Barnes and Nobles with a pack of sticky notes? Good question OP, and eye opening answer. So setting as character is something to mention in the query? Yay! I can tick that box. I also have music as a character. Maybe I should try and work that in as well.

Theresa said...

I didn't know those things had a name! I'd seen Staff Recommendations and If You Like X, Check Out Y, but had never seen reference to shelf talkers. What a great phrase.

Karen McCoy said...

Great question, OP! Good luck!

Confessions of a former shelf talker (librarian). We are often asked to write blurbs for books on shelves. Much like what Theresa described.

Sandra J. said...

**Googles "shelf-talker"**

So THAT's what those are called!

The big book chain in Canada uses those all the time, but the best ones are at an independent book store in Vancouver where a staff member meticulously hand writes each one with a flourish and a touch os sass.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

OP, you had me at Lake Tahoe, native Sierra-loving Californian that I am. I'd buy your book for that alone. So the rays of reader-attraction shine out in all directions.

Like everyone else, I'm delighted to learn that "shelf talkers" is a thing, with an actual name.

[PS: The Captcha beastie must have been eavesdropping - it's asked me to tick all images with mountains or hills.]

Morgyn said...

Clears throat. Reads again. "So cast the widest net possible. (If you have horses in your book, I'm in!)"

Now, I've got my work really cut out for me.

Theresa said...

My next book has Buttermilk in it. Trigger, too.

John Davis Frain said...

Steve, her next one is the sequel, 6 1/2 WAKES.

Aw, c'mon, it's late, cut me some slacks. I was just having a drink with Mickey Rourke.

Linda Shantz said...

Yes, horses, please!! We need more well-written books with accurately portrayed horses!

I'm sorry, was this about something else? Haha....fifty-something and still horse crazy.

I echo the thanks...especially with this particular example. It's a struggle to find comps as there don't seem to be many traditionally-published novels with horses.

Rachele Baker said...

Thanks for answering my question about target audiences, Janet. This is really helpful.