Thursday, February 16, 2023

How to Find Your Readers

By Jenna Harte

Part of The Indie Author Series

JH: It's hard to sell a book if you don't know who you're selling it to. Jenna Harte shares tips on identifying and then finding your reading audience.

I wrote an article for Fiction University on Selling More Books with Marketing Mind Shift in which I suggested authors think less about selling a single book through a Tweet, and instead about building a community of avid readers. The article explained how to do that, with one exception; how do you find your audience? This piece is a follow up to that article to provide tips and resources on finding your readers and creating a community for them.
Ask anyone in the publishing community how to market a book, and you’ll get a long list of ideas, including:
  • Build a website
  • Twitter
  • TikTok
  • And more
While all these have the potential to work, having a web presence using any of the above option doesn’t automatically bring readers. 

Building a website or a Facebook Fan page doesn’t reach out to readers. It sits there waiting for readers to find it.

For most marketing methods to work, you need to find and interact with your readers, and then invite them back to your website or social media. Here are tips on finding and attracting your readers.

Who is your ideal reader?

This question is trickier than you might think. If you write a mystery, you might think mystery readers are my ideal readers, but that’s not the case. Cozy mystery readers don’t like swearing or violence, so if your book has that, they wouldn’t be your reader. Some people only like police procedurals or PI books. But even within subgenres, people can be specific about what they like or don’t like. For example, maybe the reader only likes British mysteries.

If you’re new and don’t have any readers yet, the answer to this question will evolve as you grow your readership. But to start with, make a list of your book’s:

1. Genre (e.g. romance or mystery)

2. Genre-category (e.g. historical romance or cozy mystery)

3. Tropes or themes (e.g. second chance at love or redemption)

4. Topics or interesting elements in your book (location, special interests, unusual concept, etc)

5. Competitors: Find the books that are most similar to yours, noting the title and author. If you have a book released, check the Also Boughts on Amazon, with the idea that you have a similar audience as those books since the readers bought it and yours.

Where is your ideal reader?

Earlier I talked about how having a website did nothing for you if it sat and waited for someone to find it. This is where you go out and find your readers and invite them to learn about you. Here are some tips for locating them:

If you have readers already, ask them how they found you and what is it about your books they enjoy. 

The first will help you understand what has worked in your marketing strategy. The second will give you insight into what your readers like about your writing or stories, so you can find more readers like them.

Take a few of your competitor’s books and reverse engineer their marketing strategy. 

Do they have a website or social media? How are they used? Do they have only a Facebook Page, or do they also have a Facebook Group? Do they just post images on Instagram, or do they have daily Stories? Do they run ads? You can search Facebook Ad Library to find Facebook Ads run by your competitors. Have they been interviewed on podcasts (a Google search of the author name should bring up interviews)? Where are their books reviewed (again, a Google search should provide this information, especially if you search by author and book title)?

Based on your books genre, subgenre, theme, tropes, topics, concepts, search for other resources that cover them, such as blogs, podcasts, and online communities. 

For example, if you write noir crime mysteries, are there blogs, podcasts, or communities dedicated to that? If your book features a skydiving protagonist, are there blogs, podcasts, or communities dedicated to skydiving. (Note, your focus is better on finding readers of your genre than people who have hobbies similar to your characters, but it doesn’t hurt to expand your reach through the themes, characters, and concepts of your book).

Using the same idea above, find off-line opportunities to reach your readers, as well. 

For example, what magazines does your audience read? Do they go to book or topic-related festivals or conferences? What stores do they shop at? Do they go to wineries or coffee cafes.

Meet Your Ideal Reader

Instead of hoping your reader will find you on Twitter, you need to go out and befriend them. How? First, before you seek out your reader, make sure you have your platform built so they have a place to learn about you, sign up for your email list, and follow you on social media. Then, using what you’ve learned about where your reader hangs out, you can:

Join groups and communities your reader is active in. 

Don’t limit it to Facebook groups. Search for blogs and online communities built around your genre or subgenre. When you join, don’t pitch your book. Instead, join the conversation. Discuss your shared interest in books. Ask questions. Provide relevant recommendations or resources. Be present and genuine in your attempt to make friends. Many groups allow some promotion, but read the terms and follow the rules.

Make friends with your competitors. 

This sounds counterintuitive, but if you share readers, then you should connect with others your readers enjoy. Readers read a variety of authors, so you’re not stealing readers or giving them away by having author friends. Similar to joining groups, be friendly, share their works on social media or in your email (you can even do email swaps).

Participate in giveaways and swaps that most closely match your book. 

For example, I recently joined a giveaway targeted at romance books that take place in the south. Giveaways and swaps aren’t always that niched, but the goal is to be in a group that has the same readers as you do. All of you promote the giveaway, which means you’re sharing them with your audience, but also, you’re getting in front of their audiences. Readers give you their email for your free book, and now you have someone to befriend on your list (have onboarding emails that make them want to stay). Yes, some get the book and then unsubscribe, but most don’t, especially if you have a great welcome email and book.

Pitch blogs, podcasts, and YouTubers that target your readers. 

There are blogs and podcasts on all genres of fiction, and literature, too. Find one that most closely matches what you write. If you write cozy mysteries, a generic mystery podcast might not do as well as a cozy mystery podcast for bringing you new readers. When pitching, don’t just promote your book. Give the host a topic idea that you can talk about (e.g. something regarding your theme or concept or character).

Run targeted ads. 

Facebook allows you to target by the name of authors (remember that list of competitors?). If you’re book is ebook only on Kindle, you can target that too. Amazon and Bookbub target only readers, which makes them an ideal place to start. You can target down further to readers in your genre and subgenre. Note, writing ads is an art, so do research on how to create an ad and set up a campaign so that you don’t end up wasting money.

Attend book events. 

There are hundreds of genre-based book events, and general book festivals all over the world. If you write a cozy mystery, go to Malice Domestic. If you write sci-fi or fantasy, attend Ravencon. Pitch to be a speaker or on a panel, which gives you the opportunity to sell your books, even if you’re self-published. You can do a Google search on book events in your area: genre+events+location (e.g. mystery book events New York). has a list of book events by state, but this list isn’t exhaustive. Don’t forget your local library, as most libraries have authors come in to speak. My best sales are usually at library events.

Be creative. 

If your book is set in a winery, arrange a signing at a winery. If your book takes place during a historical event, go the museum that has the exhibit or location and arrange to speak.

The goal is to figure out where your readers are and then go meet them, not wait and hope they can find you.

 It doesn’t hurt to survey your readers every now and then to make sure you know who they are and what they like about your books so you can better target your marketing efforts and grow your fan base.

If you have other unique ideas for finding your ideal reader, I’d love to hear about it!

Jenna Harte

Jenna Harte is a die-hard romantic writing about characters who are passionate about and committed to each other, and frequently getting into trouble. She is the author of the Valentine Mysteries, the first of which, Deadly Valentine, reached the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. She has a contemporary romance series, Southern Heat, and a cozy mystery series, Sophie Parker Coupon Mystery Series

Romance authors can join her free writing community for support, accountability and more at WritewithHarte.

About Drawn to Her: Book One of the Southern Heat Series

He doesn't trust her, but he's powerless to resist her. He's...Drawn to Her. Feisty and outspoken, Lexie McKenna will do anything to protect her cantankerous and ailing patient--even if it means going up against his cold and calculating, but sexy and irresistible, grandson. After all, as a nurse, her number one priority is her patient. Drake Carmichael doesn't trust the nurse who's taking care of his grandfather--despite how adorable and compassionate she seems. He refuses to let her get her grips into their hard-earned money.

But as the two square off and begin to battle about what is best for the dying man, Lexie and Drake realize that first impressions are deceiving. Lexie discovers a warm, vulnerable man beneath cold, calculating armor, and Drake finds he's helpless against Lexie's gentle heart and beguiling smile. Once they finally give in to their desires, the battle has only just begin.

As the clash between family and fortune ignites, the love they both crave could burn to ash.

Amazon Barnes & Noble | iTunes Indie Bound | Kobo 


  1. This is brilliant. It's exactly what I need. I'm fed up with being told to 'identify my target reader' without being told how to do so. You have helped greatly. A thousand thanks.

    1. I'm so glad you find this helpful! I agree. Sometimes we're told to do something but not given any details on how to actually go about doing it. Thank you for reading.

  2. All good advice, one thing I recently did was submit my 2 books at the university art gallery where I work for the community university community show - starts next month, see how that works

    1. Great idea. Thinking outside the box is great! Too many authors focus solely on the Internet, when there are so many other options. The Internet can be a great way to more quickly learn about readers, but when it comes to reaching them, there are so many great options. Good luck with the show!