When a person decides to start a business, one of the key tasks is to determine their target market. This holds true whether they're opening a new restaurant, an upscale clothing boutique, a toy store, a movie theatre - or anything in between.
That book you're writing is a product. You, the author, are a product. And when your book is finished and you're searching for just the right agent or publisher, you are putting yourself out there like a new business.
A lot of great manuscripts come across my desk. A lot of times, I have to decline them because I can't get a clear view of the target market and how to reach them.
Before you put your pen to paper (or your fingers to the keyboard) you should know who you're writing for. There's nothing wrong with writing the story that cries to your inner soul to be written. But if you're planning on selling that story, you'd better know who is likely to read the book - and how to reach them.
I hear authors say that their book is for everybody.
Is that so?
I could say a restaurant is for everybody. But ask a dozen people where they'd like to have dinner tonight and you might get a dozen answers. Some like sushi, some like Mexican, some, pizza, others, meatloaf... It's the same with books. No way will you catch me in a sushi bar, and I also don't care about werewolves.
You should know whether your primary reader is male or female. How old are they, right down to a specific generation - teens? young adult? 30's? 60's? What their education is, and why they would be interested in your book.
You have to know these things because when the book is released, you have to know how to reach that audience.
But that's my publisher's job, you say. Well, yes... and no.
It's everybody's job. It's your name on the cover. It's your face in public, signing your books. The author becomes an integral part of promoting the book; otherwise, he or she could be sent to totally inappropriate venues - the wrong age group or to groups more interested in a different genre. Try showing up at a church-sponsored book signing with erotica.
Knowing your audience helps you to grow your audience. You know what they like and don't like. You learn where they hang out. You learn how to reach them. Then stay within the parameters of what they like, and you've got a built-in audience for each book you write.