Take a Field Trip and Get To Know Your Types of Reader


Here’s something else that you should do: Take a field trip and get to know your types of reader.

One of the things of which I’m mindful is the process by which Barnes & Noble orders the books they then stock onto their shelves. Each book category is assigned to a “buyer.” So there’s a buyer for nonfiction, health, travel, mythology, literature, fantasy, mid-grade, YAs. You get the idea. B&N buyers fill the shelf space, and books need to fit into the bookseller’s already-established categories. If there is no place to shelf the books, the titles won’t be purchased.

Take a trip to Barnes & Noble or to any large independent bookstore. Which titles would your book be snuggled up against? What kind of cover would your publisher put on your book? Which authors give quotes for these titles? I find that walking through rows of books is always illuminating. But much the same impact can be had by pawing through Amazon’s “customers who bought this title also bought” carousel.

Don’t ignore this step! When you write your query, you need to tell the agent which types of reader your book is for. Your editor will want to know. So will the publicist. And the sub-rights department. Please note: The correct answer to the question of who your book targets is never, “Everyone!”