Two important elements of an author’s proposal are Target Audience and Felt Need.
From a publisher’s standpoint, these elements help determine if this book fits into markets they have done well in before. Do they have a track record of success in placing middle reader fantasy? Or are they strictly an issue driven publisher preferring to deal with teenage bullying, sex addiction, or high school idolatry? Each publisher has its strengths and knows their audience. They know whether their investment will be returned by tracking their past sales. Can they get a return on their investment when they publish your book? Your proposal will give them a good idea.
If you choose to write to a middle reader audience, then you need to know what middle readers are reading, and what they are dealing with on a regular basis. This is known as a felt need. If there is no need for a book like yours, if no one is asking the question you are answering then once your book is published, how will it find its intended audience? Or maybe you are writing an answer to a question that has already been vastly discussed. Find the question every teen is asking- and answer it. You will be the author of a bestseller.
A great example of this is the book Coke or Pepsi? My brother recommended it to me as a book my preteen niece might want. His daughter and her friends had loved it. When I saw it, I was not surprised by his suggestion. I loved the concept. I bought her the book and believe my Favorite Aunt status will move a giant step forward this year. (And any Aunt knows this is a felt need of ours!) This book has attended many sleepovers, Girl Scout meetings, youth groups and family gatherings since it was first published back in 2006, and bookshelves at my large box store currently have several editions of the book on their shelf. It is fun and meets the pre-teen and teenager’s need to know stuff about one another and learn things about themselves.
One of the best tools in helping you define your target audience is to write out a mission statement. What is it you want your reader to take away with them after they read your book? Will they have learned what not to say to upset your man? Or how about 20 ways to insure your plants make it through the summer drought? Are you writing to teens as above, or to mature Christian women surviving divorce? Writing your mission out will nail your target.
FELT NEED (mission): My title, Beam Me Up Scotty, is a lighthearted response to the stresses of everyday life. The reader of this book will learn how to use key phrases from pop culture, movies, and books to keep daily crisis’ in perspective. Meant as an entertaining read, the actual benefit of its simple practices might be just what the doctor ordered.
TARGET AUDIENCE: The target audience for this book is huge. Who isn’t stressed out and ready to jump off a bridge? Psychologists’ will recommend this book to their patients, as well as friends and family members of the uptight. Book clubs will be a major buyer, developing their own literary speak for each of their clubs. The student bodies of Ivy League schools will require the reading of this book as an entrance exam to their sororities.
Do you think I have a bestseller on my hands? At least I am aimed at my target and have defined my felt need. The next step is to get those chapters written and find myself an agent!
Happy over the hump day!