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Who’s Your Reader? Designing Your Cover for Your Target Market (Part 1)

How often do you hear this from other authors:

“Oh, I think everyone will like my book if they only read it.”

Well, maybe nobody actually says it, but it’s tempting to think that anyone should enjoy your book if given the chance. In reality, however, different segments of the population enjoy definite types of books. You don’t see too many middle-aged men reading Twilight (or maybe they just hide it).

The group most likely to buy your book is called the target market for your book, and you should consider their likes, dislikes and what attracts them when designing your cover (and writing your promotional copy, marketing your book, and even writing the actual book).

Just like it would not be effective or affordable to purchase ad space everywhere on the web to market your book, it can be ineffective to try to use multiple imagery on your book cover in hopes of attracting multiple categories of people. When you’re designing anything, including a book cover, you need to keep in mind your specific target market.

The overall book market is made up of readers that can be divided into groups with common characteristics. A target market’s characteristics can be divided into two sections: Demographic and Pyschographic. Demographics has more to do with the reader’s physical characteristics like age or gender, while Pyschographics deal their inner workings like behavior and values.

Take a moment to pull out a pencil and paper and figure out what the target market of your book is.



Who will read your book?


  •       Age
  •      Geographic Location
  •      Gender
  •      Income Level
  •      Education Level
  •      Marital or Family Status
  •      Occupation
  •      Ethnic Background


  •      Attitudes
  •      Personality
  •      Values
  •      Interests/Hobbies
  •      Lifestyles
  •      Behavior


Knowing the group who most likely will buy your book can help you tailor your cover design toward things that will interest them. For example, if you know that mainly 20-40-year-old, single, tech-savvy, college-educated women buy your book’s genre, you would use that information to design a cover to stand out to them (see How to Design A Cover by the Genre).

As fun as it is to work out exactly who your ideal reader is, be careful not to break your market down too far. If you’ve painted a picture of your readers being bicycle-riding, python-loving, punk-rock styled, middle-aged, married women with diabetes, great. If, however, there are only 200 such women in existence, then designing your book cover just for them could actually hurt the overall marketability of your book.

Another point to consider is the purchaser of the book versus the eventual reader. For example, you might have a little kid who wants your book but it will be the mother or father who actually buys the book. Depending on what your book’s content are, it might be best to target the actual recipient of the book or it might be best to target the purchaser (think of grandparents who give gifts).

Targeting a specific reader does not mean that you have to exclude readers who don’t fit your group. Instead, target marketing allows you to focus your book cover design (and promotional copy, as I’m sure Josh would attest) on a market that’s more likely to check out your book. It’s a more efficient and effective way to attract readers.

Join me next week when I go into how to use this idea of a target market in your actual design.

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