Who You Talkin’ To? Know Your Target Audience!

by SP Turgon


In non-fiction, keeping your target audience in mind is critical to good communication: you gotta speak their language.


Is your target audience your industry peers, or do you want to educate a new group of curious learners?

Writing to peers is easy.

But for many experts, writing for curious beginners is more challenging because the introduction of industry jargon or standard processes need to be simplified. Such experts start off with great intentions but lapse into riffing as they would to their peers, overloading a beginner until that poor reader drowns under too many unknowns.

And puts the book down.

Once your reader puts down your book, you’ve lost them—and probably, the sale.

Clearly visualize who will be turning the pages. Define who your book talks to and use the vocabulary and complexity your target audience can handle.


  • Age group
    • Is your subject matter specific to those at a certain stage of life: college-age, child-bearing age, retirement age?
  • Income level 
    • Is your product or subject one that requires significant working capital, investors, or expendable income?
  • Educational level 
    • Are your concepts built on acquired knowledge that most readers would get in higher education?
  • Traditional gender roles
    • Writing to a specific female or male audience often means keeping general parameters in mind:  women readers generally respond to phrasing based on subtlety, complex inter-relations, or power gained through such means; unless you’re writing porn, men readers stay hooked longer when concepts are couched in phrasing that reflects action, direct power, and a dearth of body fluids. (OK Everybody—these are general statements not judgements)
  • Location
    • Is your product or subject specific to one area, nation, or environment? Does your target audience need background, colloquialisms, or landmarks to fully grasp your message?
  • Interests, passions, or hobbies 
    • Is your theory, product, or service tangentially linked to other common interests of your future readers? Or is your target audience typically of a certain mindset: political, religious, environmental, etc?
  • Size
    • Does your book address individuals or groups?


The target audience question often comes out in a structural edit when information gaps become obvious.


Your book sales could be affected by not having a clear target audience


BISAC Codes help clarify your target audience 

(BISAC = Book Industry Standards and Communications)


Clarify your target audience by deciding where in the bookstore your book will sell best.

BISAC codes define publishing industry categories. The codes tell stores where your book will be most easily found by the reader seeking that information, and make the most sales.

For a thorough understanding of BISAC codes, check out the Book Industry Study Group website.


The big categories the book industry looks at are:


Inside each category are sub-categories. Here are just a few of the sub-categories for SOCIAL SCIENCE :


SOC000000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / General

SOC046000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Abortion & Birth Control

SOC055000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Agriculture & Food (see also POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Agriculture & Food Policy)

SOC002000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General

SOC002010  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural & Social

SOC002020  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Physical

SOC003000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology

SOC056000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Black Studies (Global)

SOC061000  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Body Language & Nonverbal Communication


Many books fit into multiple categories

Pick the top three. Most publishers or agents want to see these as part of your book proposal.


A clear target audience helps your book stay focused

You are investing A LOT in your book—time, energy, passion, and bucks.

Knowing your target audience helps you get the most out of everything you put in.



For more great info on writing, publishing, and promoting your book

see This Business of Books by Claudia Suzanne


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *