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The Market – Know Your Audience to Hook Your Agent

Pitch Perfect Proposal by Erin Reel, The Lit Coach

Quick! Who is going to buy your book?

How many of you quickly listed at least 5 target markets for your book? Great start. And how many of you could confidently list 10 or more? Fantastic!

Knowing a book’s market, also known as target audience, is what distinguishes a writer with a great concept from a writer with a saleable concept. Guess which concept the publishers want to put a book jacket on?


While nonfiction publishers cover a lot of ground, subject matter wise, they are not necessarily experts in your field. That’s YOUR job. And agents have even less expertise with your subject matter unless you happen to find an agent who also survived culinary school by the skin of their knuckles, has spent years studying the migration pattern of the California Blue Whale or has learned the ins and outs of fashion at the knee of Anna Wintour herself.

Agents sell books. Ok, they do a lot more than that, but their job is to sell your book to an editor who really has seen it all. And provided the editor likes your concept and sees the book’s hook, said editor will have to turn around and convince an entire publishing team that your book will SELL to as many viable audiences as possible.

Show Off Your Target Audiences

So now it’s time to “show, don’t tell” as the classic writing craft adage goes. Here’s how:

  • Use bullet points to clearly highlight the most ideal markets for your book.
  • Be specific about your markets. If you’re writing a book about how to achieve success as an entrepreneur, target industries where entrepreneurs thrive: small business owners; social media consultants; business consultants; branding consultants; technical industry; restaurateurs; etc. These are the people likely to buy your book.
  • Research what you don’t know. It’s impossible to know everything, so find compelling statistics to back up the power and size of your markets.
  • Use visuals. If a chart or graph will clearly illustrate important information about your markets, include it.
  • List only the facts. Never assume anything about your markets and of course, never fudge stats or present totally fabricated support material.
  • Name names. What professional organizations or societies support your markets?
  • Suggest secondary markets by listing key facts in support of the main market(s)

Resist the urge to discuss how you’re going to sell to these markets. Save all that juicy info for the Promotion section.

And finally, for those of you working without an agent because you’re writing for a specialty market and are sending your work to a team who already are well versed on the research and trends in your field, include the market information anyway. It’s never safe to assume an editor knows what you know. You’re the expert.

Bottom line: to hook an agent, the size of your audience needs to be clearly presented in black and white and most importantly, they need to be a book buying audience.

This article is part of Erin’s series on writing non-fiction book proposals (something that’s of great value to fiction writers as well!).  To read more…


Erin Reel is an editorial and publishing consultant, writer’s coach, blogger, columnist and former Los Angeles based literary agent. Visit her website at

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