My mother, who turned 63 a few weeks ago, is fond of reading. She doesn’t wolf books down like her youngest daughter, but unlike me she has the time to read, so she gets through a fair share of books every year. Since I work in a bookshop it's convenient for me that I can always buy her a book for her birthday or Christmas – I get a discount; but more importantly I don’t have to rush around in other stores desperately trying to find her a gift since I can just pick up a book when I’m at work anyway.
Over the years I have figured out what sort of books my mother likes to read. She is fairly versatile genre-wise, but the books she tends to prefer are often of a certain type. She doesn’t like her books to be too “weird” or too experimental, for instance. Any sort of postmodernism probably falls out of her preferred category. She likes her books to have strong, likeable characters, often female protagonists. She likes a good story, firmly set in an interesting setting – but it doesn't necessarily matter whether that setting is Latin America or 19th century Norway.
Books that she likes and which fall into the above loosely defined category, thus, include anything by Isabelle Allende, anything by Cecilia Samartin, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and The Island by Victoria Hislop. She has also read and liked a number of suspense/mystery books, such as the Millennium trilogy, books by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, or Swedish mystery novelist Liza Marklund.
The most common denominator of these books, however, is that I have been able to sell them to customers after having explained that “I haven’t read them, but my mother has. She loved them.”
I have recently written about the importance of making the bookseller like your book in order for it to reach its customers. Well, this is also true by proxy. By referring to my mother’s reading preference I am able to sell books that I have not read myself, and for which I might not even be in the target audience.
Thus, the morale of the story is that authors and publishers need to target their audience. Also, if you want to make sure your books sells, you might want to send it to my mother.
Disclaimer: I feel the need to include two things... First of all, I didn't actually mean it literally. Before you all rush off to the post office, let me just explain that I don't expect the mailbox to flow over with free books anytime soon (though I wouldn't mind either). Secondly, it would also be relevant to include that while I am more than happy to read books in English, my mother isn't. She does speak a little English, but I don't think she has ever read a book in a foreign language. So unless your book has been translated into Norwegian, using my mother as a marketing strategy would probably have a very limited effect.
That being said I still think my story holds a universal thruth. The fact that one bookseller does this probably means a lot of others do too. So perhaps your marketing strategy would be to seek out the friendliest looking clerk at the local bookshop and ask him/her what his/her mother likes to read!