Do you know who you are writing for? You might answer “Anyone willing to pay for my book.” As a business owner, I can certainly appreciate that bottom line response; however, there really is a different answer.
When I think of those that enjoy a good Zane Grey cowboy story I know with very little doubt that they are not also reading a juicy Chick Lit novel. When I think of someone reading Zane Grey, I first picture Colonel Sherman T. Potter, played by Henry Morgan in the long running television show M.A.S.H. He always had a Zane Grey book by his cot. He is a strong, no-nonsense man’s man, if you know what I mean. Conversely when I picture someone reading a funny, kooky Chick List book, she looks more like Charlotte from Sex in the City; young, feminine, and kind who enjoys a good love story.
So now think about your book. When you are writing your story, who do you picture reading it? One place to start might be thinking about other books in your genre. Do you write Christian stories filled with wonderful family characters like Beverly Lewis? Or are you a sci-fi fantasy writer penning epic adventures in the future like A.G. Riddle?
Consider the following when identifying your target reader:
- Marital status
- Political leanings
Sometimes it is helpful to take the time to create a story board with pictures of your ideal reader. Take a few moments to flip through your magazines or Google images for pictures of your reader. Create a little collage and print out. Set up this visual aide near your computer or writing area so that you can periodically gain insight or inspiration from your ideal reader.
Lisa Agosti has written an article on the subject and she asked writers to share a little bit of insight into who their ideal reader is – you’ll find from the comments that this isn’t as easy a task as you think. To read her article: Looking for Your Ideal Reader?
Here are a few of the comments from fellow writers:
“… in my imagination, my ideal reader is someone who loves to learn something when they read fiction, who enjoys history and hunting for treasure–from the comfort of a fluffy armchair.”
“I know this might sound a bit egotistical, but my ideal reader is a younger version of myself. Simply put, she would be a hopeless romantic who believes that true love still exists and is a dreamer. She would love fairy tales and folklore. She has her nose buried in books and prefers to stay that way.”
“My ideal reader is a free-spirited, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, street-smart, cosmopolitan, baby boomer who is an avid reader and has offered a lot of savvy advice when it comes to reading what I write. She always critiques my short stories with constructive criticism and is spot-on when it comes to grasping and interpreting what I portray in them.”
“My “ideal reader” is a person of any age who appreciate a special moment or encounter with another living creature which is painted in words to capture it forever. Someone who takes the time to inhale the moment with all their senses and allows it to influence their thinking.”
Bottom Line: identifying your target audience prior to starting your story allows you to write with an emotional connection to that specific person. Plus – it will become critical to understand who that reader is when you begin building a community and marketing your book! More on that later.