Not long ago, I met with a group of publishing professionals who broached the topic of audience. A couple of them discussed how their company envisions their reader. They went so far as to identify the reader by the name they had given her. They knew her age and discussed preferences that would dictate whether she would like a specific book.
As a writer, perhaps you would be helped by working to identify your star reader. Here are a few areas to develop:
Level of education:
Children, if any, and their ages:
Level of involvement in children’s school:
Ways your reader practices personal devotion to the Lord and how often:
Where they iive:
Where they attend church and how often:
Level of activity in church (committees; men’s or women’s groups; vacation Bible school, Sunday school teacher, or both):
Community activity and leadership:
Level of involvement with friends and extended family:
Theology (liberal, conservative, or moderate and why; theological issues that concern this reader most and why; life event(s) that led to this reader’s views; identification as a born-again Christian and, if so, when the reader was saved):
Level of interest in politics and current events:
Political party affiliation:
Current issues that concern your reader most:
How your reader is feeling (health issues; family issues; responsibilities):
Is your reader’s outlook generally optimistic? Pessimistic?
Is your reader’s life stressful, or are they bored? Why?
What are your reader’s flaws? Will your reader look to your books to help them?
Other than reading, how does your reader spend free time?
As a writer, you can use a Word document or even an Excel spreadsheet to record specifics about your reader. You can be much more detailed than this, identifying the reader’s favorite ice cream and the like. You can answer the questions yourself or respond in the reader’s voice. Your commitment to this exercise is limited only by your imagination and the degree that you find it helpful. Most of all, have fun!
I have heard similar advise, but never with such detailed points. I thought, why not do this exercise right now? So I did. In answering all the questions you listed, some struck me as not necessarily pertinent to my reader. But after reading all my answers, I realized they are all important questions. It brought the reader from 2D to 3D. Drawing a more complete view of them as a person. This is helpful! Thank you.
I usually try to keep my reader in mind, but I do like this detailed list. Thank you for sharing it.
Tamela Hancock Murray
MIchele, I’m so glad the exercise was helpful!
Tamela Hancock Murray
I apologize to my readers. The photo on this blog appears in error. We intended to portray a book reader instead of a music conductor. Please do not share this post, if you had planned to do so, until the photo is swapped out. I don’t know when that will happen, so no worries. Thanks!
In the meantime, please enjoy the exercise!
DAMON J GRAY
This sounds very much like an exercise my friend Kathi Lipp has students do at her Leverage Speaker Conferences. She calls it an “Avatar.” It is your ideal reader. This is THE person to whom you speak/write. Your message will resonate with others as well, but this is your target. You know everything about him/her right down to what they order at the latte stand.
It’s a difficult exercise, but worthwhile. My ideal reader is Bradley! 😉
Who would really want to read
the words that I have written,
find in them an answered need,
with imagery be smitten?
I write from heart of joy and pain,
from hopes dashed and confirmed,
but are there those who would remain
here, learning what I’ve learned?
I cannot say with certainty,
and perhaps don’t want to know,
but now it’s with some urgency
that I write, and throw
my verse like bread upon the waters
for God’s Children, sons and daughters.
I think it’s many more people than you know, because many people have “hearts of joy and pain, from hopes dashed and confirmed”. They want to read someone who identifies with what they are going through. I prefer to read someone who doesn’t have it all together, and isn’t sure how to get it together.
Even people who appear on the outside to be doing well, have their own inside pain and heartaches no one else knows.
If you are doing what God wants you to do, God doesn’t let any effort go wasted.
Peggy, my reply to your lovely reply to my comment wound up below. Sorry. Hasn’t been a good day, and I was careless.
DAMON J GRAY
I’m gonna have to go with Peggy on this one, Andrew. Since I read the first thing I ever saw from you (years ago) I’ve believed that you write beautifully and should be published.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Interesting. I envision my reader as a middle grade child who chooses weird flavors of ice cream just so that he/she can watch their mother cringe at every lick of their cone. Licorice ice cream, bubble gum, kimchi, cicada, glowing jellyfish … .
Interesting questions to answer about the reader. Thank you for the tips.
Peggy, thank you for this. I just try to put it out there, but I’m completely Scooby about both readership and effect, other than sometimes, “Yeah, I printed that poem out and put it on my refrigerator.”
I just do the best I can do, and now it’s gotten so darn hard…walking across the room, I’m out of breath.
Oh…’Scooby’ is Cockney rhyming slang…”Scooby-Doo, hasn’t a clue.” Barb’s smiling (and loving!) name for me.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
What a great checklist! Thanks so much!
I’ve tried to do this a few times before but I always struggle with who is my ideal reader vs. who is just a person I came up with that isn’t really accurate vs. who actually reads my books.
Then, once I do have information together, I’m never quite sure how to apply it. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Tamela Hancock Murray
Clearly, you’ve tried this exercise and it hasn’t been helpful for you. That’s okay! Not every approach works for everyone. There are lots of great ways to think about writing and marketing that don’t resonate with me, either.
Just keep studying the market, reading books, and writing!
Sydney F. Grey
This was an interesting exercise. I am not sure how successful I was at finding my true reader. Perhaps it might be different for those writing fiction as opposed to non-fiction? I am wondering if fiction books may appeal to a wider range of readers than a non-fiction book regarding a specific topic.
Thank you for the exercise. It really got me thinking!