What Does Your Reader Look Like?

What does your ideal reader look like?Woman Reading a Diary

When I first read this question in a marketing article, I wasn’t sure how to answer or even why it was important. Recently, though, I had a promotional opportunity that made it very clear to me why this question is a key to marketing success.

After three years of trying to get on the guest list, I was interviewed on the Larry Meiller Show on Wisconsin Public Radio in late January. I knew that Larry was interested in nature, among other things, and so I thought it would be a good spot to reach potential readers of my birding-based mystery series.

Judging from the hits on my website that day, which recorded an all-time high of visitors, I was right.

What I hadn’t appreciated, though, was the fact that my target audience listens to a lot of radio. Duh – birders drive in cars to find birds, which means they listen to radio.

And that’s when I understood why I needed to think of what my ideal reader looks like…and what he does in his spare time…and what she values…and what he listens to…and what she reads…and, well, you get the idea. I needed a very detailed description of my ideal reader so I would know just where and when and how to reach as many of them as possible.

reading boysSure, we all have a general idea of who our readers are – literate, male or female, teens or adults, seniors or little kids – and we probably have some ideas about what they like to do. After all, if I write self-improvement books, I would assume my readers are interested in that topic; if I write medical thrillers, I would think that my readers are interested in medical science to some degree. But would I automatically know that those seeking self-improvement are more likely to watch ( or record) an afternoon talk show on television than listen to a morning news show on radio? Or vice-versa? And how many readers interested in thrillers use Facebook to find book recommendations, rather than read the Sunday newspaper book section?

All these habits and traits and proclivities are key to understanding your audience so that you can make the most of your time, effort, and promotional dollars; the challenge is finding reliable sources for building your ideal reader’s profile, which may take a lot of trial and error on the part of an author who takes on the responsibility of designing and implementing effective marketing.

My best suggestion? Get to know your readers. Ask them what they like to do (when they’re not reading), what media they favor, where they shop, the names of their favorite (other) authors.  The time you invest in putting together a profile of your ideal reader is not wasted, but will result in increased sales and more effective writing as you zero in on who’s reading your work.

Do you know what your ideal reader looks like?bulldog wearing eyeglasses sleeping over a good novel

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About jandunlap

"Archangels Book I: Heaven's Gate" is Jan's new Christian suspense novel that melds cutting-edge science with faith. She is also the author of "Saved by Gracie," her best-selling humorous spiritual memoir and the Birder Murder Mystery series that follows the adventures of ace birder/high school counselor Bob White, who has a bad habit of finding bodies when he birds. When she's not playing with fictional devices, Jan is a birdwatcher, a featured speaker, and the proud mother of five children. She welcomes visitors at jandunlap.com.

3 thoughts on “What Does Your Reader Look Like?

    • One of the best results I’ve found is that it gives you ideas for more places to market your work, Anita. I’m glad I gave you a tip you can use!

  1. Hi Jan,

    Authors who write fiction often make profiles about their characters, yet may not consider all of the nuances of the readers who read about the characters. While most writers write for a particular audience, there are probably so many individuals, aside from a target audience, that may just love what authors write. We need to find those folks, yet also understand the people who already like what we write. You’ve shown us how to do just that. Thank you.

    Best,
    Heather Villa

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