Do you know who your readers are? How do you identify your audience, and how can you connect? In this episode, we discuss:
Resource: Free, Printable Avatar Worksheet PDF
Do you know who your readers are? How do you identify your audience and how can you connect? Today, we discuss how to identify your ideal reader, ways to learn about them, and how to connect before and after you publish your book. Stay tuned for this episode of Writing Pursuits.
Welcome to the Writing Pursuits podcast, where authors like you discuss writing craft, author life, and book marketing strategies.
I'm your host, Kathrese McKee. I own Word Marker Edits and write and produce the weekly newsletter, Word Marker Tips for Authors. In addition, I am a speculative fiction author. Writing Pursuits is for authors who drink too much coffee, endure judgemental looks from their furry writing companions, and struggle for words. If you are a writer seeking encouragement, information, and inspiration, this podcast is for you. Let's get to it.
Hey, Writing Pursuits Authors. Welcome back to the podcast. To those who are new, I want to extend a special welcome. My name is Kathrese McKee, and I'm glad you're here. When I began writing my epic adventure series, I knew exactly who I was writing for. Or so I thought. Turns out I was wrong.
You see, I thought young adult meant middle school and high school students. I'm being a little bit silly. I was writing for my own kids who at the time were fifth grade through high school. I wrote my first book for my kids. At the time, I was also teaching middle school. In Texas, that means sixth through eighth grade, and I was keeping my students in mind too.
My children liked my first book. So score! But my ideal true fan is out of high school. You see, I was wrong about my true fan. They are not a quote unquote, young adult. They are young and adult. My true fan is a young woman in her twenties who is married and works to help make ends meet.
Let's call her Deborah because I have met more than one of these true fans in real life, in their natural habitat, so to speak. It turns out the Deborah reads to escape the pressures of livingon a budget and paying off her student debt. My fan also writes stories as a hobby, and someday she may get serious about being an author. I think this is true of lots of young fans of a fantasy genre. Deborah loves fantasy, especially fantasy with political intrigue and romance, but she doesn't want sex scenes or profanity. My reader has a cat and dreams of having a backyard for a dog. She drinks coffee, and she loves splurging on Starbucks once a week.
It is true. I have grown men who are. It is also true that middle school and high school students enjoy my books. However, I write for Deborah.
The number one factor for publishing success-- other than writing a great book-- is connecting with your ideal reader. At least that's true if you don't have a colossal marketing budget. Unless your book is featured in an airport bookshop, then readers buy first from authors they know, like, and trust. Or they take a chance on an author based on the consensus of reviewers or the advice of trusted friends. In the case of children's books and young adult fiction, it's up to the curators to buy the books. This includes parents, teachers, and librarians. Only a portion of your proceeds are going to come directly from children because they don't have power over the pocket book.
Regardless, you need to write for your actual readers and appeal to new readers who resemble your ideal. How do you find your ideal reader? First, it is okay to begin with who you think you are writing for. Fiction authors can be slightly off target in the beginning. Non-fiction authors have less wiggle room .For all authors, writing for one particular reader is much better than trying to write for everyone. You cannot write for everyone. But there are plenty of people who resemble your one true fan.
Many folks, point to break out books like Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, to prove the point that some books are for everyone. But breakout books are outliers by definition. They break the mold. Percy Jackson is a great example of what can happen when you aim for one reader.
Rick Riordan wrote The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son, who is dyslexic. Riordanin met the needs of his ideal reader. Also in case you didn't know, Rick Riordan had already published an adult mystery series before he created Percy Jackson. So he didn't vault to the bestsellers list overnight.
If you're a new author, it makes sense to choose one person to write for. I wrote for my eldest child, keeping my other children in mind. It was a good place to start. Second, though it is okay to begin with who you think you're writing for, be prepared to make adjustments. As time goes by, you should get a clearer picture of who your true fans are. Looking back, my initial idea of my reader came reasonably close to Deborah.
Once I stumbled across who she really was, I made adjustments to my thinking and marketing. The good news is you do not need to find readers you know nothing about. Your mission is to connect with readers who like the kind of fiction you like to write. Or if you write nonfiction, your job is to connect with people who are searching for the information you want to reveal.
So you're going to connect with readers who love your kind of fiction or desire to learn from you. Deep down, you probably know quite a bit about your ideal reader. When I was first thinking about who an ideal reader is, I was tempted to fall back on marketing speak-- to talk about statistics and avatars and demographics.
Those ideas are important, but they're not the heart of what you're trying to do. And I hope you're not simply writing books for, to make money money-making is fine and necessary, but it is just one measure of success. Don't you want to touch people, to encourage them to think and to ponder? Don't you want to create a story they remember many years after they reach the end? That is the ultimate measure of successful writing in my view.
If you write that kind of book, then the money will follow. Well, the money will follow, but only if you find the readers who are searching for your book. Or at least you need to make it possible for them to find you. You and your readers need to get together. And that is your challenge. It's on you to make it happen. Publishing a book is the easy part, believe it or not; the bulk of the work happens afterward.
Now that I said all that, what if you truly don't know who your ideal reader is? I'm going to say, look inward. More than likely your readers have a lot in common with you, but not according to age or gender or income or locale.
No, you have deeper things in common, soul deep interests and desires you share. The more you are you, the more you're going to attract your ideal readers, the more they will be drawn to you. So go ahead, niche down and let your quirks shine.
I think that's the reason behind the huge success of Percy Jackson. Riordan strove to serve his ideal reader, the reader of his heart. If you try to write for everybody, you will fail to connect. I don't want to hear about classics. Classics became classics because they hit universal themes and then found ardent fans who told their friends who told their friends and so on.
If you are writing for YA or children, then you need to look back in time, and you also need to study the teens and children around you. You need to understand your connection to this audience. Why do you feel compelled to write for this group?
Same thing. If you write horror, figure out why you're so fascinated by it. What do you love about it? What keeps you coming back to it? If you write cozy mysteries, discover why cozy mysteries have so much allure for you. Insert your genre here.
After that, you need to imagine your one true fan. Just choose one. The most likely reader. This person is known as your avatar. That's a marketing term for your ideal client, your one true fan. Your target audience. As I said earlier, deep down, you probably know who this person is. If not, stop writing and figure it out.
And ask yourself," Who will pay money to read my work?" If you're writing a book, then you're producing a product and it makes little sense to go to the expense and trouble-- oh, and not to mention the enormous emotional investment in the sacrifices and the absolute devotion to produce that book-- unless you know who will be interested in buying it. Find the people who will actually pay to read your work. They are your market. Not the freebie seekers. Not your friends who are trying to be nice. Who will seek out your book and purchase? Tailor your book and your content marketing to be exactly right for those readers.
Here's another important thing. When it's time to publish you and your publisher will want to stick your book and appropriate categories and put it where your target audience is going to find it. Finding the best categories and subcategories on Amazonand/or Kobo takes work, and you need to spend significant effort on finding the perfect keywords.
For newbies, keywords are not single words. Usually, keywords are short phrases like "clean contemporary romance" or "magic realism." One of the most important things you need to figure out is which keywords your avatar uses to find their books. And also, do they prefer print books, eBooks, or audio books.
Okay. So here's the exercise. If you haven't done so already, write out a description of your avatar. This requires some guesswork, but you can refine your description over time. Okay. I'm going to provide a hypothetical example, so do your own research. This is just me writing something out. Give your avatar name if it helps you get a clear mental picture of your fan.
So here's my example. The avatar for my clean contemporary romance is a single woman in her early thirties, a college graduate who leans slightly to the left politically. She has friends from school who don't have good health insurance yet. So she's concerned about their future.
Marissa prefers to listen to her fiction on Audible because she has a ridiculous commute downtown every workday. My gal shares an apartment in the suburbs with a friend to help make ends meet. She dreams of finding her true love in the next few years, so she spends hours checking out eligible men on Bumble. Marissa likes to buy her clothes secondhand or from socially conscious companies that pay fair wages.
She is trying to eat less meat, and she carries her grocery sacks into the store to avoid using plastic bags. She adores Instagram where she posts pictures of her two cats being unbelievably cute. Her favorite new activities are watching Instagram reels and Tik talks at bedtime. When she is searching for her next audio book, she sometimes types clean romance on the search line and sifts through the subcategories, looking at the so-called also boughts beneath her favorite authors titles. Sometimes she goes to lists on Goodreads, which were created by other readers like herself. Okay. So that's my example. That's what I wrote out. Finally, finally, we're going to talk about connecting to that reader.
This is when we bring marketing into the picture, but not before we know who we're serving. You may need to make an educated guess regarding demographics, a fancy way of saying age, gender, location, and income. Through your sleuthing, you find Marissa's interests. You discover the movies and TV shows she enjoys and her social media hangouts.
The buy-my-book strategy doesn't work. The best marketing is content marketing. And even though it's hard work, it should be a relief because you don't have to sell, sell, sell. All you have to do is emphasize your connection to your reader through relevant, relatable content. I feel like I ought to say that again. All you have to do is emphasize your connection to your ideal reader through relevant, relatable content.
The next step is to connect with your Marissa on Instagram and/or TikTok . My Marissa doesn't do Facebook or Parler, although she scans through Twitter once a day to keep up with the news so she can make small talk in the break room. She only does Snapchat with her close friends.
It really doesn't do any good to focus my energy on places Marissa doesn't go. Marissa will follow me if I create content she looks for and relates to: cats , ecology, nature, social consciousness, clean romance, audio books, long commutes, book quotes, Instagram reels, and TikToks.
So you need to use hashtags that appeal to your reader. Research other authors who writes stories to see what their readers respond to. Hashtags are also a topic for another day.
If your avatar likes short videos, then you need to get very brave and produce Instagram reels and figure out TikTok. Content marketing is about creating long-term relationships. So commit yourself to be patient. Persistent. Authentic. The ultimate goal is to attract your readers to your email newsletter.
In the end, don't be shy about connecting to your avatar, your Marissa, who enjoys the kind of fiction you write or wants to learn from you. Find a way to connect, maybe many points of connection, by keeping your ideal reader front and center.
You will attract more readers the over time. And remember, you are not writing for everyone. So don't wear yourself out, trying to do that. Just choose one.
If you need help visualizing it, your avatar. Download my free, printable avatar worksheet PDF. The link is in the show notes. That's all I have today. Until next time.
Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a comment and follow the podcast. If you're new around here, I hope people join the Writing Pursuits Author Community for more content and to receive Word Marker Tips for Authors. That link and all the links mentioned in today's episode are in the show notes at WritingPursuits.com.
Please join us on Wednesdays for new episodes, and keep writing, my friends. Keep writing!