Who Reads Your Book? How Knowing Your Reader Can Help

your reader woman-309201_960_720 (002)As authors and writers, we are always looking for new ways to connect with readers. In spite of countless ‘how to” posts and training programs, no one has, as yet, produced a consistently successful method for growing a following and selling books to new readers.

Advice changes constantly as promotion companies and sites appear and disappear, and as algorithms in Google, the Zon, etc. steer readers in different directions.

It struck me a short while ago that perhaps many of us are going about it all backwards.

I think most of us, as writers, do have a solid idea of who we are writing for – or we think we do. Yet, many of us go about our promotion and marketing backwards. We look for formulas, suggestions, and opportunities from the outside in. We are lured by tools such as BookBub, Instafreebie, Facebook ads, review sites, etc. Often we spread our nets too wide and are disappointed with the results.

While results from those sites remain unpredictable and largely outside the control of the writer, there is one thing we do have a good deal of control over. Only you, the writer, can name, or describe, your reader. Before we can search for that lucky person, we need to have a firm profile in our minds.
We have detective work to do. As that detective, I certainly would not look for a teetotaler in a seedy bar. Would you?

To find our reader we must first identify him/her – get all the information we can find and use that to create a profile in the same way a detective would for a suspect. Personally, I would begin with the general and move to the specific.

The general questions are the easy ones, the ones that you have possibly already used to choose your genre, such as gender, age, financial or marital status. Judith Briles recently posted some questions at The Book Designer that will guide you part of the way. I had already chosen to write this post before I read hers, and Briles lays it out so well I see no need to reinvent that portion of the wheel.

When we proceed to more specific traits I have a few to add:

• Where do they read; in a cozy chair at home, on the bus or train as they commute, in a coffee shop?
• Do they read in long binges or snatch ten minutes on a coffee break?
• Do they love beautiful descriptions or poetic sentences, or do they skip those to get to the nitty gritty of what happens next?(My hubby is the former, I tend to be in-between)
• Do they care how literate the writing is, are they discerning enough that the quality of the prose is important or do they care more about how Harry met Sally?
• Is the when/where (the setting and culture) important? How detailed must the research be? I say “detailed” because there will always be readers who will detect inaccuracies and call you on it, so accuracy is always important.

Your list, will, of course, reflect what you need to know about your reader.
I make absolutely no judgment about the answers. We do not all aspire to write the next great novel of all time. A sweet, uncomplicated love story, or a short, cozy mystery can be just as appealing to one reader as an opus of literary perfection is to another. What is important is that you are honest about who you write for, and what you write, and that you understand your reader well enough to use that knowledge to look for him or her in the best places.

It is my theory that being able to create a detailed profile of your prospective reader will aid you in planning your promotion and marketing strategies. It will, I believe, give direction to your search, to your decisions as to where you spend your promotion dollars, and save time and frustration by helping to eliminate many that are unlikely to bear fruit. You will have the tools you need to avoid spreading your efforts too thin, in places that are not a good match. These unfocussed efforts can backfire by leading to lower review ratings.

I propose that you may need to hone your reader profile for each book, unless you have found a solid niche audience and write only for that group. While many of us write primarily in one genre, each book may have a different flavour, and therefore appeal to a slightly different reader.

There is one more area where having such a profile can help you. That is the dreaded blurb, the short piece that appears on the back of print books, or in the description on Amazon, etc. The language you use for it, and the details you choose to include, will affect who buys and reads your work. The blurb and the cover are what offer that crucial first impression. Having a reader profile can guide you in choosing what you say, how you say it and what you show.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

8 thoughts on “Who Reads Your Book? How Knowing Your Reader Can Help”

  1. Unfortunately, my readers are people like me, people that don’t easily fit into a niche, whose reading choices are eclectic and unpredictable. This makes marketing problematic.

  2. I’ve really gotta get onto this stuff. My problem is that I know, technically, I’m writing for the “New Adult” readership. I have all the information on who they’re supposed to be, etc. etc. But when I go to a craft fair to sell my books, I sell most to 40+ women. Of course twenty-somethings do not hang around craft sales, so my data is probably skewed, but still…
    Now you’ve got me thinking.
    Thanks, Yvonne, for some angles I can use to approach this problem.

  3. I like the idea of ‘profiling’ my ideal reader, but I’m still not sure where to find him/her.

    -grin- Maybe I should take out one of those personal ads – ‘Wanted, science fiction reader interested in aliens, virtual reality, nano-tech, politics, gaming, conspiracy, The Far East, food, music and perhaps a hint of philosophy …’

  4. My problem with all this is I can never get past step one. Who am I writing for? Well . . . people who like a good story. (Yeah, that’s really helpful.) If I’m writing mysteries, people who like a good mystery story. (Slightly better, but not too much.) I really have no idea about age, gender, household income, reading habits, favorite flavor of ice cream, or preferred vacation spot. Nor do I know how to find out. I admit it, I’m not much good at marketing . . .

    1. You’re not alone. May I suggest asking a few folks who have read your book? (not necessarily family or close friends) Sometimes we’re just too close to it to see what’s in front of us.

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