Let's talk about one of the most confusing and controversial aspects of marketing/publishing: Ideal readers! There's tons of posts about how to find your ideal readers, but not many on how to use what you've learned about your ideal reader for marketing. I mean, the whole point in knowing who your ideal reader is, is learning how to get your books in front of them and how to make your social media presence appealing to them. That will be my post next week. How to use what you've learned about your ideal reader to market your book and get it out there in front of your ideal reader.
For now though, let's talk about how to even find your ideal reader. Just gonna be honest here, a lot of what I'm about to tell you I picked up from Jenni Sauer's live on ideal readers and branding. If you're interested in a more in depth perspective on both of those things and a whole lot of awesome and creative ways to figure out your brand and ideal reader, go check out her Instagram live all about it!
There are a few things you should know about your ideal reader: Their age, gender, their interests (books, shows, movies, hobbies, etc.), where they hang out online and why does your ideal reader read.
I've never been one for using character sheets or making a list that has Age and Interests and Why where you fill them out in a structured way. My brain doesn't really work that way. I'd rather just jump in and start writing or make a Pinterest board to get to know my characters. That's how you should treat your ideal reader: like a character in one of your books. Use what exercises you use to get to know your characters on your ideal reader. If that means using a character sheet then do that! If that means creating a Spotify playlist or a Pinterest board do that!
I would start by taking stock of what genre and age range you write to. More than likely that will help you narrow down your ideal reader a little. If you write adult romance books then your ideal reader is going to be very different than someone who writes young adult epic fantasy. It can also help to take stock of the general age of most of your main characters. For me I know I write characters that are between ages 16-18. Be aware that some readers read up. So some thirteen year olds might want to read about teens who are older than them, like fifteen to seventeen year olds. If you're writing books with the intention of publishing them or showing them to anyone at all then you should have at least a very generalized idea of your audience. Is it teenagers or adults? New adults or older adults? Young teenagers or older teenagers? You can narrow it down from there.
Now that you have a general idea of the age of your ideal reader, let's work on the rest. I don't know about you but the age is both one of the hardest and least fun part of figuring out your ideal reader. The rest of these exercises and tips you can try to help you learn more about your ideal reader are way more fun!
Making a Pinterest board for your ideal reader can be super helpful. Fill it with quotes that might resonate with your ideal reader. Aesthetics and places and objects and hobbies and anything else your ideal reader might like. Try to get inside their head the way you would with a character. I work best when I have an example to pull from so here's an aesthetic with pins pulled from my Pinterest board to give you an idea of the sorts of things you can pin to get to know your ideal reader:
A Spotify playlist can be great too. I love music! I make a playlist for every WIP I work on and it can really help me get into the headspace of my characters. Try to identify a few bands or even just general vibes that your ideal reader would resonate with and put them all in a playlist.
My favorite (and the most helpful) exercise that Jenni Sauer shared was writing a drabble. If you don't know what a drabble is, don't feel bad... I had to go look it up. If you do know what that is, then good for you, you obviously know more than I do. ;) Anyways, a drabble is a 100 word or so short story or description. I have three of them. One is for my seventeen year old ideal reader, the other is for my fifteen year old ideal reader and the third is what happened when I realized I should merge the two. What's the sweet spot between fifteen and seventeen? Sweet sixteen, of course. ;) I realized my ideal reader is younger than I thought she would be, but that that's not a bad thing at all. I realized a lot of things about my writing and why I write and publish as I refined my drabble. It was a very enlightening and helpful exercise and I highly encourage you to give it a go. Don't worry if it's not perfect at first. Mull it over for a week and slowly work on it, edit it, refine it until you feel confident with it. This is what I have right now as my drabble:
She's sixteen and is up super late after a long day of doing schoolwork, playing soccer and helping with chores around the house. She's tired and kind of overwhelmed, but her brain won't stop going and she needs something to get lost in. So she finds a book on her Kindle and starts to read, letting herself get lost in the digital pages. As she reads she realizes that things will be Okay. Life isn't as bad or as hard as it seems and that there is still hope. Everything will work out in the end. She's just happy to read a book that piques her curiosity, takes her to another world where magic and hope is real and very much alive. This world she lives in can feel so mundane and disenchanting. She needs books to take her to a place where anything is possible, where the unexplainable and the fantastical are the norm. Those books, those worlds, they feel more like home than this place she lives in. So, she sits beneath her warm covers and dives into a book that transports her to another world, a book that excites her. A book full of romance that makes her heart yearn and swoon for love just as epic as the one pressed inside the pages. A book that let's her forget all the worries and troubles of this world.
A drabble can cover everything I said you need to know about your ideal reader at the start. Age, gender, why they read, some of their interests and hobbies. It can help you get inside their head and figure out where they can be found on social media and what types of books they're drawn to.
The best way to get to know your ideal reader is to use a medium that resonates with you. Write a drabble, try making a Pinterest board, make a music playlist or a word cloud or a picture collage. Use a character sheet. Write a short story with your ideal reader as the main character. Do whatever you have to, to wrap your head around this whole idea of ideal readers and really deep dive into who they are. Then next week I'll be back some tips on how to actually use what you've learned about your ideal reader to get your books in front of them!
What are your thoughts on ideal readers? Think it's helpful or not so much? Do you know who your ideal reader is?