Archive for October 3rd, 2015

I’d stay up all night chatting with my ideal reader…

Day 21 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge gives participants the opportunity to identify something every author needs to know: his/her ideal reader. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.


Day 21 writing prompt:

Describe the market for your book – to the tiniest detail (e.g., childless divorced women past age 50 who want to remarry). Why that demographic? Describe their psychographics. How do you connect with them to market to them?

I am continually amazed, as a book marketing consultant, how many authors fail to consider – or often even have a clue – who the audience for their books is. They just decide they’re going to write a book – and figure they’ll get to the marketing stuff later. Then the book is done, they’ve got a palette of them sitting in their garages, and they wish they’d given some thought to their audiences earlier.

As I have mentioned at considerable length in many prior posts, knowing your reader is crucial to getting your books in his/her hands. This includes really fine-point details:

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you must know everything you can about your reader. This includes two components: demographics and psychographics. Demographics means measurable things like age, education, and marital/parenting status. Psychographics, on the other hand, are the things that make your reader unique, such as their personality traits, values, and attitudes.

When it comes to reading, here are some interesting statistics to consider:

  • In a 2013 survey of 1,005 people in the U.S. conducted in English and Spanish via landlines and cell phones, some 76 percent of adults ages 18 and older said that they read at least one book in the past year. (I am very skeptical of this statistic.)
  • Women are more likely than men to have read a book in the previous 12 months, and those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to have done so as well.
  • The average college freshman reads at a seventh-grade level.
  • The average reading level for American adults is about seventh to eighth grade.
  • The reading skills of American adults are significantly lower than those of adults in most other developed countries, according to a new international survey.
  • There are almost half-a-million words in the English Language – the largest language on earth, incidentally – but one-third of all our writing is made up of only 22 words. (Scary!)
  • According to the Literacy Project Foundation, 50 percent of American adults cannot read a book at the eighth-grade level.

Some of these stats conflict a bit, and overall the news is not good for reading and literacy in America. However, I’m not here to dwell on these issues today. My point is that my reader is not the average American reader.

Meg Cabot

If you’re thinking this image looks familiar, it’s because I used it for my Sept. 24th post, “If ‘Stan’ were nonfiction, it’d still be a travelogue… just drier.

While I don’t think I deliberately set out to do this, looking back on my novel writing process, it seems inevitable that I would write something I wanted to read. I mean, who doesn’t? Children’s authors, maybe. But don’t you think you’d HAVE to write a book that you, personally, would like? Otherwise, it would feel forced and fraudulent.

To that end, my reader is smart – more than likely college educated. He or she likes to travel, or at least enjoys learning about other cultures, and is probably better traveled than Stan, at least at the start of his trip. He or she will tend to lean politically liberal (a Bernie Sanders fan, to be sure) – or will wind up chucking the book across the room at various points in the reading of it. He/she maymillennials or may not have a religious tradition. More than likely, they are exploring and open to various spiritual teachings. I’m surmising this reader is younger – a Millennial or Gen-Xer. I’m having to keep this in mind as I write – to make an effort to be more socially current than I personally may have an interest in. This is one place where I am not exactly my reader.

My reader wants needs to make a difference. He/she is wired and connected to a handful of the most useful social media platforms – which is, in large part, where I will go to meet him or her. He or she reads the news online. Thinks Trevor Noah is doing a better job than they expected. Still likes and shops at bookstores. Loves indie coffee houses. Shops thrift stores. Recycles. Has done volunteer work and attended several Meetups in the last year. He or she is urban, as opposed to suburban or rural. He or she embraces public transportation, has a bicycle and rides unashamedly and unironically. He or she is fairly health conscious, eats organic at least sometimes, is assuredly opposed to Monsanto, and has called/emailed his or her legislator on at least one issue of importance. Is amused by PeopleOfWalmart.com but prefers DailyCurrant.com.

I think the biggest challenge with meeting my readers in person is that I’ll love them and want to hang out with them and chat into the wee hours (at which time they are most definitely up!), which would leave little time for anything else, seeing as meeting interesting new people is probably my most favorite activity in the entire world. A great problem to have, I suppose – meeting too many new people and having to cut conversations short. Ask me again in a year.

Well, that may not be every detail, but it’s a hell of a start. So tell us a bit about who your ideal reader is and how you plan to connect with him/her. Use the Comments section below…

Please be sure to check in again tomorrow, when I’ll reveal who I’d really, really like to have endorse my book…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to wonderful writing surprises!



We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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