Discover Your Ideal Reader

No matter if you’re a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

Ideal Reader

What is an Ideal Reader?

This is a fictional persona to whom your writing will most appeal. While this is not a scientific process, creating a profile helps you write with purpose and enables you to craft elements into your writing that surprises and delights this person.

Your ideal reader represents who you are writing to. It’s one person, not many people. This is a specific process and if you do it right, your ideal reader will come alive in your mind.

What this means is you need to figure out who your ideal reader is, what his or her interests are, and why your ideal reader reads. Your most important question is why will your ideal reader be interested in your book? Whatever the why, all readers have one
and it’s your job to discover it for your ideal reader.

Your Ideal Reader is Your Biggest Fan

When you know who you’re writing to it gives your writing purpose and direction. This may seem like a strange exercise to go through but trust me, it’s a key step. Even if it’s a loose definition, think about the person (real or fictional) who would most be interested in reading your work.

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS

  • What does this person tend to focus on?
  • On social media, what does your ideal reader like sharing about?
  • From what you can gather, what does he/she most need/want/desire?

Once you know the answers to those initial questions answer this one: what problem are you solving for your ideal reader through your writing?

Through thinking about your ideal reader you should have a few words and phrases jotted down. Take a look and add a few more words to the page. This time, write down things about your ideal reader. Noting things like hopes, dreams, challenges or family dynamics can help you paint a picture. It can be vague or specific, long or short. Just jot down as much as you can think of in a five-minute period.

Look at the list you came up with and compare it to your first one—are you seeing a character emerge? Write a biography for this person—whatever comes to mind with as much detail as you can include. Remember, this is a creative exercise. You’re trying to imagine who the person is who can’t wait to read what you write. The more human you can make this person, the better.

Here are a few marketing applications

In essence, marketing your writing is simple—put your writing in front of the people who will love it. If you have an idea of who your ideal reader is then finding those (real life) people is a lot easier. The more you know, the better.

  • What stores do they shop in? Now you know where to sell your work
  • Where do they hang out? Now you know where to hold workshops or readings
  • What is their favourite social media platform? Now you know where you need to be online
  • What are their biggest fears? Now you know how to help them
  • What do they care most about? Now you know how to relate to them
  • What type of marketing will they best respond to? Now you know what you need to do

There are a lot of ways you can find your ideal reader (or book buyer, or ideal client, etc.) so it’s important not just to parrot what you see others doing online but to find something that works for you and feels natural.

No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

Other helpful articles

Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents [book review]

If you want a lighthearted yet no-nonsense guide to traditional publishing, look no further than Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

No, really.

Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents

I love writers and publishers guides. They’re on my Christmas list every year. But this is the first one I’ve read cover to cover and come back for more. And that’s saying something.

Laid out like any other writers guide, there are essays and articles on writing advice, publishing information, and an introduction to planet literary agent before getting to the good stuff. The listings. Who’s buying, who’s selling, who’s looking for what and when. It’s all good stuff, and I can’t get enough.

Jeff Herman has a wonderful sense of humour, which helps make typical writing and publishing advice come alive and keeps the reader engaged. The listings follow an interesting format, with the agency or agent answering a series of questions. It gives you a good sense of who they are and what they do and each get equal space in the book.

Agent Questions

  • Describe the kinds of works you want to represent
  • Describe what you definitely don’t want to represent
  • How do you want writers to pitch to you?
  • Describe your education and professional history
  • How did you become an agent?
  • Knowing what you do now, would you do it again? If not, what might you do instead?
  • Do you charge fees? If yes, please explain
  • When and where were you born, and where have you lived?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not working?
  • List some of the titles you have recently placed with publishers
  • Describe your personality
  • What do you like reading/watching/listening to on your own time?
  • Do you think the business has changed a lot over the past few years? If yes, please explain
  • What do the “Big 5” mean to you?
  • How do you feel about independent/small presses?
  • What are your feelings about self-publishing?
  • Do you think Amazon is good or bad—or both—for the book business?
  • What do you like and dislike about your job?
  • What are ways prospective clients can impress you, and what are ways they can turn you off?
  • How would you describe the “writer from hell”?
  • Describe a book you would like to write
  • Do you believe in a higher and/or lower “power”?

Thorough, right?

There’s also a section dedicated to Canadian publishers, which I heart.

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents 2017: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over is available now from Amazon, Chapters, jeffherman.com and anywhere else you buy books.


Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents synopsis

The Writer’s Best Friend and Bible!

Writers, agents, and editors all agree that Jeff Herman’s Guide is the must have, go-to reference for everyone who writes. This book will get you past the slush piles and into the hands of the people who have the power to publish.

Description

With Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents you will learn the names and contact information for hundreds of agents and editors, and will be given the “code” for how to win them over. More comprehensive than ever, this 21st edition will give you all the insider information you need to get published, including how to write knockout pitch letters and proposals, as well as an expanded Canadian section.

Laid out like any other writers guide, there are essays and articles on writing advice, publishing information, and an introduction to planet literary agent before getting to the good stuff. The listings. Who's buying, who's selling, who's looking for what and when. It's all good stuff, and I can't get enough. Jeff Herman has a wonderful sense of humour, which helps make typical writing and publishing advice come alive and keeps the reader engaged. The listings follow an interesting format, with the agency or agent answering a series of questions. It gives you a good sense of who they are and what they do and each get equal space in the book.

Other Book Reviews

Dancing on the Head of a Pen [Book Review]

Dancing on the Head of a Pen from prolific writer Robert Benson is not just a book about writing a book. It’s a book about writing (you know, the action part) a book.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen

Dancing on the Head of a Pen

Don’t let the title fool you. Sure, it’s an artful look at the philosophical side of the craft, but it doesn’t stay there. From making decisions to the discipline of showing up and writing every day, this book about writing a book takes the reader on a journey from inquisition to inspiration. Really!

Of the nearly eight million words that have floated through my head onto a page, some of which have been deemed publishable, I am happy with about four dozen sentences. Four of those sentences I think are especially fine. I weep whenever I read them in public, mostly at the thought of having been lucky enough for those words to have chosen me and for my having been smart enough to say yes to them when they came my way. (80)

The book came into my life at an interesting time. I had been exhausted for months and used it as an excuse to watch TV instead of write.

I didn’t know what to write, my ideas never went anywhere, no one seemed interested, my day job took the best of me.

My excuses, although true, weren’t the truth. I wasn’t writing because I got out of the habit. Instead of pushing through when things got tough I reverted to thinking about writing, wishing I was writing, and reading books about writing. Then I read Benson’s chapter on staying sharp. “Whether working on a book at the moment or not, a writer should always be writing.”

The book dropped out of my hands and I picked up my notebook. I plotted a short story and entered it into a writing contest. In an instant (understatement!) my attitude turned and my excuses evaporated. He’s right. Even when I’m not working on anything I need to keep writing.

Always be writing

After my breakthrough I picked up Dancing on the Head of a Pen and continued on. It was here I found advice I’ve never considered: don’t share your work too soon.

Too many suggestions from too many directions too early and a writer can be devastated and unable to write for days, certain the work is no good and never will be. Too much talk too soon and the writer gets lost, causing the work to slow to a crawl. (152)

I thought about my short story and recalled a few months before sharing the idea with friends. They laughed it off and I laughed with them. “Yeah, how silly.”

At the time I thought little of the event, the idea was silly. So why did I stop writing? Was this where things derailed? Because I shared my silly idea too soon?

I don’t know if the idea is good or not, I don’t know if I’ll win the contest or if it will go any further. But now I know my story needed to be written.

No matter what, keep on writing. Keep it close, until it’s finished, and then share it with anyone who will listen.

There are stories that must be told and must be heard, stories waiting on you and me to do the telling. (164)

Dancing on the Head of a Pen from prolific writer Robert Benson is not just a book about writing a book. It's a book about writing (you know, the action part) a book.

other reviews

A Visit to Maan Farms

My first assignment freelance writing for the Mrs. Abbotsford blog was to visit the newly-burned Maan Farms to see how they’re getting on. Summary: They’re doing well.

A Visit to Maan Farms

A few weeks ago I began a freelance contract with Tourism Abbotsford and I am happy to talk about it now the ink is dry. Maybe I could have brought it up earlier but it felt in poor taste. Now I have something to talk about.

The plan is for me to post periodically on the Mrs. Abbotsford blog. First of all, I love the concept. Mrs. Abbotsford is this hip lady who has lived here all her life and her passion is to share her “City in the Country” with everyone she meets. Her blog is for residents and locals alike, to help us explore her city and get the most out of our time here.

I’ve lived in Abbotsford for the past four years but I’m not as acquainted with what happens in Abbotsford. In fact I’ve been known to wonder if there’s anything to do here. Maybe I’ve even wondered this aloud. Maybe.

If you’ve ever wondered this same question I have great news! My new gig is to explore and discover Abbotsford and then write about it!

My first assignment was to visit the newly-burned Maan Farms to see how they’re getting on. I wrote all about it over on Mrs. Abbotsford’s blog but here’s a quick summary: they’re doing well. The fire was tragic but it’s not slowing them down. Plus they just opened the corn maze!

Farmer Amir toured me around the week before it opened to the public and attempted to teach me how a corn maze comes together. Unfortunately Farmer Robyn needs to learn a few things about planting and farming in general before she’ll be able to grasp the complexities of corn mazery. He was gracious…but I know how it is. City girl, wondering how on earth this brilliant maze comes into existence without the help of chainsaws.

It’s true. I’m ridiculous.

The good news is I believe I have enough information to successfully create a maze of my own one day. If I ever move out of this condo. And have a field I don’t care to farm, yet want to plant corn upon and then create a maze within.

It could happen

There’s one section of the maze, which was destroyed by a wind storm. It was so creepy, there in the middle of the maze. Farmer Amir told me they would have to incorporate the destruction into the design because it would be weird to make it all the way to the middle for there to be a wide-open space.

I agreed. But I didn’t know how on earth they would prop up all that corn carnage in time for the maze to open.

Turns out they were thinking of making a crop circle. GENIUS! Even though I’m an insider and know the hard workers at the farm would be the ones creating the UFO brand…I’m still freaked out by the idea. And I’m dying to see how it turned out.

Anyone fancy a creepy trip to a corn maze in the next few weeks?

My first assignment freelance writing for the Mrs. Abbotsford blog was to visit the newly-burned Maan Farms to see how they're getting on. Summary: They're doing well.

Other Articles About Freelance Writing

Showing Impact and Making a Difference

I always knew what I do makes an impact but it’s tricky showing impact. Reading people’s stories of how what we do makes a difference…makes a difference.

Insight for Living Canada Gives Me Strength

For the past five years I’ve worked as a writer at a national non-profit called Insight for Living Canada.

I don’t talk about it too much, mostly because I’d like my personal site to be a bit separated from my professional work. However, my day job is where I do most of my writing. So what else is there to talk about?

The lines are blurry. Really blurry.

So today I’m going to talk about work

June is a big month at my organization because it’s the end of the budget year. So we have to do a ton of fundraising but the hurdle is it’s a big deal to us but why would anyone else care? June isn’t a big deal financially. No end-of-year, no taxes, nada.

How do you fundraise for a cause no one cares about?

This. This is my struggle.

I mean, sure. Some people care about an organizational fiscal year-end but in the big picture…only a few. So what do you focus on?

There’s a formula we follow for fundraising (probably every fundraiser has tips and tricks) and it’s fine but I’m in a space in life where I want to make an impact with my words. I don’t want to sit back and fill in the blanks for meet the status quo. I want to set the bar higher, and smash that goal too.

Insight for Living Canada gives me courage

So with a tired formula and little else I started researching. I did a lot of research. And I looked at what other non-profits were doing. I noted what I liked and what I didn’t like. And then I thought about the people who already donate to this organization and I wondered…why? Why do they give their money to Insight for Living? They don’t have to. So why?

And then inspiration struck

This is the thing. I work for an organization lacking in sad children, cute puppies, trendy hashtags and viral videos. But I also work for an organization that helps people and even though it is a bit tougher to visualize there’s something here. So why not look at what people are already telling us about what we do and let everyone else know?

Insight for Living Canada gives me hope

Showing impact and making a difference

After weeks of nothing a campaign came together in a few short days. Impact.

Everything is still rolling out so I can’t say for certain it has smashed the bar but I’m happy with the focus. It is inspirational, it tells the truth, it shows instead of tells, and it makes me believe what we do is important.

I always knew it but it’s easy to forget when you’re sitting in an office racing deadlines and managing emergencies. Reading people’s stories of how what we do makes a difference…it makes a difference.

Even if nothing comes from this campaign I’m proud of it because it impacted me.

I always knew what I do makes an impact but it's tricky showing impact. Reading people's stories of how what we do makes a difference…makes a difference.