I have to admit, I get a lot of blog ideas from Twitter. It’s a great place to “eavesdrop” on people who
complain talk about agents, querying, reviews, and writing in general.
Unwisely, I stuck my nose into a thread, and while she was polite in response, I could tell my opinion wasn’t welcome.
The thread was talking about silly things people have said about your work. The reason I stuck my nose in was what the person had told her wasn’t all that silly. I’ll write a separate blog post about that, but it did make me think–who is your reader?
You don’t want everyone to read your book, or you’ll end up with reviews like: “I didn’t like this book. It all it had was romance in it, and I hate romance novels” when you write contemporary romance. Or someone who reads your horror who prefers sci-fi. You want people who like your genre to read your books.
So who are you writing for? Knowing this information is helpful in a lot of ways:
- It will help you buy/target ads. When you have a person and their lifestyle in mind, it’s easier to target ads.
- You’ll know where your readers hang out online, and in real-life. My trilogy is about characters who run (the sport). I could set up a table at a women’s run expo. When I bought my cat to the vet, there was a self-published book about adopting animals sitting on a table in the waiting area. How did I know it was self-published? It had the KDP Print stamp on the back page. Depending on the author and his or her marketing tactics, that book could be sitting in every vet’s office in the city.
- You’ll write better. Know who your audience is, and you can tailor your books just for them. Yes, this is the evil writing to market, but if you have your reader in mind, not only do you have a built in audience–you’re assuring future sales of your work.
- It helps with networking. Romance writers are the most generous writers out there. They love to share information and support. The RWA is fantastic. Knowing what genre you’re writing in can help you find your online support group.
I was thinking then, who is MY reader?
To figure that out, you need to know what you’re writing.
I write contemporary romance books. My books contain real-life problems. My characters aren’t always rich, and if they are, I make sure their lives are miserable in other ways.
My characters worry about paying bills, affording the mortgage. They have ex-spouses. They find themselves in trouble of their own making, sometimes they are at the mercy of others. Their lives are hard. But I hope I write my characters as likable, lovable, people. People you grow to care about–people you would want to be friends with in real life.
They also fall in love, even if they don’t want to. Even if they think they don’t deserve it. Even if being together forever is going to take a helluva lot of work. They did the work, they grew, they learned from mistakes, and their lives are better for it. They live happily ever after.
My books may contain a glimmer of a mystery, but nothing that would put them in the romantic suspense category. My books don’t contain magical elements the way a lot of Nora Roberts’s books do. My books usually contain someone who is bitter and jealous and likes to make others miserable. I do realize that’s a trope I’ve used often, and it’s in the back of my mind when I write more books I need to lean on other plot conventions going forward.
My characters are usually in their thirties. They struggle with finding a partner. Their biological clocks are ticking. They’re getting married. Holding real jobs, making car payments.
I probably won’t stay too far from this type of book.
A bare “man chest” on one of my covers would look out of place. My characters have sex, but they lack the “dangerous edge” that those books seem to contain. No sexual rules are broken, no one is tied up as prisoner. Sex is used to express feelings, falling in love. I know the types of books that need a dangerous man on the front of their covers, and my books are not them.
This is all very helpful because now I can pin down who wants to read my books.
My reader is probably someone like me. (I’m hoping you write the kinds of books you enjoy reading, and I hope you read in the genre you enjoy writing.)
I’m in my early forties, but my characters are usually in their thirties. I do this for a couple reasons: Because of my age, I don’t care to read about younger characters so I don’t write them. And I think it gives me a little flexibility when it comes to my readership. So I think my base readership is, maybe, 25-55 years old. I wouldn’t go any younger than twenty-five. My subject matter wouldn’t interest a young adult. That’s what YA and NA is for, and all the “dangerous man chest” books I was talking about earlier seem to have a younger heroine, so maybe those types of books have a younger (18-25 year old) readership.
Having a picture in mind of the woman who reads my books, let’s call her Jane.
Jane is 25-55. She might have children. She probably does. She has a day job. Maybe it’s a bit stressful. She could be an office manager, or a professional, like an HR director or a nurse. Maybe she’s a stay at home mom. She appreciates a light read–something she doesn’t have to think too hard about to enjoy. When does she read?
- Maybe half an hour before bed.
- During her kids’ nap times.
- Maybe in the tub if she can get a few minutes to herself.
- Maybe while her kids watch TV, or her husband takes them to grandma’s for the afternoon.
She doesn’t have much time to herself–she brings a Kindle to her son’s dance practice, and to her daughter’s soccer games. She likes a cup of coffee to sip on and a cat in her lap while she reads. She owns a mini-van or SUV. Her husband works a lot. Or maybe she’s divorced. A lot of women in their thirties and forties are these days. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy reading about a meet-cute in the pick up line at school.
She might feel unattractive or frumpy (kids will do that to you). She wants to work out but she doesn’t have time. A trip to the salon is a luxury for her time-wise. Maybe she likes her Kindle for the cheaper books. Or her life could be a bit happier–her parents live near her, which means she has plenty of help with her kids. She loves her job. She and her husband still get along.
Where does Jane hang out online? She shops on Amazon, of course. Maybe she buys her kids’ clothes, and things for herself at Kohls.com. As for social media, she’s on Facebook, because who isn’t? She posts pictures of her kids, and maybe she’s joined a mom’s group or two. I don’t think she’s on Instagram, but I could be wrong. I think she’s more interested in Pinterest right now, for recipes and craft ideas for the kids. Maybe that’s her way of looking for hair styles. If her kids are small, she might hang out on websites like BabyCenter.
Lots of different kinds of women live different kinds of lives, and I don’t want to make assumptions just how my reader lives because I’m only limiting myself if I do that. The only real assumption I can make is the busier she is, the less likely she has time to read, but then I’m not aiming my ads at her, and she wouldn’t be interested if she saw them.
Anyway, Jane likes to read. She reads three or four books a month.
Now that you have your reader in mind, how do they sync up with your books? How would I target an ad with what I know about my reader?
I could target her with these keywords and groups:
- coffee drinker
- pet owner
- mother, step-mother
- mini-van driver, or SUV
- Divorced (I include both groups since my characters have been divorced and are looking for a second chance at love)
- Happily married
- likes bubble baths
- likes to drink wine
- loves chocolate
What books would she read that are similar to yours? Target those authors and their readers. Though if you target Nora Roberts and well-known authors like her, your bid to make your ad seen is going to have to be very high–so think of some mid-list, not-so-well-known authors in your genre who are moving books. (Ad targeting and how to do it is a different blog post, and I’m not experienced enough to do that for you. There are lots of authors out there who will share their experiences such as Michael Cooper and Mark Dawson.)
My books have a tone like Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak. Maybe Jennifer Crusie, but hers are more funny and on the chick-lit side of things than mine are. Still, her readers may be willing to cross over to my books. I read Jennifer Crusie, but that doesn’t mean all I read is chick-lit.
This is a good reason to stop into a bookstore. Locate the shelf where your books would be and write down the authors your book would be neighbors with. Especially the authors you’ve never heard before.
If you don’t know where your book would be shelved–that’s a problem. Look at general fiction, or literary fiction, and do your best.
Their readers are your readers. Those are paperbacks–and lots of popular authors are indie and offer e-book only. That’s fine–Google the top Amazon 100 in your genre. Again, find books similar to yours.
Knowing who your reader is helps you write the books they enjoy reading. I KNOW you’re supposed to love what you’re writing, but if you can’t find anyone who will enjoy reading it, what’s the point of writing it? Self-satisfaction only goes so far. (Yes, my mind went there!)
And knowing what your reader likes, dislikes, what she wears, where she works out, can help you target your ideal audience when you’re ready to target ads.
It’s always a surprise to me how many people write books with no audience in mind.
It’s imperative you know who your reader is or you can’t find them to advertise to them.
Create a character like Jane. Figure out her likes and dislikes.
That’s a great place to start!
This is just a small end note:
Did you see anywhere where I said my reader is also a writer? Is Jane writing her own book right now? Does she go to writing conferences, or attend a writer’s group? Do I know Jane from the #writerscommunity on Twitter?
No, I do not.
Do you know why? Because my readers are not part of the writing community. Yes, I read romance, and yes, I am part of the writing community on Twitter. But if I were to market my books as if my readers were nowhere but part of the writing community online, I wouldn’t have very many readers. I represent a minuscule amount of people like me, and people like me who will read your book will not make your career.
And, maybe more importantly, I don’t WANT my readers to be writers. Writers are picky and hard to please. Do you know how I know? Because I read like that. And I don’t want my books to be read the way I read.
And neither should you.
I appreciate my friends who take the time to read my books. But I learned a long time ago that my readers are not on Twitter. If you can have a light bulb moment like that, marketing your book will suddenly become a lot easier.
Who are your readers?
Thanks for reading!