March 2, 2018

The Ideal Reader

I recently read an article from Writer's Digest "Should You Write for Yourself or for the Reader?"

The author of the post, Kip Langello, created a fictional reader—his ideal reader—to write his novels for. The article raised some really thought-provoking questions. When asked if you should write for yourself or the reader, Mr. Langello asks:

  • Do you want to get published and paid for it?
  • Do you want people to buy and read your book?
If you answered 'yes' to those questions, then ask yourself...
  • Who will read your book?

Art is in the eye of the beholder... Readers have varying, and often unpredictable, tastes in books. Writers are not objective enough to access the appeal of their work to a reader. Mr. Langello created a fictional character to be his ideal reader. He gave her a back story—a husband, a career, a life. He used this fictional character as his personal focus group. Would she like this character / scene / joke? Writing to a specific, albeit fictional, 'person' helped Mr. Langello complete, and successfully sell, his novels.

I always thought I wrote for myself. Although my ultimate goal was to publish, and profit from, my work, I didn't set out to write a book that directly targeted a specific audience. Until I read this article and saw the value in writing for the reader. But not just any reader...

My Ideal Reader

Who is my ideal reader? I always viewed my target audience as women between the ages of 20 to 45 who like romance novels, and fantasy / paranormal in particular, so let's start there.

My ideal reader is a 32 year old woman named Joanna. Joanna is single and works in an office. Nothing out of the ordinary happens in her life so she lives vicariously through romance novels. She believes in true love and happily-ever-afters—she's my ideal reader after all—and while she's waiting to meet "the one", she's not putting her life on hold. Joanna has a close-knit group of friends and an active social life. She loves coffee and weekends spent reading in her pyjamas. Her favorite color is blue. She leases a blue car. Her apartment—converted from a 1800s sea captain's house—has a lot of character. She loves trying new things... her latest venture is a candle making class. Last month, she took a French cooking class.

I wonder if Joanna will like my current work-in-progress...

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