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Your Ideal Reader

We all write for someone, whether we know it or not.

Journalists often choose or fabricate a very specific person when writing articles for a paper. The details of this person depend on the demographic of the paper. For example, the New York Times is generally known to write for a liberal man or a woman who is somewhat affluent and has cultural interests beyond the most prevalent pop culture of the day, and probably enjoys reading long articles or thought-provoking essays.

The same tactic is applied to magazines. The ideal reader for Cat Fancy is a middle aged woman who may spend a lot of money to get the proper care and grooming for her cats. The Escapist is written for a young man who is or wants to be tech-savvy and absolutely loves video game culture, and everything that references it.

You can also apply this technique to books. How? By answering a simple question: if your book was a person, what would he or she be like?

Make a list of personality traits–and even physical traits if those apply–and then take another page and divide it into two categories. Title the first half “What he/she is” and “What he/she aspires to be.”

Here you will identify two important markets for your book. Those that see themselves a certain way, and those who strive to be that way. Whether they strive to be prettier, richer, healthier, friendlier, more spiritual…the list goes on. This is just as true for fiction as it is for non-fiction. At the end of the book, the character grows and becomes better at something. The reader may aspire to be what the character has become; or maybe the reader is already there and appreciates the similarities of the journey.

Some would argue that writers shouldn’t think about their demographic, because it could interfere with the creation of art. Russell Smith from the Globe and Mail wrote this the other week in his column:


“Once you are in charge of your own promotion and sales, you cannot but help think of your audience as a market, and a market must be pleased. Writers should never think about their audience – they should never worry that their ideal demographic…won’t get the learned reference or will be nauseated by the torture scene. Art is not just a product like any other.”


While his argument has merit (and you should read the whole article), it’s hard to apply this to the indie author. It’s one of the opposing philosophies you take on when you become an author-publisher. If you don’t market yourself and you don’t think about your audience, your book may fly by unnoticed. However, if you spend a lot of time thinking about your audience and marketing and tweak your book accordingly, how will you stay true to yourself as a writer? The author-publisher must balance the needs of the writer and the needs of the marketer in order to succeed.

Tune in next time as I discuss more about the author and the marketer in you and how to better balance the two when it comes to writing and promoting your book.

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