As a writer, we often write to please ourselves. And so we should. WE are our own target readers.
We grow and develop. We start gaining fans. At first they’re generic friends and family who love us, therefore love everything we do.
But it’s not good enough to just have fans. We can’t write a children’s book and expect everyone to like it or want it. We can’t give a horror book to a child.
We start to develop target audiences. As in the two examples above, we write for those people. We still write what we want, but the way we write the story changes. Simple friendly words for children. Hard edgy details for adults. We tailor the details for our reader too: gore, monsters, or happy unicorns.
But it’s not enough to write for general horror fans. There are sub-genres and details galore. There are creature-features (my fav), slasher, psychological, etc…. Even within those sub-genres there are nuances and tropes savvy readers like to see.
Defining our specific target reader helps us. We can keep this reader in our thoughts while we write so we don’t stray too far off the path. We’ve all seen the movie star who does a dud film. The target audience was forgotten. We don’t want to be that star.
A target audience helps us when we market too. We know exactly with what type reader our book will resonate. We know how to reach them, because we’ve researched them. We can say to the publisher, “Why, yes. I do know my target reader. It’s a 17 year old girl, stepping into womanhood, who feels alienated from her family. My book is about this type girl, who discovers her family was never hers.”
We need a target reader. But, it’s not just one. It’s three.
We have our current target reader. The potential target reader. Then our future target reader. It’s important we remember they’re all vitally important to us. We have to be careful to remember to bring our current readers along while reaching for the future ones.
We need to pick out one or two fans we currently know. Someone who buys all our books, loves everything we write. Usually, it’s someone who gives us a bit more feedback on our book than just “I like it.”
We list what we know about this person: likes, dislikes, age, income, education, routines, values, how they spend their time online and off. It’s a bit like stalking, but not quite as creepy. More like preparing for a date. Really get to know this current reader. Maybe it’s a late middle-aged woman who is just bored with her life. Or it could be a teacher who reads while his students take tests. It stands to reason these two examples would like different books, even though they read everything you’ve written.
We next take a look at what kind of reader almost fits into our target audience. Do the research. This is our potential target reader. Find a specific person who fits into this group. That’s another person to keep in mind while writing or marketing.
Our last group is our future reader. This is a natural extension from the current fan through the potential target audience to here. Research. Pick your person. This is the third person for whom you’re writing/marketing.
To give you an example from my life. My current target reader is a retired school teacher. She’s up there in years as is her husband. She spends a lot of time reading. She’s bought EVERYTHING I’ve ever written. When I have freebies, I make sure she gets some.
My potential reader is a middle-aged professional. She loves the same books and movies I do. She buys most of my books, but mostly because she’s a friend. I want her to buy them because she can’t stand not knowing the next story. BIG difference. That only happens when the story resonates with the reader. It’s getting there.
My future reader? A middle-aged superhero fan who has watched all the Marvel and Star Trek movies each a dozen times. He picks up a hard-core mystery to read in between. Yes, he’s a movie watcher. Yes, my books have to be blockbuster movie worthy.
See how this works? It changes my word choices, and nearly every choice I make in my writing and my marketing.